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Biden bid would give Democrats alternative as Clinton campaign loses steam

While Vice President Joe Biden trails Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his favorability within the Democratic Party stands at 77 percent, leading all declared candidates, a survey by Quinnipiac University taken late last week indicates.

This suggests Biden could pose a real threat to Clinton if he chooses to throw his hat into the ring. Speculation has been running rampant as talk of Biden entering the race gathered steam over the past month.

The survey results also indicate that Biden outperforms Clinton against  Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Professor Donna Hoffman, department head and associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa, said her state is the most important place for Biden to begin making a presidential run.

“Here in Iowa, he’s known, and we’re the first proving ground,” Hoffman said. Biden has run for president before, and not only does he have name recognition, but he also has personal ties. “He needs to make connections, get in the race and show his face here as he has done previously.”

Hoffman speculated that Biden could really shake up the party and upcoming caucuses if Clinton implodes due to her email scandal, then Biden could offer himself as a viable, and electable, option.

“This is also good for the Democratic Party,” Hoffman said. “It’s not getting a lot of attention like the Republicans. What both parties want is to create excitement, and that excitement could be created with Biden and Clinton both in the race, just as it happened in 2008 with Obama and Clinton.”

Professor Matt Streb, department chairman of political science at Northern Illinois University, said Biden would have huge hurdles to overcome if he chooses to enter the race.

“He’s outspoken as vice president, he’s put his foot in his mouth and put the president in tough spots -- his comments on gay marriage, for example," Streb said. "But he’ll campaign on his record, more so than Clinton, who will try to distance herself from her former boss. Clinton is vulnerable.”

That said, Streb said he’s not sure if Biden is the one who can beat Clinton. “If I were advising Biden, I’d tell him to sit back, relax, and see if Clinton implodes. If she does, then he can ride that and become the party’s hero.”

Streb said the Republican Party would love it if Biden enters the race. “Anything to hurt Hillary’s campaign further is something Republicans would support. I think they would rather run against Biden than Clinton. It would be easier to tie Biden to Obama’s record. It would be like McCain trying to distance himself from Bush. Clinton no longer works for Obama; Biden does.”

Streb said he thinks the Democratic Party is nervous about Biden entering the race, but that Biden provides a Plan B. “The party united behind Clinton early, and she has issues; they might look to Biden as an alternative.”

Professor Eduardo Gamarra of Florida International University's Department of Politics and International Relations disagrees.

Gamarra said the Democratic Party is drafting Biden. “There is a fear of Hillary and her ‘emailgate.' I’ve known the Clintons since the 1970s, it does seem like when the Clintons are involved in something, a bunch of accusations come forward. Will those accusations stick? That’s the question.”

Gamarra agrees the Democratic Party needs energizing.

“The Democratic campaigning has been boring," Gamarra said. "All the showmanship has been on the Republican Party side with the Trump show. This might liven up the campaign and motivate debate-policy options. Biden in the race is an attempt at putting in a viable candidate in the event Hillary can’t run.”