In 1966, the 2020 presidential campaign strategy for former Vice President Joe Biden was clearly laid out. Biden is all but certain to run for President as a Democrat against incumbent Republican President Donald Trump.
Biden's strategy will be to appear as the noble statesman much as the then former Vice President Richard Nixon did 52 years ago. The focus was not on issues, but I.O.U.'s among members of Congress and grass roots support.
Looking back at Nixon, he was all but given up for political death after losing a race for California Governor in 1964. That loss against Democratic Governor Pat Brown came after a whisker close lose to Democratic President John Kennedy in 1960. Nixon was a public figure who had outlasted his political appeal.
But Richard Nixon was a smart, determined pol with a plan. He set out to quietly work his way back, supporting GOP congressional races, one by one. His engagement resulted in many new members swelling the Republican ranks in the House and Senate. Unknown candidates could brag that a Vice President took the time to support them with a personal visit. Nixon made the difference in many of those upsets. By the time the 1968 election came up, Nixon had the nomination for president sewed up, even before the start of the convention.
Biden recently appeared before the current House Democratic members to outline an identical strategy. Although the Presidential election is in 2020, all Biden was only talking about was winning back the House in 2018. Biden said he would be there for them, raising money, showing up at campaign events and yes, calling in the I.O.U.'s come two years later. Same deal, unknown candidates bragging about a former Vice President supporting their campaigns. Bingo.
The genius of the Nixon-Biden strategy is it ducks the controversial issues confronting the Democratic Party like abortion, gun control, immigration, support for a strong defense, and unbridled patriotism. Many a favored candidate's campaign ended up on the floor of the Convention, having flamed out over a contentious issue. Biden plans to avoid that disaster.
As revered Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill always said, "All politics is local [campaigns]." It has been said that Senator Biden's best friend in the House was none other than Tip O'Neill. Sounds about right.