If it really was Beau Biden’s dying wish that Joe Biden run for president, then Joe has a powerful incentive to enter the race, especially since Hilary has yet to show any sign of invincibility. Moreover, as Scott notes, regardless of what Beau did or did not say, the fact that Biden is putting this story out amounts to strong evidence that he’s considering a run.
How would a Biden candidacy affect the race? If Hillary’s campaign implodes, Biden would become the front-runner. But her campaign isn’t likely to implode. And in a Clinton-Sanders-Biden race, the vice president might well be squeezed into third place.
The problem is that he has no obvious constituency. The hard left wants Sanders (or Elizabeth Warren, if it could have her). Women, if they aren’t too hard left, tend to want Hillary. Blacks are likely to divide — some favoring Biden because of his name-recognition and ties to President Obama; some favoring Hillary because of her name recognition, ties to Bill, and (in the case of black women) her gender; some perhaps disfavoring Biden because of his borderline racist statements.
I don’t mean to suggest that Biden would be without a decent share of support. However, there’s a good chance that he would rank third in the field.
Who would rank first? It’s conceivable that Biden would take enough support away from Clinton to elevate Sanders to the top. One can imagine, say, Sanders at 36 percent; Hillary at 33; Biden at 27; and “others” at 4.
If Sanders were to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, panic might set in among members of the Democratic establishment. Pressure would then mount on one of the other two top candidates to withdraw. If Biden were in third place, the pressure would fall mainly on him, especially given the sense among many Democrats that “it’s a woman’s turn.”
On the other hand, if Biden is doing significantly better than Hillary in head-to-head polls against Republican contenders — a distinct possibility — most of the pressure to withdraw would be on her. It’s difficult to see her pulling out early, though, especially if she’s running ahead of Biden within her party.
The other question is: who would make a worse president, Clinton or Biden? Ideologically, I see little difference. Decades ago, Hillary was far more radical. But these days, both are standard-issue liberals who have offered very little resistance as their party has to drifted steadily leftward (to the point where its chairperson can’t explain how Democrats are different from Socialists).
In terms of intellect, I see no contest. Hillary seems much smarter than Slow Joe (and Bill, from whom Hillary takes advice, seems much smarter than both, even in his seemingly diminished state).
Biden, however, certainly appears to be the better person. By now, his nice guy image is tarnished (think about his debate with Paul Ryan). But Biden has never shown the capacity for the corrupt, vindictive, and even criminal conduct that Hillary Clinton consistently displays.
Add it all up, and Biden comes out on top. The nation would be better served by the less corrupt and vindictive liberal, and probably by the less clever one.