Despite the best efforts of Donald Trump to undermine his Democratic challenger’s run at the presidency, all the signs are pointing towards a Joe Biden victory. Even the crucial swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida look like they may be turning blue on November 3rd although, as anyone in politics knows, nothing’s ever over till the fat lady sings.
If he does make it to the White House, it will be third time lucky for Joe Biden following unsuccessful bids in both 1988 and 2007. It was in the run-up to the ’88 election that using the words of another politician who was also adept at losing elections, Neil Kinnock, scuppered his chances.
Now that he is a clear favourite with sites like Betfair Exchange, this is probably a story that Biden would prefer to forget. But those who are thinking of putting some money on him to win might need to consider what a volatile environment politics can prove to be. It also means a side bet on Donald Trump confounding all the predictions might not be such a long-shot after all.
Wise words, unwisely repeated
33 years ago, the then leader of the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, addressed the Welsh members’ conference in Llandudno and made one of his most famous speeches ever. In it, he decried the inequalities and divisions that he felt Conservative rule had created in the country. This marked the first shots fired in the June general election, one which the Tories won, gaining a 102-seat majority.
Despite the eventual result, throughout the campaign, Kinnock used his considerable oratorical skills to the full, a fact which, on the other side of the Atlantic, started to get Joe Biden’s attention.
At the time, Biden was just a Delaware senator hoping to get a shot at being the Democrat candidate for the presidency. Out on the campaign trail, he started to quote words from Neil Kinnock’s conference speech, always remembering to credit him and making clear that they weren’t his own words.
This was working well for Biden until he came up against rivals Al Gore, Michael Dukakis, and Jesse Jackson in a debate held in Iowa. The fevered atmosphere of the even meant that he rather lost his head in its final moments and reeled off a couple of Kinnock paragraphs verbatim, but with no accompanying credit.
The knives come out
This was an opportunity that Michael Dukakis, in particular, couldn’t miss out on. So he and his campaign team made sure that the media were made aware of this simple mistake that was depicted as being naked plagiarism – and Biden’s run was left dead in the water.
While Dukakis did battle his way to being the Democratic candidate, the appeal of George Bush Snr. proved too great to the American public and he was defeated for a number of reasons.
So we can expect that, this time around, Joe Biden will be leaving absolutely nothing to chance and watching his words very carefully. He’ll probably also be backing himself more strongly than ever to become the most powerful politician in the world.