After watching Joe Biden's speech Wednesday night, one thing seems patently obvious. He should be launched into the highest rank of Hillary Clinton surrogates out on the campaign trail -- and as soon as possible. Furthermore, scheduling his appearances would be a piece of cake, because all Team Clinton would have to do would be to book Biden into every city and town where Donald Trump appears, a day or two afterwards.
Multiple people at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night (after Biden spoke) told me one version or another of the following: "If Joe Biden were the Democratic nominee, he'd be beating Trump right now by 10 or 15 points." These weren't die-hard Biden fans, mind you, but instead journalists and delegates and other random people I spoke with. Biden's speech was that impressive.
While I can't swear that Biden would be beating Trump by that wide a margin right now (hypotheticals are always impossible to prove in the real world, after all), he certainly could be doing the next best thing to running -- being the most robust and effective Clinton booster possible.
The biggest part of Biden's appeal, much like Trump's, is his plain-spoken style. A Barack Obama speech could be likened to a symphony -- every note carefully planned, with complex melody and counterpoint, and a mathematical relationship between various themes which build to a carefully-planned crescendo. A Joe Biden speech, on the other hand, is more like a catchy pop tune you can't get out of your head. The tune sticks with you because it resonates naturally and is so memorable and easy to relate to.
Hillary needs both. She is closer to Obama in how carefully she wordsmiths her speeches, which means she lacks the catchy nature of a Biden address. She already does have several effective surrogates who can provide this feature, but none as effective as Biden (at least, if Wednesday night was any measure). Biden doesn't mince words -- when he thinks Trump is "full of malarkey," then that is exactly what he says. He is closer to Horton the Elephant in this respect. He says what he means, and he means what he says -- you can just tell by listening to him.
But the most important aspect of Biden's oratory is the audience he can reach. Biden can communicate not only with the middle class, but also with blue-collar workers and those who have been hurt the most by the decline of manufacturing in America. This is precisely the audience that Donald Trump is now appealing to. Biden has the same gut-level appeal as Trump -- but although the style is similar, the content of Biden's message is (obviously) very different. His riff on how Trump "has no clue" absolutely electrified the audience in a way only one other speaker has managed over the past three nights. In fact, it's a tossup as to whose speech was better; Michelle Obama's or Joe Biden's. Both reached the audience on an emotional level that many other speakers tried for, but mostly failed to achieve.
Hillary Clinton is many things, but for millions of voters she is not exactly someone they could picture sitting down and having a beer with. Joe Biden, on the other hand, definitely is. Heck, most people could picture having two or three beers with Joe, and enjoying the heck out of it to boot. Joe Biden would be at ease in many small-town settings (a bowling alley, the corner bar, a hardware store, the P.T.A., and, of course, a train station). You can easily picture shooting the breeze with Joe in just about any setting, in fact. That is a very valuable thing in politics, and the Clinton campaign should realize this golden opportunity to allow Joe to make Hillary's case in as many of these settings as they can.
Donald Trump just made it very easy for them to do so, in fact. Trump appeared this week in Biden's original home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. That's like tossing a gauntlet down. So send Biden to Scranton as soon as humanly possible! Let him not only make the case for Hillary, but also allow him to forcefully rebut the case Trump just made there. Biden could give pretty much the same speech he just did at the convention, and it would do Clinton a world of good. Even just the part about how Trump enjoyed firing people so much on his television show -- and what a reprehensible thing it is for anyone to actually enjoy firing people. That is a message Scranton could relate to, I would bet.
Scranton's not the only place this would be true, either. The biggest threat Trump poses to Clinton (pretty much everyone agrees) is in the Rust Belt -- in particular, the key states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Many voters in these states have seen their fair share of people getting fired, over the past decades. Biden explaining how Trump not only enjoys firing people but also has stiffed many small businesses throughout his life would resonate in many places throughout this region.
Joe Biden is precisely the person to deliver both a pro-Clinton and an anti-Trump message not just to the Rust Belt, but to a lot of similar regions of the country. He can reach people who regularly tune Hillary out, in fact. People comparing Trump's message to Biden's message would help Clinton among many demographics she has so far not had a lot of success in reaching.
Biden is just the person to help her reach these people. And the most effective way of reaching them would be to immediately counter a Trump rally with a Biden rally. If Trump speaks on Tuesday night, by Friday Joe should give a speech in exactly the same town. Matching Trump's footsteps would give people a clear contrast. Sure, Trump's amusing and all of that, but Joe makes so much sense he might just convince people to take a second look at Hillary.
Joe's a down-to-earth guy. He can communicate with millions of other down-to-earth folks all across America. The smartest thing Team Hillary could do right now would be to unleash Biden to do exactly that. Book Joe in every small town Trump hits. Get under Trump's skin. Traditionally, this is the role of the vice-presidential candidate, not the sitting vice president himself. But this isn't set in stone or anything.
This election is the first in a very long time where the sitting president will be campaigning for his replacement. Al Gore thought Bill Clinton on the campaign trail would be a distraction (this may have been the biggest political mistake of Gore's life, in fact). Every Republican candidate since George W. Bush left office has been embarrassed to be seen with him (since he failed so badly). In fact, you have to go back to the 1992 election, when Ronald Reagan campaigned (successfully) for his own vice president, George H. W. Bush. Since it's been so long since it happened, who's to say the rules can't now be rewritten? Many other political "rules of thumb" have already crumbled in this election cycle, after all.
Barack Obama will be a good campaigner for Hillary Clinton, but he's a busy guy and can only do so many appearances. Biden's got a lot more time to devote to the Clinton campaign. So why not send him out to follow Donald Trump around his campaign trail? The smartest thing Clinton could do for the next few months would be to convince Joe Biden to become Donald Trump's shadow, always following right behind him and explaining why his particular brand of malarkey is not worth buying into.
Chris Weigant blogs at:
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