Is Biden-Abrams a Brilliant or Desperate Move?

It could be a sign that Biden understands his weaknesses and has a plan, or it could show that he lacks self-confidence.

Jonathan Chait found nine reasons why it’s a great idea for Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams to join together at the outset of the Democratic primaries and run as ticket. As I read his piece, I found myself nodding along in agreement on point after point. They really do complement each other nicely: “old/young, white/black, male/female, North/South, experience/potential.” Biden needs help covering for his vulnerabilities and Abrams can do this for him very effectively. She would get instant credibility and months of time to prove herself on the big stage as someone who is more than a veteran of the Georgia State Assembly.

What Chait doesn’t mention though is the wisdom of floating this idea in public before it has been decided upon as a strategy. What if Biden decides to listen to the detractors who don’t see this as a brilliant plan? What it he decides not to run with Stacey Abrams after all? How is that going to help Biden overcome his “cringe-inducing and sometimes ghastly history of retrograde positions on segregation and criminal justice,” and demonstrate that he’s a “different kind of politician with different policies than those he advocated in the 1970s and 1980s”? It seems to me that Biden isn’t in a position where he can really afford to spurn Abrams, which argues against using a trial balloon in this case.

One obvious downside of the move is that it would remove the suspense surrounding the veep pick should Biden win the nomination. Chait correctly points out that this concern is dwarfed by the imperative to win the nomination in the first place, but he could have at least kept this a tight secret and then made a big splash with the announcement.  If he goes ahead with it now after people have been discussing it for weeks, it won’t have the same impact.

To me, the mistake here is that we’re talking about something that hasn’t happened. If it doesn’t happen, Biden will be badly wounded. And if it does happen, there will be a lot of yawning.

Nonetheless, the most important thing is whether it would help Biden win the primaries and if it would be a formidable ticket that could win in November 2020.  I think the answer to those are questions are “yes” and “yes,” although just because something helps doesn’t mean it will serve as some kind of magic trick.

I’ve said repeatedly that Biden is in a stronger position that most people are giving him credit for, but if he was really that confident he wouldn’t be looking at gimmicks like naming his running mate at the outset.  He knows he  has a mountain to climb and he doesn’t sound like he’s ready to do it alone.

Maybe that’s a sign of self-awareness and a sound strategy. On the other hand, maybe it’s just a sign that he’s got no real chance of reaching the summit.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.