What’s Left For Biden? More Publicly Back Clinton and O’Malley

In the week that Vice President Joe Biden is rumored to be nearing a final decision on whether to run for President or not, the Iowa campaigns of his potential rivals announced more new key endorsers who have joined their campaigns. Both Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley’s teams rolled out names big and small on Monday; Senate President Pam Jochum came out for Clinton in a guest column in the Des Moines Register and O’Malley’s campaign added 24 new endorsers to their full list.

Jochum’s endorsement adds a very high-profile and well-liked Iowa leader to Clinton’s already long list of Iowa legislative supporters. DesMoinesDem called her backing a “big deal,” noting that Jochum is yet another Obama 2008 supporter now with Clinton and highly respected among Iowa’s progressive activist community. She’ll also provide caucus help in a key Democratic community of Dubuque (where State Representative Abby Finkenauer has already been assisting Clinton), the very city that would likely form an early base of support for Biden were he to run (it’s a Catholic town where one of Biden’s good friends – and important local activist – is in charge of the statewide Draft Biden effort).

Meanwhile, O’Malley’s campaign rolled out an impressive list of new endorsements from elected leaders and party activists yesterday. They added another State Representative to their legislative list, picking up Charlie McConkey in Council Bluffs (where Clinton is set to speak tomorrow). A number of local elected officials joined O’Malley’s efforts as well, including Boone County Auditor Phil Meier, Floyd County Treasurer Frank Rottinghaus, Maxwell mayor Steven Gast and Ottumwa City Councilor Matt Dalby.

Perhaps most interesting was the continuing inroads O’Malley’s campaign is making into the Polk County activist network. The former Maryland Governor has often drawn large crowds when he visits the metro area, and the work has clearly paid off. He now has signed caucus commitment cards from the leaders of a majority of the Democratic neighborhood groups, which have become the new hubs of organizing activity for Polk County Democrats in recent years. The heads of the South Side Democrats, East Side Democrats, Ankeny Area Democrats and Central Iowa Democrats are all on board. O’Malley’s caucus operation in Polk County is starting to look particularly strong.

What else is notable from many of these names? They’re exactly the type of activists I would expect to support a Joe Biden run. Many are either long-time Democratic volunteers or part of the serious campaigner set who highly value electability in their potential nominee. O’Malley has filled that role in Iowa for certain key caucus organizers of whom worry about Clinton’s baggage and what Bernie Sanders’ “socialist” affiliation would mean for the general election.

Where does that leave Biden in Iowa? It would be simply impossible to catch up to Clinton’s organizational lead, difficult to peal off that many of Sanders’ enthusiastic supporters, and he’s lost out on many activists who’ve already signed on with O’Malley. Even Kathie Obradovich wonders in today’s Register whether Biden should try to catch up in Iowa or focus on later states.

For my part, I don’t think Biden will win or lose on organization or campaign infrastructure. His path to the nomination is to win over Democrats almost solely on his persona, as the authentic candidate who truly cares about the country, who you can trust and feel a real connection to. He needs Clinton to continue to falter badly and for Democrats to go into an all-out panic about her prospects in the general.

Biden will likely rise and fall on the national narrative in the media, and he would almost certainly garner nearly universally positive press coverage for a full month after announcing. No one is going to be too critical of the man who lost his son this year and made the difficult decision to run for President for the good of the country. Maybe the excitement will fade down the stretch and Clinton would likely regain her footing, but it’s perfectly conceivable that Biden could lead the in the polls for part of this Fall. And he could likely accomplish all that without a full Iowa Caucus operation (though it’s obviously still better to have one than to not). Either way, decision time draws near for the Vice President.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 10/6/15

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