Former Vice President Joe Biden has achieved what for most politicians forever remains the land of legend: a high rate of bipartisan favorability. Biden's multi-decade career in public service has, it seems, mostly endeared him to people. Plenty of the "everyday Americans" targeted by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign might refer to him as "Uncle Joe." And in today's atmosphere of extreme partisanship, that kind of persona is all but unheard of. Perhaps it partly explains why Biden said of Clinton, "I never thought she was the correct candidate" while speaking at the SALT conference. He did have one person in mind as the "correct" one, though — himself. Still, Biden did emphasize that he thought "Hillary would have been a really good president."
Biden has signaled that he regrets his decision not to throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 Democratic nomination. With eight years in the executive branch as vice president, and 36 years in the legislative branch as a Delaware senator, Biden believed he was the "best qualified" person for the role. He shared that belief in March.
But his comments on Wednesday about Clinton are Biden's strongest critique yet of his Democratic colleague. He had previously lamented the lack of outreach to working class voters on the part of the Clinton campaign, saying, "We didn't talk to them."
Joe Biden at #salt2017 on Hillary Clinton:— Yashar (@yashar) May 19, 2017
"I never thought she was the correct candidate. I thought I was the correct candidate."
As a descriptor for Clinton, "correct" is an interesting word choice on Biden's part. It could mean any number of things. Perhaps Clinton was not the "correct" person to go up against someone like Donald Trump, whose willingness to be offensive and mean was difficult for anyone with standard political decorum to combat (witness the fall of Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and the 12 other Republican candidates). Maybe Clinton was not the "correct" candidate because she didn't have a clear message for the blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt that any victorious Democrat must win over.
Speaking about Clinton's reason for running in the first place, Biden said back in December, "I don't think she really ever figured it out."
Biden may be gearing up for his own presidential aspirations come 2020. His staff have put together a timeline of events for him, should Biden choose to run this time. And while he often tries to diminish the possibility, Biden has yet to categorically rule out a future campaign.
The notion that Biden could have beaten Trump is common. Like the current president, Biden has a reputation for being a straight-shooter. Unlike Clinton — with a $15 million net worth and history of highly publicized family scandals — Biden comes across as a regular guy ("Uncle Joe," as mentioned above). He hasn't profited off public service the way many of his government colleagues have. Biden is worth somewhere between $39,000 and $800,000. That's not cheap by any means, but in comparison to most other pols, Biden could reasonably joke that he was the "poorest man in Congress."
That accessibility might have played better with voters than the vibe of wealth and aloofness that many criticized in Clinton. Still, millions of people didn't hold Trump's much-ballyhooed billions and blatant arrogance against him. So, Americans will just have to wait until 2020 to see, should Biden choose indeed to run, if he can leverage his favorables all the way to the White House.