Bi­den to cam­paign as ex­ten­sion of Obama’s move­ment

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Thomas Beau­mont and Julie Pace

BLUFFTON, S.C. >> Joe Bi­den is fi­nal­iz­ing the frame­work for a White House cam­paign that would cast him as an ex­ten­sion of Barack Obama’s pres­i­dency and po­lit­i­cal move­ment. He’s bet­ting that the ma­jor­ity of Demo­cratic vot­ers are ea­ger to re­turn to the style and sub­stance of that era — and that they’ll view him as the best op­tion to lead the way back.

The for­mer vice pres­i­dent has begun test­ing the ap­proach as he nears an ex­pected cam­paign launch later this month. Af­ter re­marks at a re

cent la­bor union event, Bi­den said he was proud to be an “Obama-Bi­den Demo­crat,” coin­ing a term that his ad­vis­ers de­fine as prag­matic and pro­gres­sive, and a bridge be­tween the work­ing-class white vot­ers who have long had an affin­ity for Bi­den and the younger, more di­verse vot­ers who backed Obama in his­toric num­bers.

Bi­den’s strat­egy will test whether any­one other than

Obama can recre­ate the coali­tion that de­liv­ered him to the White House twice, but was some­thing Hillary Clin­ton was un­able to do in 2016. And it will thrust the 44th pres­i­dent’s legacy into the cen­ter of the 2020 cam­paign.

Though Obama re­mains over­whelm­ingly pop­u­lar among Democrats, an un­der­cur­rent of the party’s pri­mary con­test is the push from some lib­eral Democrats to go far fur­ther than his ad­min­is­tra­tion in up­end­ing the fed­eral health care sys­tem or ad­dress­ing in­come in­equal­ity. Sens. Bernie San­ders of Ver­mont and

El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts have led the charge, call­ing for more sweep­ing, sys­temic change, though nei­ther has ex­plic­itly crit­i­cized Obama by name.

“The party has changed some­what,” said Paul Harstad, a long­time Obama poll­ster. “I think the party is look­ing for some­one more ag­gres­sive than Obama in tac­tics and ap­proach.”

In some ways, Bi­den’s em­brace of Obama’s legacy is to be ex­pected. He spent eight years as Obama’s No. 2, serv­ing as a key con­gres­sional li­ai­son and for­eign pol­icy ad­viser, and the two men re­main

per­son­ally close.

Yet Bi­den, a 76-year-old white man with more than four decades of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, is an atyp­i­cal heir to Obama’s legacy, par­tic­u­larly in a Demo­cratic field with a his­toric num­ber of mi­nor­ity can­di­dates, as well as con­tenders who rep­re­sent the kind of gen­er­a­tional change Obama ush­ered in more than a decade ago.

That puts both Obama and many of his long­time ad­vis­ers in an awk­ward spot.

Sev­eral months ago, Obama and Bi­den agreed that it would be best if the

for­mer pres­i­dent did not en­dorse any can­di­date early in the pri­mary, ac­cord­ing to a per­son with knowl­edge of the con­ver­sa­tion, mean­ing Bi­den will be run­ning as an “Obama-Bi­den Demo­crat” with­out Obama’s ex­plicit back­ing. The per­son with knowl­edge of Obama and Bi­den’s dis­cus­sion, as well as sev­eral Bi­den ad­vis­ers, spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity in or­der to dis­close pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions.

Most of the orig­i­nal ar­chi­tects of Obama’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns have no plans to work for Bi­den or en­dorse him early in the

pri­mary, and some have moved on to other can­di­dates. Jen O’Mal­ley Dil­lon, who held se­nior po­si­tions in Obama’s cam­paigns, is run­ning for­mer Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s White House ef­fort, and Joe Rospars, Obama’s chief dig­i­tal strate­gist, is an ad­viser to War­ren.

Though there is deep af­fec­tion for Bi­den among Obama’s team, many pri­vately ques­tion his skills as a cam­paigner and fear a los­ing run will dam­age his rep­u­ta­tion as a beloved el­der states­man. Some Demo­cratic vot­ers share that con­cern.


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