His Time Is Up: The Political Obituary of Joe Biden

Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at the SEIU Unions For All Summit on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speakings to supporters at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, during a campaign event in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Joe Biden for President: April 25, 2019 – February 11, 2020

How the mighty have fallen.

Less than a year ago, former Vice President Joe Biden seemed to be the truly inevitable Democratic nominee. He dominated every poll and was even averaging over 40% nationally at one point last spring, with Bernie Sanders coming in a rather distant second around 15%.

Fast forward to now — Joe is fresh off a humiliating fourth-place performance in Iowa and fell straight through the floor in New Hampshire. He has just suffered an even more crushing defeat there and apparently is not even breaking double digits.

How in the world did this happen?

Joe had seemed to be fairly resilient throughout the past several months. After the debates began in June, he started taking some hits and endured dramatic surges by a succession of new, shiny media darlings — Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, then Pete Buttigieg.

Kamala and Elizabeth had their moments and faded, but Pete had the advantage of peaking in late November, which is a fairly good time do so. The political news cycle is very slow as people focus on the holiday season, and the primaries essentially freeze until the New Year.

At the beginning of January, Pete was still at or near the top in Iowa and New Hampshire, but once things heated up again Joe had reclaimed a narrow lead in both states by mid-January. He was still the very clear favorite to win the nomination.

Yet, for some reason, everyone forgot about Bernie Sanders — until, in late January with less than two weeks until real voting, he suddenly broke through and shot past Joe in Iowa. Bernie had been polling consistently in double digits, with a dedicated base from 2016, massive cash reserves and a highly organized army of volunteers.

But the pundits never thought he could actually win. He was too old. His time had passed. He’d reached his ceiling.

Winning, however, is mostly about surging at the right time. Bernie’s long-term ground game and organizing paid off and he executed at the very best moment imaginable, causing instant panic among the Democratic establishment.

And what was Joe doing all this time? He wasn’t filling even small rooms. He was telling some of the few who did show up to “vote for someone else.” His ground game was sluggish and his supporters complacent. He was trying to escape the stench of Hunter Biden’s Burisma board scandal by just yelling at anyone who brought it up.

But he was Joe Biden. He had been vice president — Barack Obama’s vice president. People had to vote for him, right?

Well, actually, no. Iowa took his advice and did in fact vote for someone else.

Caucuses especially favor candidates with enthusiastic voters, and Joe’s supporters most certainly did not fit the bill. They supported him just because it seemed like he’d win, and for that reason many of them didn’t bother showing up.

By the evening of February 3, caucus day in Iowa, it was clear from anecdotal reports that Joe wasn’t even hitting the 15% viability threshold in many precincts and that he was having a terrible night. But then Iowa Democrats forgot how to count, and no doubt Joe was hoping this disaster would just make everyone forget that he had bombed so utterly.

Unfortunately for Joe, once the smoke cleared and the votes were counted, everyone saw that he was in a dismal fourth place, left in the dust by a 38-year-old former mayor and radical Vermont socialist.

He dropped like a rock in the first post-Iowa polls of New Hampshire, and has now finished there in single digits, even worse than anticipated by his polling numbers.

Make no mistake — Joe Biden is done, whether he admits it or not. Ever since the modern-day primary system took hold in the 1970s, just one single candidate of either party has ever won the nomination after losing both Iowa and New Hampshire. That only exception was Bill Clinton in 1992, and his circumstances were quite unique.

First, the Iowa caucus was virtually forfeited by all the candidates that year to Tom Harkin, Iowa’s U.S. Senator and obvious “favorite son.” Bill was a young and largely unknown face, but in the subsequent New Hampshire primary he came in second place seemingly out of nowhere. It felt like a major upset and created momentum.

In contrast, Joe is a former vice president and career politician of more than 40 years, who has just been crushed twice after spectacularly blowing his massive advantages. South Carolina will not save him.

For Joe, these two consecutive losses will be the end of the line, as they have been for virtually everyone else in primary history. You might say that Joe Biden is the Jeb! of 2020. But not even Jeb! squandered such a huge lead this badly.

As Joe himself would say: “My time is up. I’m sorry.”