One almost sensed from the breathless coverage of women who decided years later to object to Joe Biden's non-sexual hugs and pats and kisses on the head that they expected the media to think it would be a fatal or near-fatal blow to Biden's presidential chances.
Not only was it not fatal, but it didn't register as particularly relevant to most Democratic voters. He was atop the polls before these stories aired, and he is atop them now.
Biden has been in the public eye since the 1970s, and unlike Hillary Clinton, who claimed the public never really knew her, voters feel as if they know Biden pretty darn well. Many voters don't remember anything before his vice presidency. He has established a level of emotional intimacy with voters that few politicians attain. He's the chatty next-door neighbor, the avuncular relative, and the co-worker who remembers everyone's birthday.
This does not mean, however, that they are going to vote for him for president. Voters can be clear-eyed and unsentimental when it comes to picking a nominee, especially when Democrats are so very desperate to unseat this president. However, it does suggest that character issues are not going to do him in. They've seen Biden's character on display and, barring some truly horrendous revelation, are unlikely to dump him over a "scandal" or his conduct in the Senate, which is ancient history for many voters.
They are also unlikely to decide he's not progressive enough. Being vice president to the most progressive president we've had (including his role in seemingly pushing Obama forward on gay marriage) has its advantages.
The recent Monmouth poll of Iowa voters is instructive: Biden not only leads, but has a 78 percent favorability rating and support from the kind of Democrats who show up in primaries--moderate older voters. Biden has support from 44 percent of seniors and 35 percent of self-described moderate and conservative Democrats.
The most important hurdle for Biden and for his competitors will be convincing voters he can beat President Donald Trump. Right now, Biden has a big advantage. "While issue positions are important to Iowa Democrats, the overwhelming majority (64 percent) prefer to have a nominee who would be strong against Trump even if they disagree with that candidate on most issues," pollsters found.
If Biden doesn't campaign well, gets his ears boxed like Elizabeth Warren did on her claims of Native American heritage, stumbles in debates, starts tanking in polls against Trump, or seems otherwise unsteady, voters could well conclude he's not the safest pick.
He's unlikely to falter because of a perceived character fault or ideology. Democratic voters know exactly who he is, and they like him an awful lot.
Editorial on 04/13/2019
Print Headline: What we don't get about Joe