By Peter Daou and Tom Watson
UPDATE (10/14/15): After Hillary's commanding debate showing, pundits are rushing to assert what we argued nearly a month ago in the post below, i.e. that Joe Biden's brief window has closed.
ORIGINAL POST (9/19/15):
In politics, as in life, timing is everything.
For a moment this summer, the gatekeepers of our national conversation believed they had achieved their singular mission: to derail Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
In the midst of that fierce summertime attack, some Democrats lost their nerve and succumbed to the seductive sirens of the anti-Hillary commentariat who floated a series of male saviors for the Democratic Party, shining knights who could salvage them from the supposed "dream-turned-nightmare" of the first woman president.
As we approached that nadir, according to the pundits, our Vice President would step in and save the day, rescuing America from the “weak woman.”
Here’s the problem for Joe Biden, a good and decent man whom we admire and respect tremendously: that moment has passed.
Hillary has survived one of the fiercest assaults ever launched against a political leader.
We have chronicled every phase of that assault, from the false, unethical and dangerous New York Times article alleging that Hillary was under criminal investigation, to the overhyped, dishonest and discredited Q poll pretending that Hillary is seen by voters as a “liar.”
Our friends Nate Silver and Dave Weigel confirm our observation that media coverage has been relentlessly negative:
The Washington Post’s David Weigel recently observed that voters were hearing about only three types of Clinton stories, all of which have negative implications for her.
Weigel isn’t exaggerating: For roughly the past two months, voters have heard almost nothing about Clinton apart from these three types of stories.
Despite the onslaught, Hillary remains strong and steady; her campaign has weathered the attack and is turning the corner.
Humans are slow to see paradigm shifts. Typically, it is only in hindsight that we realize the ground has shifted. So far in this presidential race, it shifted once against Hillary. It is now shifting back in her favor. It may be imperceptible to many outside observers, but to anyone who has worked on a national campaign, there’s a gut sense of when the worm has turned. It has turned for Hillary. A good story here, a tightening poll there, and the negative narrative will (grudgingly) give way to a positive one.
Of course, Hillary is hardly out of the woods. There will be new waves of attack, more vicious rhetoric directed at her, and more fake scandals ginned up. But one thing is for certain: the formidable institutional forces arrayed against her have not succeeded in knocking her out of the race. Hillary has taken a political gut blow, but if anyone can take a punch, it’s Hillary Clinton. Voters know that her resilience and perseverance are among her greatest assets and the perfect rationale to elect her president.
The ultimate gender barrier is still on track to be broken.
The stabilization of the 2016 landscape changes the calculus for Biden. The melodramatic urgency for a “savior” is dissipating as it becomes clear that Hillary has withstood the first huge firestorm of the cycle.
It is in that context that we read Reuters’ report that “a group of prominent Democratic Party fundraisers on Friday began circulating a letter to encourage a hesitant Vice President Joe Biden to enter the 2016 race for U.S. president.”
Their timing is awful and a disservice to the Vice President, who is still coping with the loss of his son.
The race Biden will be stepping into if he runs is not the same one these fundraisers have been reacting to in recent weeks. By the time Biden is a declared candidate, the media-generated storyline about “desperation for a Dem savior” will have run its course and Biden will be just another candidate trying to build a last minute infrastructure with limited resources.
The GOP attack machine will give him a brief pass just to try to harm Hillary, but eventually they will sink their teeth into him and gnaw away at his character and credibility. And the media will dutifully play along.
In addition, the draft Biden movement is predicated to a large extent on a fantasy of Hillary’s total collapse and the notion that she'd leave the race if things got much tougher. But Hillary Clinton doesn’t quit. It is her core quality and why President Obama admires her.
As #HillaryMen, we welcome more Democratic candidates into the race. We are confident Hillary can take them all on and win. From a strategic perspective, Biden's entry will split the "not Hillary" vote (which always exists when there's a strong frontrunner) into two camps instead of one, which helps her in the long run.
That said, we reject the media-foisted narrative that Democrats need someone to replace Hillary. Joe Biden is a good man and a loyal Democrat, but the ground is shifting in Hillary’s favor and Biden’s cheerleaders will likely regret their decision to pressure him into entering the fray.
Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.