Biden should quit the Democratic race now
Give younger candidates space and air to flourish
Dismal results in Iowa and New Hampshire didn’t cause Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to become untenable; they only confirmed it. Many of us who watched him at close range on the trail saw it coming months ago. The former vice president’s campaign isn’t going to work.
Biden, who has served his country honorably, must now demonstrate — again — what a good man he is. Rather than cling to hope of a recovery in Nevada or South Carolina, he should withdraw now to help his fellow Democrats find the best nominee to defeat President Donald Trump.
Even after finishing fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, Biden’s name recognition may keep him at or toward the top in national polls. Why would any candidate with a legitimate shot at being president quit the race?
It would have to be an exceptional act of patriotism.
A year ago, Biden seemed the ideal candidate. He served in the U. S. Senate for an incredible 36 years. He withstood unthinkable personal tragedies and inspired us all. He helped President Barack Obama guide the nation out of financial crisis and enact a landmark health care expansion. Moreover, he’s a decent man: the anti- Trump.
Yet we knew going in that if elected, Biden would be the nation’s oldest president. At age 78 on Inauguration Day, he would be eight years older than the oldest to serve before him — none other than Trump. At the end of one term he’d be 82; after two terms, 86.
At a recent CNN town hall, Biden was asked about picking a running mate. He replied that “because I’m older, just like with John McCain, I have to pick someone, if God forbid something happened tomorrow … that the person is ready on Day One to be president of the United States.” Sorry, Mr. Vice President, that’s not comforting.
Wrong man for the moment
Some Biden supporters have been willing to cast aside concerns about age. But the nation has only one president, and he or she is tasked with what is arguably the most demanding job in the world. Statistically, Biden and others his age face increased medical and cognitive risks, as Biden seemed to acknowledge at the town hall.
On caucus night last week in Des Moines, Biden looked lost as he struggled through a speech, with wife Jill at his side. She seemed to hang on every word, hoping a gaffe wasn’t coming.
The word “perseveration” came to mind as I heard Biden say “folks” 11 times in just over 3 minutes. ( MerriamWebster: “continuation of something, such as repetition of a word, usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point.”) A big deal? No. Just another small reminder that Joe Biden isn’t the man for this moment.
In that Iowa speech, he reminded us, “Four more years of Donald Trump will fundamentally alter the character of this nation.” Sadly, Trump might have already fundamentally altered Biden’s chances.
Trump’s campaign against the man he perceived as his greatest threat started with the cruel tag “Sleepy Joe” and continued into the impeachment hearings, as his henchmen made the name “Biden” — referring to both Joe and son Hunter — omnipresent. There is no evidence whatsoever of illegal behavior by either Biden, but the stain caused by the proceedings is indelible.
It’s frightening to imagine how Trump and enablers like Sean Hannity would pound away with ounces of truth and tons of lies about the Biden family’s Ukraine undertakings. Damage to Biden’s presidential campaign is brutally unfair, yet undeniably true.
Clogged center lane
Even so, why not let the voters decide? Because Biden is casting a shadow. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, as well as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, might still be running had Biden not been a presumptive favorite among black and brown voters.
Then there’s the clogged center lane. Those of us who believe that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ wing of the party is not the best bet this fall want to find the strongest alternative — a progressive with level- headed flexibility. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota made good showings in New Hampshire. They and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg are jockeying for centrist support. Biden, as long as he stays in, is in the way.
Biden backers I spoke with across Iowa lacked enthusiasm. Their support for the dignified former vice president was almost perfunctory, as if Biden was the safe, default candidate to topple Trump. This election demands more.
I hope Biden believers don’t think I’m jumping to an unreasonable conclusion based on results from two small states that aren’t representative of America or the Democratic Party. It goes beyond that, just as it’s about more than gaffes or “Joe being Joe.”
Here’s the deal ( as Biden is fond of saying): If Joe is really to be Joe, he will again demonstrate his love of country and party by yielding to a younger candidate with a less encumbered prospect for beating Trump.
Folks, we owe Joe Biden a lot, and he owes us a better chance in November. Peter Funt is a writer and host of “Candid Camera.”
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