Joe Biden's last stand

Joe Biden's last stand

Voters in New Hampshire head to the polls tomorrow to choose among the Democrats who hope to unseat Donald Trump in November. In the process, they may decide the fate of Joe Biden, the man many people once thought had the best chance of doing that.

Biden's case to voters: His role as Barack Obama's vice president, established political brand, decades of political experience, centrist reputation, and ability to speak authentically to working class voters in the midwestern states that were crucial for Trump's 2016 victory make him the best choice to beat Trump in 2020.


The first test of that case came last week in Iowa, a state where 31 of 99 counties had voted for Obama and then flipped to Trump. These were supposed to be the working class folks that Democrats needed to win back from the GOP. Surely Biden was the man for the job.

In reality, Biden won exactly one of those 31 counties. One. About two-thirds of them went to 37-year old Pete Buttigieg, a man whose political experience is limited to two terms as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Another handful of counties went for Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders.

Look more closely at those Iowa counties. Who would vote for Obama and then Trump? Maybe someone who rejects the entire political establishment in favor of something wholly new. The first African-American president, followed by a celebrity real estate tycoon who had never run for office.

This outsider's appeal is not just an American story these days. Consider the global backdrop for this election. Since Trump won in 2016, we've seen…

  • France elect a president who'd never before run for office, and who created a brand new political party of his own just a year before the election.
  • Germany make the far-right AfD the country's largest opposition bloc and the Greens the fastest-rising party on the left.
  • Italy elect a protest group founded by a comedian and a former separatist party.
  • Mexico elect a president leading a party he invented four years before the election.
  • Brazil elect a formerly little known far-right lawmaker from a party that held a single seat in Congress.
  • Ukraine reject the incumbent president and a former prime minister in favor of a guy who played the president on a TV show.
  • And voters in Ireland last weekend break the century-long stranglehold of two centrist parties by awarding the most votes to a party with past links to a terrorist organization.

In a world where voters are rejecting the entire political establishment, Joe Biden has been in politics for 50 years.

Maybe New Hampshire voters will put him onto the path toward a political turnaround. Or maybe we should question what it means to be "electable" in 2020.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here from sunny Nantucket and going to be here for a little bit. Thought we would talk about the latest on COVID. Certainly, we had hoped we'd be talking less about it at this point, at least in terms of the developed world. A combination of the transmissibility of Delta variant and the extraordinary misinformation around vaccines and COVID treatment means that we are not in the position that many certainly had hoped we would be today.

The United States is the biggest problem on this front. We are awash in vaccines. Operation Warp Speed was an enormous success. The best vaccines in the world, the most effective mRNA, the United States doing everything it can to get secure doses for the entire country quick, more quickly than any other major economy in the world, and now we're having a hard time convincing people to take them. The politics around this are nasty and as divided as the country, absolutely not what you want to see in response to a health crisis.

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If your country had suffered decades of crippling corruption, wouldn't you want to prosecute those responsible? Of course you would. On Sunday, almost 98 percent of Mexicans who voted in a national referendum on this subject said, in so many words: "Yes, please prosecute the last five presidents for corruption!"

The catch is that turnout was a dismal 7 percent, meaning the plebiscite fell way short of the 40 percent turnout threshold required for its result to be binding.

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The COVID delta variant — which first surfaced in India earlier this year — is spreading rampantly throughout every continent, and is now the most dominant strain globally. But low- and middle-income countries, particularly in regions where vaccines have been scarce, are bearing the brunt of the fallout from the more contagious strain. We take a look at the 10 countries now recording the highest number of daily COVID deaths (per 1 million people), and their corresponding vaccination rates.

China tackles delta: China is the latest country to express serious concern over the highly contagious delta variant, after recording 300 cases in 10 days. Authorities there are trying to trace some 70,000 people who may have attended a theatre in Zhangjiajie, a city in China's Hunan province, which is now thought to have been a delta hotspot. Making matters worse, a busy domestic travel season in China saw millions recently on the move to visit friends and family just as delta infections spiked in more than a dozen provinces. Authorities have enforced new travel restrictions in many places, including in central Hunan province, where more than 1.2 million people have been told to stay in their homes for three days while authorities roll out a mass testing scheme. The outbreak has reached Beijing, too, with authorities limiting entrance to the capital to "essential travelers" only. Indeed, the outbreak has raised fresh concerns about Chinese vaccines' protection against delta, though many experts say they are still at least 55 percent effective in preventing serious illness.

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It was a weird series of events. Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya took to Instagram to lament that her country's Olympic Committee had registered her for the 4x400 relay event at the eleventh hour (because a fellow participant had failed to pass drug screenings) despite not having trained.

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100: A scorching heat wave has caused more than 100 wildfires across Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coastline in recent days. Scientists say that dry conditions induced by climate change have helped spread the fires, which have already killed eight people and caused mass evacuations from tourist hotspots.

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Alcohol. It's a dangerous drug that has ruined countless lives and derailed many a global summit. But it's also humanity's oldest social lubricant, a magical elixir that can fuel diplomatic breakthroughs, well into the wee hours of the night. As Winston Churchill once quipped, "I've taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." On GZERO World, we take a deep dive down the bottle and examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Also: since alcohol isn't the only social drug, a look at the state of marijuana legalization across the US and around the world.

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

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Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal