Run, Joe, Run!

Conservatives should hope that Joe Biden runs for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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Vice President Joe Biden, arrives to speak about the U.S. policy toward the Asia-Pacific region at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress, in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2013.

Hey, fellow Republicans, here's an idea: Let's dress for the occasion (no elephant hats, definitely no red, white and blue) and get out and whoop it up for Vice President Biden.

He is making the early rounds of the 2016 presidential campaign trail, and, after that "put y'all back in chains" display in Virginia and a lifetime of bad votes and questionable behavior, he certainly doesn't deserve our actual support. But if we can help make him look like a strong candidate in the early stages of the campaign, it could redound to our benefit in a variety of ways.

Hillary Clinton isn't coming out of her "holding pattern" until someone forces her. And until she does declare her intentions, she is almost above attack. She can say what she wants, position herself as she likes for the campaign ahead, and Republicans can't really lay a glove on her.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

But a strong early showing by Biden could be just the thing to force her decision. And if she does get in, nobody has more dirt on her or more reason to shovel it than Biden. He's already 70, so 2016 is definitely his last shot. He'll be fighting against history itself – the prospect of nominating and electing America's first female president – and he relishes the underdog role. And Biden in the race neutralizes any coattails President Obama might be willing – or able – to provide.

Plus, polls show Democrats like him. The Wall Street Journal says Biden's backers believe he can win the nomination and the White House even if Hillary gets in. He's an enthusiastic campaigner, effective in person and on the stump, and he has to believe his enhanced resume would put him in better position than his previous presidential runs.

And while all that is going on, the GOP faces a final and epic battle for supremacy of ideas in this election. Will it go the establishment route again, with Chris Christie or someone similar in the lead? Or will it embrace its Tea Party/Libertarian flank with Ted Cruz or Rand Paul out front? A long, bitter campaign for the Democratic nomination could be just the thing Republicans need to distract the media while this is sorted out. 

Biden is the amiable dunce we think he is, a gaffe-machine that will keep on giving. But he also is a proven attack dog who, rare among Democrats, doesn't owe the Clintons a thing. And if he enters the race and starts lobbing bombs toward Hillary, others – Andrew Cuomo, Howard Dean, maybe even Elizabeth Warren – may feel emboldened to join in. And remember, the last time a politician went after Hillary in this way, the attacks stuck, and her campaign struggled to respond effectively. And that politician went on to become a two-term president.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Will the Benghazi Attacks Tarnish Hillary Clinton's Legacy as Secretary of State?]

Today, it looks like a crowded Republican field but a small – as in one or two – field on the Democratic side. By the time primary season rolls around, if Biden gets in and does well, the crowd may be on the Democratic side, destroying its candidates with brutally contentious debates, forcing them into untenable positions, as Republicans did to Mitt Romney last time around. And Republicans, who are hashing out their disputes now, a full two years before election day, may well be ready by then to coalesce around one or two well-organized candidates. 

Obviously, not many of us are going to travel to Iowa to cheer for Biden at the Tom Harkin Steak Fry or turn out for his appearances at state fairs and the like. But it clearly is in Republicans' interest for him to run. He will poke the bear that is Team Hillary. And the bear will have to respond. And Republicans will learn, from an expert, which attacks work and which don't.

And if Biden does emerge as the nominee, the Republican will be fighting only against a Democrat rather than a chance to make history. And that's an election Republicans can win.

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