GUEST POST: Joe Biden Still a Little Too Sleepy to be a WH Lock

SSG OG and podcast collaborator Pratik Chougule sent me the following banger about his outlook on the presidential campaign, the Democratic nomination, and the Vice President intrigue on the Dem ticket.

I know that I repeat this more often than OJ Simpson repeats the words, “I didn’t do it,” but my favorite thing in the world is to hear from you animals and I hope that everyone of you will slide into my DMs to tell me what markets you are watching, what your take on the news is, and whatever you think were are doing a crap job on that you think we could do better.


by Pratik Chougule

Throughout the primary season, I have been betting on the assumption that the markets and conventional wisdom generally are underestimating Biden’s strength as a candidate. I continue to think that is the case, which is why I am buying Yes shares at 79% on Biden being the Democratic nominee, and at 41% on him getting elected president.

Three developments, however, are chipping away at my confidence in Biden’s strength as a candidate:

1. Competence

More so than election years defined by ideological or culture wars, an election cycle that will likely be defined by COVID-19 and a weakening economy will generate demand for competency. 

Presidential candidates tend to demonstrate competence in one of two ways: their record or their temperament. Eisenhower is an example of the former. Obama in 2008 is an example of the latter, outmaneuvering a more experienced opponent during the financial crisis simply by staying calm while McCain made erratic statements. In a status quo in which Trump’s approval rating has consistently remained below 50%, Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus has bolstered perceptions of his ability to govern. 

For Biden to win on competence, his checkered record—not to mention his innumerable gaffes—won’t suffice. He needs to run a campaign that shows his capacity to be a stabilizer who can bring a sense of normalcy to the country. Biden’s near-defeat by Sanders and his lackluster performance since the COVID-19 lockdown raises questions about his ability to run a competence-oriented campaign in the general election. 

2. Running Mate 

The way Biden is handling the selection of his running mate is sending a concerning signal about his larger decision-making process.

 Biden’s choice of a running mate may be the most consequential decision he makes. The likelihood that his running mate will become president is particularly high given Biden’s age, his declining cognitive function, and risks posed by the Coronavirus. 

Even if this scenario does not materialize, Biden’s choice is significant.
Politically, Biden’s choice could determine the outcome of the election in a close race, or, at least, impact the margin of his victory or defeat, thus influencing the political mandate the president has in 2021. 

In terms of governance, the growing clout of the vice presidency suggests that Biden’s choice of a running mate will have an important impact on policy outcomes in the next administration.

As an elder statesman and one of the most influential vice presidents in history, Biden presumably knows all this. Yet, at a moment of political strength, when he was well on his way to locking up the nomination, Biden announced that he would select a woman. In doing so, he denied himself the opportunity to vet the broadest possible pool of candidates. Even with a sea change in the political climate, which perhaps bolsters the argument for selecting someone like Andrew Cuomo with experience managing a pandemic, Biden has saddled himself with a campaign promise that will be costly to break.

Even if Biden ultimately makes a wise choice with his running mate, his decision-making process casts doubt on his judgment.

3. Sexual Assault Allegations

I have been surprised to see that traders and analysts who I typically agree with are dismissing the latest sexual assault allegations against Biden. They point to the fact that mainstream media is not covering it in detail, as well as the suspect timing of the allegation. 

Yet similar allegations against other candidates have also initially been treated skeptically, only to be proven many months or even years later. See the early stages of the investigations into Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Brett Kavanaugh. 

The allegations against Biden raise two questions: 

First, did he in fact assault his staffer?

Second, was the staffer ostracized and retaliated against by Biden’s office? 
The first question cannot, in all likelihood, be proven one way or the other in the absence of witnesses. The rise of the #MeToo movement, however, probably means that Biden will not enjoy the same benefit of the doubt that a candidate might have in the past. 

The answer to the second question, I suspect, will be uncovered by enterprising journalists. It is not hard to see how these investigations could produce unflattering coverage for Biden, particularly if they encourage other women to come forward with similar allegations. 

A likely scenario is that this and other similar allegations will cast a cloud over Biden. It will make it harder for Biden, at a minimum, to draw a contrast with Trump’s character. And it could dampen turnout among the Democratic base. 

For more thoughts on these subjects, see my recent interview on StarSpangledGamblers.

Follow Pratik Chougule on Twitter.

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