Republicans’ Favorite Presidential Candidate Is … Joe Biden

Joe Biden
Say 2016! Photo: Alan Diaz/AP/Corbis; Getty Images; Illustration by Konstantin Sergeyev

The 2016 election has tried its damnedest to be as entertaining as a reality-TV show during the usual doldrums of the invisible primary — going so far as making an actual reality-TV host its star. But every show worth its salty language must also have a “will they or won’t they” side plot, a responsibility that has been foisted on Joe Biden and his hypothetical presidential bid. Republican strategists and pundits have been drowning the vice-president in compliments and noting that he is perhaps the most terrifying general-election candidate they can imagine.

However, since the pundits and strategists are not here to make friends, it seems unlikely that the effusive praise is entirely sincere. This looks like a cut-and-dry case of Mrs. Benneting: meddling in the affairs of others in a way that appears helpful, but usually ends up creating mayhem. And the GOP, currently suffering through another overcrowded and sloppy primary — while Republican Enemy No. 1 Hillary Clinton has managed to retain much of the spotlight, donors, and support in the Democratic primary, although injured a bit by a barrage of controversies — probably wouldn’t mind if Clinton were given a taste of their party’s indecisive pain. Which makes the many odes to Biden — Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Does he run or not? — look less like something he should put in his first campaign ad and more like a not-so-subtle offensive fueled by the GOP’s smoldering dislike for Clinton.

Here is a brief excerpt of Republican pundits’ speculative fiction about 2016, in which a politician who has failed in multiple presidential bids suddenly achieves super-campaign-strength by the sheer force of his grin and authenticity — superpowers that only seem to win elections in the imaginative playground of op-eds and cable-news spots.

David Brooks, New York Times

On the Democratic side, a Biden run would be more formidable than I thought last month. You need emotion to beat emotion. With Stephen Colbert he revealed a story and suggested a campaign that is moving, compelling and in tune with the moment.

Rich Lowry, National Review

You can disagree with Biden, you can mock him, you can cringe at his miscues — but it’s impossible not to like him. …  he’ll also be a breath of fresh air in a Democratic race that was supposed to be a stultifying march to the nomination by one of the dullest politicians of our time.

Former H.W. Bush speechwriter Mark Davis

That someone is now on the sidelines, staying quiet, getting briefed, coached and prepared for the moment when Clinton’s candidacy falls to earth. At that point, Biden will come in as a white knight, without the scuffmarks of a long primary. 

RNC chair Reince Priebus

I think he’s probably tougher … Certainly Joe Biden is far more likable. … I think Joe Biden is someone that a lot of people, whether they like his politics or not, they like him, and likability - you can analyze politics all you want, likability is probably the number one issue on the ballot.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

Don’t bet that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. Get started on researching Vice President Biden, who may prove to be a much tougher opponent than the scandal-plagued Clinton.

Jim Geraghty, National Review

Between her record at the State Department, stiffness on the stump, scandalous mess at the family’s foundation, private e-mail server investigation, and overall sense of perpetual duplicity, Hillary Clinton is a uniquely flawed candidate. Biden, too, has his flaws, but it would take a strong Republican candidate to beat him.

GOP strategist Liz Mair

I think if Joe Biden is to get into this race, if he sees this sign of Hillary Clinton’s weakness as an indicator that he needs to get in, that is something that as a Republican is troubling to me because I think that the party can beat Hillary Clinton. I don’t know if we can beat Joe Biden. 

Former Mitt Romney spokesperson Ryan Williams

I’d love to see Joe Biden get into the race. He would be a formidable candidate.

Donald Trump

She’s got a big problem with the e-mails and, obviously, her numbers are going down drastically, so somebody like Biden could probably go in and do very well and maybe win.

Rupert Murdoch

Looks like Biden already running. Very likely he wins nomination and be hard to beat.

Republicans’ New Favorite Candidate Is Biden