Barack Obama wasn’t going to save us. At least, that was the message of the 2007 debate, held seven months before Obama would announce his candidacy for president. Former vice president Joe Biden, who is also expected to run in 2020, couldn’t fix things for the country any more than Obama could.
And that was perhaps the underlying theme of Mr. Biden’s angry speech Tuesday night at the Washington Ideas Forum, when he referred to “sloppy” and “self-serving” behavior he had observed throughout the Trump presidency and said his job as a candidate was to focus not on him, but on the “snowflakes” among Trump’s supporters.
That didn’t work with the GOP’s base during 2016 and, as Mr. Biden conceded Tuesday, might not work with Mr. Trump’s. But it turned out that it didn’t work for anyone else either. Trump’s presidency ended with him and Biden colliding in the Indiana primary on April 5 of that year.
Mr. Biden had endorsed Mr. Obama for president against Hillary Clinton in 2008. That presaged the primaries on the Democratic side, though because Ms. Clinton did not endorse Mr. Obama, he had to wait to get into them.
He didn’t take the field on April 5, but on April 18, six days after the April 15 convention had taken place in Denver, he finally did announce his candidacy. He went on to a 19-point victory over Ms. Clinton, then a front-runner, in Delaware’s primary.
Biden’s first trip to Des Moines was never consummated. He had an event scheduled on March 23, only four days after Mr. Obama’s nomination, at Wesleyan University. That was postponed, and he was far from ready to announce his candidacy, so an aide slipped a pre-announcement letter under a college student’s letter box, and he was attending Ms. Clinton’s fundraiser.
Still, there was a fair bit of tension between Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama after the primary. Mr. Biden complained that the president’s handling of the 2008 campaign favored Ms. Clinton. The famously well-read senator from Delaware seemed to have forgotten that his long Senate career had been about his opposition to Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq and his vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force in 2001. His frequent pleas for voters to pick him over Ms. Clinton were dubbed “the Biden Doctrine” in the right-wing media.
At a fundraiser for his campaign one night before the April election, Mr. Biden warned: “I’m nobody’s patsy.” Though he seemed to see himself as the Democratic nominee, Mr. Biden warned Mr. Obama of a movement that could turn hostile to Democrats. “I will do everything I can to help the president get re-elected, but at the same time,” he said, “I’m going to know how to fight.”
During the fall of 2008, Mr. Biden campaigned hard for Mrs. Clinton. He brought aboard political writers and activists who would later go on to work for McCain and Trump. It wasn’t the end of a feud that would last. In 2012, Ms. Clinton attacked Mr. Biden for coming out of retirement to run for the presidency.
By contrast, Mr. Trump’s frustrations with Mr. Biden have been more public. In early April 2015, Mr. Trump tweeted to Mr. Biden: “I’ve always enjoyed being with you. Now go back to Washington, which is totally broken.”
Mr. Trump saw Mr. Biden as out of touch with reality. The vice president would say something like, “The carbon monoxide alarm went off. Oh, wait, it was my fault.” (He did that again last December.) Mr. Trump mocked him with a bon mot in January 2015: “With the two debates between me and John McCain in 2008, the loser – forget it – was Joe Biden. He had a terrible time. He didn’t have the temperament. He didn’t have the money. He didn’t have the organization. He wasn’t ready for prime time.”
Mr. Trump dismissed Mr. Biden as a negative and of limited character, suggesting Mr. Biden was dishonest, and saw him as being well-prepared for the White House. “Look, if you go into it, you’ve got a very low ceiling. Even if you get into it, you’ve got a very