It’s 2pm here in on the West Coast now. About 14 hours since I found out that Joe Biden was going to be the VP pick. While I was disappointed at first – holding out for Wesley Clarke, Brian Schweitzer or Kathleen Sebelius, I’ve already started to grow from it. And it reminder me of this from my days volunteering for Barack Obama in Iowa.
Joe Biden. Of all the candidates, he always seemed to be the most bitter about Barack Obama. At the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, he started his speech with this condescending remark.
“Hello Iowa and hello Chicago.”
My immediate thought – not an Iowan but not from Chicago either, and surrounded by fellow Iowans – was “shut up asshole.”
However, I did notice one thing about Biden. Off all the candidates, him and Barack were the two straight talkers. And on that case, Biden did beat Barack – he spoke what was on his mind, unfiltered by talking points. To many, this has been his greatest weakness, but as I found out, it made him a formidable opponent.
So much so that, heading into caucus night, the candidate I was most worried about pulling a surprise was not Hillary Clinton or John Edwards, but Joe Biden.
Though it may not show up in the numbers, Joe Biden was, unquestionable, surging in the weeks before caucus night. In a campaign where people were looking for authenticity, Joe Biden was emerging as the only true competitor to Barack Obama for new voters. I wrote about this immediately after the caucuses – about Biden’s unique and unexpected appeal among young voters.
The one thing that strikes me when I talked to youth voters in Iowa was who they were supporting. Few wanted Hillary (hence her 4th place finish with young voters). Many, in fact, were between Obama and JOE BIDEN. Why? Look above. In the end, many of these voters choose Obama, and the ones that choose Biden found him unviable and moved to Obama. Biden doesn’t pander, and he speaks straightforward. He never tailored his messages to difference audience. Compare his rhetoric to Obama’s, you might be surprised.
As I walked around my precinct, a suburban, middle class, mostly white neighborhoods of West Des Moines, I ran into numerous voters who were between Obama and Biden. I ran into young high schoolers who liked Joe Biden because he didn’t speak down to them and seemed incredibly knowledgeable. I pressed them to support Barack as their second choice, but slowly fears began to creep into me that Biden might become viable, and suck away some of Barack’s steam.
Come to caucus night – an incredible story in itself, a day that will be remembered forever in American political lore. The estimated turnout at my caucus was 220 people – and over 400 showed up. Joe Biden did surprise, turnout out almost 45 people, only 15 less than John Edwards. But Edwards just snuck above viability, and Biden did not – sending, as I expected, most of his voters to us. In the end, Obama was 240 people alone, Hillary 110 (only gaining 4 in the second round, versus 35+ for us), and Edwards 65. Though in reality, Biden has about 10%, in caucus math, he got a big 0%.
I’m almost certain this was happening all around the state.
Iowa is the only test-tube we have for Joe Biden because he dropped out that night. But the facts were clear – as people got to know him better, they liked him more. He was hated by few voters, and was the candidate best positioned to break through. If it weren’t for Obama’s incredible turnout operation, he would have broken through.
And in the end, I can see America doing the same. Because in Iowa, victory was bringing together Biden and Obama supporters, both of whom want the same thing – change, and competency in the White House.