Expect a Desperate Obama to Dump Biden

Expect a Desperate Obama to Dump Biden

By Jack Kelly - May 15, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden isn't invited to Sunday campaign strategy meetings at the White House, The New York Times reported May 4.

President Barack Obama designated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., his top surrogate on foreign policy issues, fueling speculation he'd be secretary of state in a second Obama administration.

So Washington is abuzz with rumors the president will replace Mr. Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

He ought to. Slow Joe is a national embarrassment.

Osama bin Laden made plans to assassinate the president and Gen. David Petreaus, according to captured documents. But the vice president should not be attacked, bin Laden wrote, because "Biden is totally unprepared for that post." If he were president, Mr. Biden would "lead the U.S. into a crisis."

Something stupid the vice president says makes news nearly every week. Last week he suggested to a group of rabbis that the Bush administration was to blame for the Iranian nuclear weapons crisis, as opposed to Iran.

Mr. Biden may suffer from logorrhea, which Merriam-Webster defines as "pathologically excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness that is characteristic especially of the manic phase of bipolar disorder." So what the White House calls "Joe Bombs" will keep on coming, a prospect which must chill Team Obama.

But there are downsides to dumping him. The move would reek of desperation.

Dumping a loyal supporter, however feckless, would seem ruthless and selfish. These are not traits a president wants foremost in voters' minds when he's hoping that his personal-approval ratings will compensate for his low job-approval ratings.

If Mr. Obama dumps Slow Joe, he'd be admitting he chose poorly in 2008. This president can't afford to give voters more reasons for questioning his judgment.

There isn't much upside. In the old days of ticket balancing, all political pros hoped for was that a vice presidential candidate would carry his home state. This happened in 1960. Jack Kennedy wouldn't have won Texas, or the election, if Lyndon Johnson weren't on the ticket. It hasn't happened since.

In 1988, the stature gap between vice presidential candidates was never wider. Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen was hugely respected. Republican Sen. Dan Quayle was the butt of jokes. It didn't matter. Republican George H.W. Bush crushed Democrat Michael Dukakis.

People vote based on what they think of the presidential candidates. This is especially so if the candidate is already president. So, though a popular choice can goose turnout in a dispirited base, as Sarah Palin did in 2008, the vice presidential candidate -- no matter how good or bad -- changes few votes.

That said, if the jettisoning of a running mate reflects poorly on the judgment or character of the presidential candidate, there is blowback, as Sen. George McGovern learned after he dumped Sen. Thomas Eagleton in 1972.

So it may be prudent for Mr. Obama to stick with Mr. Biden. One benefit is that as long as Slow Joe is out there saying stupid things, people will take less notice of the stupid things the president says, wrote Jonah Goldberg in National Review.

Still, I expect the switch to be made, because if Team Obama wasn't desperate before this week, it must be now.

A federal prisoner won 41 percent of the vote against the president in the Democratic primary in West Virginia Tuesday.

Mr. Obama opposed the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the ballot in North Carolina. It won overwhelmingly. Then he evolved into an outright supporter of same-sex marriage.

In Wisconsin, GOP Gov. Scott Walker, running essentially unopposed in the recall primary, got more votes than the leading Democrats combined.

Support for the war in Afghanistan plunged to 27 percent, the lowest ever recorded, in an AP poll Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, Goldman Sachs said the weak first quarter GDP growth rate of 2.2 percent is likely to be revised to 1.9 percent. For workers under age 25, the unemployment rate last month was 16.4 percent. Which helps explain why there were so many empty seats at Mr. Obama's "official" campaign kickoff at Ohio State University last weekend.

"At times, the rallies (at OSU and Virginia Commonwealth University) had the feeling of a concert by an aging rock star," wrote Mark Landler of The New York Times.

For one of the youngest presidents ever, that sounds like an epitaph. 

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

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