Bi­den didn’t rush into 2020 race; now his strat­egy may have back­fired

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS -

said last month that he re­grets that “he couldn’t give her the kind of hear­ing she de­served” – a ref­er­ence that seemed to play down his pow­er­ful role as chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee when Hill tes­ti­fied at Jus­tice Clarence Thomas’ con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing in 1991 that Thomas had sex­u­ally ha­rassed her.

Bi­den has also done lit­tle to reach out to fem­i­nist lead­ers be­fore en­ter­ing a cam­paign in which his mixed record on abor­tion rights is sure to be an is­sue. He has not con­tacted Il­yse Hogue, the head of NARAL Pro-Choice Amer­ica, or Ce­cile Richards, the for­mer head of Planned Par­ent­hood, ac­cord­ing to Demo­cratic of­fi­cials.

He has said pub­licly that he wants a cam­paign that re­flects the coun­try, but his in­ner cir­cle re­mains largely white and male, and some of his over­tures to next-gen­er­a­tion Demo­cratic strate­gists have fallen flat or pe­tered out, sev­eral peo­ple briefed on the ef­forts said.

Karine Jean-Pierre, a top of­fi­cial with the lib­eral group MoveOn, met pri­vately with Bi­den but elected not to pur­sue a cam­paign job. Bi­den ad­vis­ers sought to hire Tara McGowan, a highly re­garded Demo­cratic dig­i­tal strate­gist, and Emmy Ruiz, an op­er­a­tive who man­aged sev­eral Western states for Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016. Nei­ther signed on, and Ruiz now works for Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, D-Calif. (All three women de­clined to com­ment or did not re­spond to re­quests.)

Many Democrats also ex­pected Larry Grisolano, another vet­eran of Obama’s cam­paigns, to take a se­nior role in Bi­den’s or­ga­ni­za­tion, but this year Grisolano de­clined.

It is not clear how strongly Bi­den might be able to rely on other mem­bers of Obama’s po­lit­i­cal net­work, many of whom have grav­i­tated to­ward newer can­di­dates like Har­ris and for­mer Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas. (Obama him­self has been tight-lipped dur­ing his for­mer run­ning mate’s dif­fi­cult week; a spokesman for the for­mer pres­i­dent de­clined to com­ment while not­ing that Obama had praised Bi­den warmly in re­cent months.)

And Bi­den has done lit­tle self-vet­ting of his leg­isla­tive record be­cause he has not hired a re­search direc­tor.

Patti So­lis Doyle, who man­aged Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign in 2008, said Bi­den had al­ready sac­ri­ficed some of his po­lit­i­cal strength by wait­ing so long. She said Bi­den re­mained for­mi­da­ble, but urged him to en­ter the race soon and ini­ti­ate a “big­ger, more thought­ful con­ver­sa­tion about how men of power in­ter­act with women with not so much power.”

“I think he can look at this as an op­por­tu­nity, and I wish he would,” So­lis Doyle said.

As he demon­strated on Fri­day with his jok­ing ref­er­ences to giv­ing hugs and his im­promptu press avail­abil­ity, there is only so much his aides can do to con­tain Bi­den. His re­liance on his own in­stincts has been leg­endary for decades, since his tur­bu­lent 1988 cam­paign chron­i­cled in the clas­sic po­lit­i­cal book “What It Takes.”

But it’s un­clear whether Bi­den’s in­stincts will be enough to nav­i­gate his party’s shift­ing cen­ter of grav­ity. Af­ter declar­ing at a Demo­cratic fundrais­ing din­ner in Delaware last month that he would be “the most pro­gres­sive can­di­date” in the race, Bi­den clar­i­fied on Fri­day that he meant his po­si­tions on is­sues like race and LGBT rights – not, as he put it, on the ques­tion: “Are you a so­cial­ist?”

Qui­et­ing aides who sought to cut short his ses­sion with re­porters, he ar­gued that the “party has not moved” and said “the vast ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers of the Demo­cratic Party are still ba­si­cally lib­eral to mod­er­ate Democrats in the tra­di­tional sense.”

Some of Bi­den’s long­time friends, who winced at his boast in Delaware, urged him to cam­paign as the cen­ter-left Demo­crat he has al­ways been.

“You can’t try to out-pro­gres­sive the field, you’ve got to be who you are,” said Wil­liam Da­ley, the mod­er­ate for­mer White House chief of staff who lost a race for mayor of Chicago this year.

John Mor­gan, a prom­i­nent Florida trial lawyer who raises money for Democrats, said he be­lieved Bi­den’s authen­tic­ity would still con­nect pow­er­fully with vot­ers. Bi­den’s “only sin,” he said, “is he loved peo­ple.”

But, Mor­gan added, it was past time for Bi­den to make a de­ci­sion about the race.

“There are two ways to get in a cold pool,” he said, “toe by toe, or take a tequila shot and do a can­non­ball.”

New York Times

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.