The Biden Following

The New York Times‘ Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin have dutifully penned the obligatory column on the wooing of Joe Biden’s devoted followers by other candidates now that he’s finally foresworn a candidacy. For the most part, they are naturally falling into line for Hillary Clinton, though at least one is quoted as leaning towards Bernie Sanders. I found myself wondering, and not for the first time, whether the Biden-for-president following was bigger than a breadbox along with being smaller than a Buick.

But two comments really got my goat:

Among donors who had pledged to support Mr. Biden, there was…frustration — mixed with a sense of resignation that Mrs. Clinton was inevitable.

“I’m just not inspired the way I was when the president first ran,” said David Kenney, a Democratic lobbyist in Denver who raised over a million dollars for Mr. Obama in 2012.

We’re all used to discussions of the impact of “enthusiasm” on voters. But it’s the first time I can recall anyone taking a temperature reading of a lobbyist and a bundler. What does an uninspired lobbyist/bundler do? Stop bundling at lunchtime each day? Only ask for half the maximum contribution? Hard to say.

And then there’s this from a familiar figure in Biden articles lately:

Richard A. Harpootlian, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said he feared that Mrs. Clinton was too unpopular to win swing states like Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina and New Mexico – all states won by Mr. Obama in 2008. Carrying those states, he warned, could be especially critical if the 2016 Republican ticket includes former Gov. Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida or Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, because those two battleground states could favor the Republicans.

“Hillary just has huge problems right now in terms of getting elected next November,” said Mr. Harpootlian, who noted that he received a call from an adviser to another Democratic candidate, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, shortly after Mr. Biden’s announcement on Wednesday. “We still have thinking to do as a party about the kind of candidate who can win in 2016,” he said.

Dick Harpootlian has done enough damage to the Democratic presidential contest this cycle via his endless promotion of a Biden candidacy that just wasn’t happening. If he wants to join the O’Malley campaign, or assume the probably wide-open position of southern regional chairman for Linc Chafee, that’s his right. But he really needs to stop badmouthing Hillary Clinton. If Bernie Sanders has the self-discipline to avoid doing that, Harpootlian can acquire it as well.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.