Recovering a legacy is no easy feat. Just ask Al Gore.
The most active Vice President in history, at that point, Al Gore was the point person on some of the Clinton administration’s most successful efforts, like Reinventing Government, to pushing through some of its more controversial policies, like NAFTA. But all of that is rarely associated with him, anymore.
Even with all of his yeoman work on the environment, Gore is remembered for the 2000 election. It even is the opening line to most of his speeches, joking, “I am Al Gore, and I used to be the next president of the United States of America.”
From launching a network (and folding it) to environmental work, Al Gore has remained active, but his political cache has suffered. Even with George W. Bush stealing the election, and Ralph Nader running as a Green, most people are aware of one cold, hard truth. It should never have been close. Al Gore screwed it up.
It’s unclear if any of the above is part of the equation, as Joe Biden decides whether to make one final run at the White House. But it should be.
Ultimately, this is a decision that Joe Biden has to make. And, by all accounts, it is a hell of an emotional one. I feel for him. I had to deliver the news to my grandmother that her son — my dad — had been just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and wasn’t coming home from the hospital. I’ve seen how impactful a dying son’s last moments are on a parent.
And, it should be said, nothing is impossible. There’s always a chance that Biden could run, and win. But the chances are, frankly, slim.
The more likely scenario is that he enters the race in third place (as most polling shows), maybe sees a bump that takes him up to second place, and then, after he begins getting media scrutiny, or says something seen as impolitic, as he’s been known to do, falls back down into third place.
In the process, some donors and consultants would abandon Hillary Clinton’s campaign, for Biden, creating a schism between them and Clinton loyalists that would be very hard to repair, heading into the general election, when they most need to be united.
Biden also would likely incur the wrath of a large segment of Clinton voters. You have to remember, it has taken nearly eight long years, and a Clinton appointment to Secretary of State, for them to even mildly like Barack Obama. Polling is showing that Biden almost exclusively takes support away from Clinton, not Bernie Sanders. Should Biden step in, and be perceived as a barrier to the “history” Clinton supporters have long been waiting to realize, there’s likely very little he will be able to do to regain their good will. Maybe ever.
In short, the most likely scenario is that Joe Biden’s legacy isn’t that of a wonderful Vice President, who handled some of the toughest tasks in the Obama administration, and won Democrats’ hearts.
It isn’t a legacy that allows him to spend the 2016 campaign leveraging that popularity to — literally, folks — help Democrats capture key Senate and House seats, and governorships, raising his political cache to stratospheric levels for years to come.
It’s a legacy of a guy who ran a quixotic third failed campaign, and had to drop out after coming in a disappointing third, or maybe an anemic second.
It’s a legacy of the guy who would be perceived by many as creating division that damaged the chances of Democrats electing the first female president, in 2016. That would lessen the impact of his “brand” for years to come.
It’s a legacy that’s hard to come back out of and repair.
In the end, that’s what Biden must weigh. Is it worth risking all of that for an uphill battle to win the nomination? I can’t answer that question. But he will have to.
Originally posted at Huffington Post