The media, and some of its sources within the Democratic Party, believed that former vice president Joe Biden was the front-runner presidential primary candidate before his poor back-to-back primary performances in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Now, Biden’s campaign is on the ropes and hopes for good results in Nevada and South Carolina later this month, but to avoid this embarrassment, the media should have reflected on Biden’s past two failed presidential campaigns in 1988 and 2008.
Throughout the presidential primary, the media overlooked Biden’s two previous presidential campaigns and glanced over why Biden’s campaigns failed. After briefly covering Biden’s past presidential bids in June 2019, the media has not brought up his past presidential campaigns within the past three months, which would have been instructive for both themselves and for potential primary voters.
For example, the last time that CNN covered Biden’s presidential ambitions was this video from 2015. But CNN’s video did not go into detail about why his previous campaigns failed and it comprised of TV host John King opining about Biden’s campaign tactics.
In 1987, Biden declared for the presidency and contended against the likes of Michael Dukakis (then the former governor of Massachusetts), Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Miss.), Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.), and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. But his campaign quickly fell apart when opponents accused him of plagiarism and for lying about his law school accomplishments. He quoted United Kingdom Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock without attribution on multiple occasions, in addition to his false claim that he graduated in the top half of his law school (he ranked 76th of 85 law students). Biden dropped out of the race in September 1987 before any of the presidential primary elections.
In 2008, he dropped out of the 2008 presidential race after the Iowa caucuses where he placed fifth among the field of candidates. Biden made multiple public gaffes, including his reference of Sen. Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Politico, in a 2008 article, said that Biden got into trouble because “he was also plagued, as he has been for much of his career, by his tendency to be verbose on the campaign trail.”
Similar to his 2008 campaign, Biden’s 2020 primary opponents blasted him for many of his past misstatements while on the campaign trial. Recently, he called a New Hampshire voter a “lying, dog-faced pony soldier.” The voter told the media that Biden’s quip was “king of insulting,” but the campaign suggested that Biden was joking.
For months, the media claimed Biden was the most electable candidate among the multitude of primary candidates, but as Iowa and New Hampshire demonstrated, Biden’s gaffes undermined the electability argument. If the media looked back to Biden’s past presidential campaigns, it could have avoided the embarrassment of being wrong about Biden’s electability. Instead, the media chose to ignore the lessons from history and failed the public because it promoted Biden’s electability narrative.