What Joe Biden’s decision to skip the presidential campaign means for the 2016 race
After weeks of wavering and deliberation, Vice President Joe Biden has opted out of the 2016 race for President.
Who benefits the most: Clinton or Sanders? And what does this mean for the black Democratic primary vote?
It had been reported that Biden’s son Beau, who died of brain cancer, urged his father to run for the office. The senior Biden’s grief over the loss of his son had further complicated his decision on whether to run.
With Biden now officially out of the primary race, there is evidence that Hillary Clinton could prove the biggest beneficiary going into the primaries. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken between October 15 and 18 found that with Biden hypothetically in the race, Clinton received 49 percent support, followed by Sanders with 29 percent and Biden with 15 percent. However, without Biden in the race, Clinton increased her lead in the poll with 58 percent to Sanders’ 33 percent, with low single digits for Jim Webb (who has since dropped out of the race) and Martin O’Malley. Although the poll was taken immediately prior to Biden’s official announcement, it is useful in providing a snapshot of how the Vice President’s decision to opt out could affect the primaries.
Looking at Clinton and Sanders, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state has a strategic advantage with black voters. Both candidates have had perceived missteps and confrontations with #BlackLivesMatter activists and have responded in kind. Sanders, who entered the race with a deficit among black voters, attracted mainly white progressive audiences with his message of fighting income inequality and Wall Street excess. Responding to the challenges of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the Vermont senator rolled out a platform on racial justice and criminal justice reform. In addition, he hired an organizer — a black woman — as his national press secretary.
To her credit, Hillary Clinton has embraced the need for reform of policing in communities of color and of the courts and prison system. Further, Bill Clinton’s apology at the NAACP convention for his Omnibus Crime Bill — which led to an expansion of the war on drugs and the mass incarceration of black people, especially black men — likely benefited candidate Clinton with African American voters.
In addition, Secretary Clinton has demonstrated her influence and popularity in the black community, and among black politicos, with her endorsement from more than 50 African-American mayors. “Whether it’s her vision for economic fairness and shared prosperity or her steadfast commitment to comprehensive criminal justice reform — it’s clear that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate to be our next president,” said Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, and President of the African American Mayors Council, in a statement. To the extent that endorsements from elected officials influence voting patterns, the endorsement could prove helpful to her in capturing the black vote.
Joe Biden was identified as a potential candidate for “cleanup crew” in the event Clinton faltered over Benghazi, the email scandal or low excitement among the Democratic base. However, the Republican-led campaign against Hillary was revealed by her adversaries to be a not-so-thinly veiled effort to undermine her presidential aspirations. In the meantime, Bernie Sanders has gained much attention and commanded large crowds and contributions with his economic populist message, now informed by a racial justice lens. The senator’s impressive, and in some ways unexpected, presence in the campaign makes him a force to be reckoned with. Yet, whether Sanders’ campaign will remain in play, and whether he can maintain his competitiveness with respect to his rival Hillary Clinton, is an unresolved question.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove.