Joe Biden presidential campaign, 1988

Joe Biden presidential campaign, 1988

Infobox U.S. federal election campaign, 2008
committee =

campaign = U.S. presidential election, 1988
candidate = Joe Biden
U.S. Senator 1973–
cand_id =
fec_date =
affiliation = Democratic Party
headquarters =
key_people = Tim Ridley (manager)
Larry Rasky (press secretary)
Pat Caddell (pollster/consultant)
receipts =
slogan =
homepage =

Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr., the Democratic United States Senator from Delaware since 1973, was a candidate for President of the United States in the 1988 United States presidential election.

Leading up to the announcement

Biden had been mentioned among possible contenders in the 1984 presidential election, and had considered the notion in 1983.cite book | last=Germond | first=Jack | authorlink=Jack Germond | coauthors=Witcover, Jules | title=Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars? The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency 1988 | publisher=Warner Books | year=1989 | isbn=0-446-51424-1 pp. 215–216] A fiery speech he gave to several Democratic audiences had simultaneously scolded Democrats for outdated thinking and encouraged them regarding future directions, and had gained him some notice in the party. But Biden did not enter the race that season. Nonetheless, he won one vote at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.

Biden was active on the party speaking circuit from 1985 on, and was considered one of the best orators among the potential presidential candidates for 1988. [Germond and Witcover, "Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars?", p. 43.]

Biden received considerable attention in the summer of 1986 when he excoriated Secretary of State George Shultz at a Senate hearing because of the Reagan administration's support of South Africa, which continued to support a system of apartheid. [cite news|url=|title=Lifelong ambition led Joe Biden to Senate, White House aspirations|publisher="The Dallas Morning News"|accessdate=2008-08-25|date=2008-08-23]


At age of 45, Biden became one of the official candidates for Democratic nomination,formally declaring his candidacy at the Wilmington train station on June 9, 1987.cite news | url= | title= Biden Joins Campaign for the Presidency | author=Dionne Jr., E. J. | publisher="The New York Times" | date=1987-06-10]

In his speech, Biden said that Americans should rise above "the mere accumulation of material things". In language intended to recall John F. Kennedy, he said, "For too long in this society, we have celebrated unrestrained individualism over common community. For too long as a nation, we have been lulled by the anthem of self-interest. For a decade, led by Ronald Reagan, self-aggrandizement has been the full-throated cry of this society: 'I've got mine so why don't you get yours' and 'What's in it for me?' ... We must rekindle the fire of idealism in our society, for nothing suffocates the promise of America more than unbounded cynicism and indifference."

Campaign staff and policy team

Biden's campaign manager was Tim Ridley, his press secretary was Larry Rasky, and his pollster was Pat Caddell.cite book | last=Taylor | first=Paul | title=See How They Run: Electing the President in an Age of Mediaocracy | publisher=Alfred A. Knopf | year=1990 | isbn=0-394-47059-6 pp. 102–103.]

Campaign developments 1987

tatus among candidates

When the campaign began, Biden was considered one of the potentially strongest candidates in an eight-person field. [cite book | last=Drew | first=Elizabeth | authorlink=Elizabeth Drew | title=Election Journal: Political Events of 1987-1988 | publisher=Wm. Morrow | year=1989 | isbn=0688083323 p. 131.] This was because of his moderate image, his speaking ability on the stump – which was rated second only to that of Jesse Jackson, his appeal to Baby Boomers, his high profile position as chair of the Senate Judiciary committee looming for the Robert Bork confirmation hearings, and his fundraising appeal—$1.7 million raised in the first quarter of 1987 was more than any other candidate.Taylor, "See How They Run", p. 83.]

Biden's chances, as well as those of the rest of the Democratic field, were greatly improved once front-runner Gary Hart withdrew from the race in May 1987, following revelations of Donna Rice and "Monkey Business".

ummer 1987

Biden's campaign messaging was confused due to staff rivalries. [Taylor, "See How They Run", pp. 108–109.] Four different themes were presented, sometimes simultaneously: "Pepsi Generation", "Voice of optimism", "Save the children", and "Scold the voters". Pollster Pat Caddell in particular was a disruptive force within the campaign, but he had been Biden's friend for 15 years. Another of his themes was generational change; Biden hoped to inspire a new generation, somewhat modeled after how John F. Kennedy had inspired his.cite book|title=The Almanac of American Politics |last = Barone |first = Michael | authorlink=Michael Barone |coauthors = Cohen, Richard E. |year = 2008 |publisher = National Journal Group |location = Washington |isbn=0-89234-116-0 p. 364.] But the theme was not catching on that well. [Drew, "Election Journal 1987-1988", p. 17.]

By August 1987, Biden had begun to lag behind those of Michael Dukakis and Richard Gephardt,cite news | url= | title= Biden, Once the Field's Hot Democrat, Is Being Overtaken by Cooler Rivals | author=Toner, Robin | publisher="The New York Times" | date=August 31, 1987] although he had still raised more funds than all candidates but Dukakis and was seeing an upturn in Iowa polls.cite book | last=Cook | first=Rhodes | chapter=The Nominating Process | title=The Elections of 1988 | editor=Nelson, Michael (ed.) | publisher=Congressional Quarterly, Inc. | year=1989 | isbn=0-87187-494-6 p. 46.]

Kinnock controversy

Controversy emerged during Biden's candidacy, beginning on September 12, 1987 with high-profile articles in "The New York Times" and "The Des Moines Register". [Taylor, "See How They Run", pp. 89, 91.] Biden was accused of plagiarizing a speech by Neil Kinnock, then-leader of the British Labour Party. [cite news | url= | title= Biden's Debate Finale: An Echo From Abroad | author=Dowd, Maureen | publisher="The New York Times" | date=September 12, 1987] Kinnock’s speech included the lines:

"Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? [Then pointing to his wife in the audience] Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?"
While Biden’s speech included the lines:
"I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? [Then pointing to his wife in the audience] Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I'm the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?"
Though Biden had cited Kinnock as the source for the formulation many times before, he made no reference to the original source at the August 23 Democratic debate at the Iowa State Fair in questionGermond and Witcover, "Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars?", pp. 230–232.] or in another appearance.cite news|url= |publisher=Media Matters|title=Media outlets reported allegations Biden plagiarized Kinnock, but not that he had previously credited him |accessdate=2008-08-28|date=2008-08-23] While political speeches often appropriate ideas and language from each other, Biden's use came under more scrutiny because he somewhat distorted his own family's background in order to match Kinnock's.

Following the Kinnock attention, reports came from the "San Jose Mercury News" of Biden reusing without credit pieces of speeches from Hubert H. Humphrey and Robert F. Kennedy.Germond and Witcover, "Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars?", pp. 233–234.] In the Kennedy case – which got the greater attention, since there was film footage of both versions that television news programs could play side-by-side – Biden political consultant Pat Caddell stated that the reuse without credit was his own fault, and that he had never informed Biden of the source of the material.

After Biden withdrew from the race, it was indeed learned that he had correctly credited Kinnock on other occasions. But in the Iowa speech that was recorded and distributed to reporters (with a parallel video of Kinnock) by aides to Michael Dukakis, the eventual nominee, he failed to do so. Dukakis fired John Sasso, his campaign manager and long-time Chief of Staff, but Biden's campaign could not recover. [cite web | title=Joseph Biden's Plagiarism; Michael Dukakis's 'Attack Video' – 1988 | url= | publisher="The Washington Post" | author=Larry J. Sabato | accessdate=2008-09-28] [cite book |title = Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State |last = Cohen |first = Celia |year = 2002 | publisher=Grapevine Publishing]

Academic revelations

As a part of the Kinnock controversy, it was revealed that Biden had been involved in a similar incident during his first year at Syracuse University School of Law in 1965. Biden initially received an “F” in an introductory class on legal methodology for writing a paper relying almost exclusively on a single "Fordham Law Review" article, which he had cited. Biden was allowed to repeat the course and passed with high marks. [cite web | author=Lee May | title=Biden Admits Plagiarism in Writing Law School Brief | publisher="Los Angeles Times" | date=September 18, 1987 | url=] Though the then-dean of the law school, as well as Biden's former professor, downplayed the incident, they did find that Biden drew "chunks of heavy legal prose directly from" the article in question. Biden said it was inadvertent due to his not knowing the proper rules of citation.cite news | url= | title= Biden Admits Plagiarism in School But Says It Was Not 'Malevolent' | author=Dionne Jr., E. J. | publisher="The New York Times" | date=September 18, 1987] After ending his Presidential campaign, Biden requested the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Delaware Supreme Court review the issue. The Board concluded on December 21, 1987, after Biden had withdrawn, that the senator had not violated any rules, although Biden did not release this result until May 1989.cite news | title=Professional Board Clears Biden In Two Allegations of Plagiarism | url= | publisher=Associated Press for "The New York Times" | date=May 29, 1989]

As revealed by a video shown on C-SPAN, [Taylor, "See How They Run", p. 97.] when questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, Biden had replied "I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect,"Germond and Witcover, "Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars?", p. 235.] and then inaccurately recollected graduating in the "top half" of his class when he actually graduated 76th from 85, that he had attended law school on a full scholarship, and had received three degrees in college.cite news | url= | title= Biden Admits Errors and Criticizes Latest Report | author=Dionne Jr., E. J. | publisher="The New York Times" | date=September 22, 1987] In fact, he had earned a single B.A. with a double major in history and political science, and had received a half scholarship to law school based on financial need with some additional assistance based in part upon academics. During this time, Biden also released his undergraduate grades, which were unexceptional.


The Kinnock and academic revelations were magnified by the limited amount of other news about the nomination race at the time, [cite book | last=Pomper | first=Gerald M. | chapter=The Presidential Nominations | title=The Election of 1988 | publisher=Chatham House Publishers|year=1989 | isbn=0-934540-77-4 p. 37.] when most of the public were not yet paying attention to any of the campaigns; Biden thus fell into what "Washington Post" writer Paul Taylor described as that year's trend, a "trial by media ordeal". [Taylor, "See How They Run", pp. 86, 88.] Biden lacked a strong demographic or political group of support to help him survive the crisis. [Taylor, "See How They Run", pp. 88–89.] The controversy also hit Biden in his most vulnerable area, accentuating the notion that he lacked mental and verbal discipline. [Drew, "Election Journal 1987-1988", p. 16.]

Biden withdrew from the nomination race on September 23, 1987, saying his candidacy had been overrun by "the exaggerated shadow" of his past mistakes. [cite news | url= | title= Biden Withdraws Bid for President in Wake of Furor | author=Dionne Jr., E. J. | publisher="The New York Times" | date=September 24, 1987] His formal campaign had lasted only three and a half months.


Because of his early withdrawal, Biden did not participate in the 1988 caucuses and primaries, in which Governor Michael Dukakis defeated Jesse Jackson, Senators Al Gore, Paul Martin Simon and other longer-standing contenders.

In retrospect, Biden would take the blame for his mistakes during the campaign. On one, he said, "All I had to say was 'Like Kinnock.' If I'd just said those two words, 'Like Kinnock,' and I didn't. It was my fault, nobody else's fault." On another, he ruefully recalled, "'Hey pal, you want to compare IQs?' What an immature thing to say."

Biden had felt poorly physically during parts of the campaign, suffering repeated headaches and at one point in September 1987 having to halt a speech in New Hampshire for 15 minutes after feeling faint. In February 1988, he suffered the first of two brain aneurysms that required life-saving surgery and seven months away from the Senate in order to convalesce from. [cite news | url=
title= The Doctor's World; Subtle Clues Are Often The Only Warnings Of Perilous Aneurysms
author=Altman, Lawrence, M.D. | work=New York Times|date=1998-02-23| accessdate=2008-08-23
] [cite news | url= | title= Biden Resting After Surgery For Second Brain Aneurysm | publisher=Associated Press for "The New York Times" | date=1988-05-04] cite news | url= | title=Biden speaks – and speaks – his own mind | publisher=Associated Press for "Las Vegas Sun" | date=2008-08-22 | accessdate=2008-09-07] Biden and others would speculate that had his campaign not ended early, the aneurysms might have been more severe or detected later and that he might not have lived out the year.

In any case, Biden would not run again for the presidency until his 2008 campaign, twenty years later.


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