A report published by The New York Times on Tuesday claims that former Vice President Joe Biden’s team has made overtures to the campaign of Senator Amy Klobuchar, suggesting an electoral pact during next week’s Iowa caucus.
According to sources familiar with a meeting between senior aides for both campaigns, the Biden aides argued that the two campaigns should encourage their supporters to caucus for the other candidate in precincts where one of them does not have enough support to win delegates.
DNC rules stipulate that if a candidate does not win 15% in a precinct, their supporters must choose a different candidate in the second round of voting.
Similar caucus alliances have been forged before, most notably in 2004 between Democrats John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich.
However, they have not met with much success historically; the 2004 Iowa caucuses were won convincingly by John Kerry, who went on to win the nomination.
Klobuchar’s team was not having any of it.
The plan was shot down in flames within hours, with acerbic comments from high-ranking members of the campaign. Klobuchar’s communications director said “We’ve never made caucus deals with other campaigns and we don’t intend to,” while Pete Giangreco (the strategist to whom the Biden team reached out) told CNN, “this was not a serious conversation and was dismissed.”
The harsh reaction was motivated by the Biden team’s dismissive treatment of Klobuchar in recent days. Biden’s allies have put significant pressure on Klobuchar, arguing that since the two share similar neoliberal (or in their words, “pragmatic”) politics, she should get out of Viden’s way in order to deny the nomination to Senators Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
Biden’s team have justified this argument by saying that he has the best chance of beating Donald Trump in the general election.
To add insult to, well, insult, Iowa’s former governor, Tom Vilsack (a prominent Biden supporter), has hinted that Klobuchar could be rewarded for cooperating with Biden by gaining a better chance to be Biden’s running mate. Such a suggestion was almost guaranteed to get Klobuchar’s hackles up, given the clumsy, entitled way that Biden has treated potential running mates so far in this election cycle.
In March of last year, Biden allies suggested that Georgia’s popular former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams could be picked as his running mate from early on in the campaign. Abrams, who was then mulling her own electoral future, dismissed Biden’s overtures saying, “You don’t run for second place.”
Many of her political allies saw Biden’s attempt to get a young, progressive, black woman on his team as blatant tokenism and denounced it as “exploitative.”
Biden, seemingly unable to learn his lesson, next tried that trick with Kamala Harris of California; senior Democrats argued throughout May that the two would be a “dream ticket.” Harris batted these expectations aside, joking that perhaps Biden would like to be her running mate: “As Vice President, he’s proven that he knows how to do the job.” Staff members on her campaign team were privately “infuriated” by another display of tokenism by the Biden campaign.
The Biden campaign’s attempts to get a female running mate look tactless, particularly in comparison to his main rival Bernie Sanders’ search for a vice president. Many progressives have long argued that Sanders and Warren should run together to unite the Democrats’ left-leaning base, and a recent investigation by The Intercept has revealed that the Sanders team has considered that idea.
However, unlike Biden’s gender-based tokenism, the Sanders team reportedly researched whether Warren could hold the roles of vice president and treasury secretary at the same time – a clear indication that Sanders wants his Senate colleague on his team for her political and financial acumen, not simply her gender.
Sanders has a long-held respect for Warren.
In 2015, he helped the Draft Warren movement, which aimed to persuade her to run against Hillary Clinton (which she eventually decided against doing).
By contrast, Biden’s clumsy efforts came on the back of a long history of inability to understand feminist complaints against him. His so-called apologies for his handling of the Anita Hill hearings in 1991 and for inappropriately touching a female lawmaker in 2014 simultaneously deflected responsibility away from him and showed that he failed to understand the crux of the complaints.
It should be little surprise that Klobuchar – who has been an outspoken feminist during the campaign – would balk at Biden’s clumsy overtures.
Klobuchar’s feminist streak also raises the question of whether her supporters would even vote for Biden if she failed to make the cut in Iowa.
Many of her biggest moments in the campaign so far have come from her taking on male entitlement: saying that women are “held to a higher standard”; pointing to Pete Buttigieg’s inexperience as an example of male privilege; and coming alongside Elizabeth Warren in the most recent debate to tear down the aura of “electability” surrounding their male rivals, who collectively have lost ten elections whereas the two women have lost none.
If Klobuchar does fail to reach 15% in some precincts in Iowa, it seems more likely that many of her supporters could flock towards Elizabeth Warren, who, as mentioned, is also an experienced female senator. Warren has recently made efforts to reach voters outside of the Democratic Party’s fervent progressive base.
Polls indicate that the Iowa Democratic caucuses will be highly competitive.
Four candidates – Biden, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg – are credibly vying for first place, with a large number of potential caucus goers still undecided.