The Biden Problem

All this fuss in the US media about Joe Biden.  If President Obama really is planning to drop him from the re-election ticket, it will be the first time since 1976 that a president has chosen someone other than the incumbent Vice President.  It will be the first time since 1944 that an elected Vice President has been dropped.  But let's get this in context.

Nelson Rockefeller chose not run with Gerald Ford in the 1976 election.  Rockefeller was a controversial and divisive figure who had been appointed Vice President under the terms of the twenty-fifth amendment. 

In 1944, the Democrat Party 'advised' Franklin Roosevelt to run with Harry Truman - rather than the incumbent, Henry Wallace - because Wallace was a controversial and divisive figure.  FDR was already fed up with him, and had removed him from his position as chair of the Board of Economic Warfare (BEW), while some in the Party were concerned about FDR's health, and the possibility of Wallace taking over as president.  Wallace was Roosevelt's second Vice President - John Nance Garner chose not run in 1940, as he was irritated by Roosevelt's decision to run for a third term, particularly as he had presidential ambitions himself.

Benjamin Harrison dropped Levi Morton from his 1892 re-election ticket because he blamed Morton for the failure of a bill which would have extended voting rights to African Americans in the south.  So far, none of this stuff sounds like Obama and Biden.

Looks like we'll have to go back a bit further . . . Ulysses Grant decided to pick someone else for his 1872 re-election ticket because the incumbent VP, Schuyler Colfax, was - you guessed it - a controversial and divisive figure who had been involved in the Credit Mobilier scandal. In 1864, Abraham Lincoln chose Andrew Johnson - not the incumbent, Hannibal Hamlin - because he wanted to run with a Democrat as part of his ongoing effort to keep the union together during the Civil War. In 1832, Andrew Jackson chose not to run again with Vice President John Calhoun because Calhoun, interestingly, was a controversial and divisive figure who clashed frequently with Jackson during his first term. Prior to 1804, candidates did not choose running mates - the winner of the presidential election became the President and the loser became Vice President.

All of the other decisions to pick another running mate were necessary due to the death of the incumbent Vice President during the first term.

It would appear that a decision by President Obama to drop Joe Biden does not fit with this pattern. Biden is neither controversial nor divisive, and he is certainly not dead, as that ridiculous speech in Ohio demonstrated last week. True, he is gaffe-prone, but that hardly qualifies for being dumped at the last minute. Surely Obama has not come to some Blair-Brown style deal with Hillary Clinton? What is she threatening to do? Announce her candidacy just before the Convention and hope to snatch some delegates? Organise a write-in campaign? Is Obama more threatened by a Romney challenge than we have been led to believe? I am not a fan of the current Vice President, but it has to be said that if Obama's popularity has declined, it is not the fault of Joe Biden.  If he is replaced, this will arguably be the first time in American history that a blameless Vice President has been dropped.


James O.