The appeal of Joe Biden finally makes sense to me after seeing him up close

Former vice president always refers to 'Obama-Biden administration'

Joe Biden's one-word answer on how he'll repair America's image

In a high school gymnasium in Iowa, Joe Biden was doing his thing.

There was a sign spelling JOE in large red, white and blue letters attached to the wall, and over the course of the next half-hour the 77-year-old sought to suggest that had you had opened up his veins, the same colours would have flowed.

Biden appeared genuinely disgusted — stunned, even — by what he believed Donald Trump had done to the office of the presidency. “People all around the word are looking and asking what is happening to the American public," he said.

Helped by the likes of former secretary of state John Kerry, 76, who won Iowa when he ran for the presidency in 2004, Biden presented himself as a quick-fix solution to the nation’s ills brought about by Trump’s 2016 victory.

He was not offering anything revolutionary. Indeed, he believed most people did not want the kind of radical shake-up being hawked by Bernie Sanders.

What they wanted was a return to a time when Democrats felt better about the world, a turning back of the clock to when he and Barack Obama occupied the White House.

Just imagine: no more angry Twitter rants, no more insulting of Washington’s allies, no more cosying up to dictators.

On a day filled with nostalgia for many of his supporters, Joe Biden’s pitch was quite simply this: I am the safe reset.

To someone who in recent years had only seen the former vice president from afar, on debate stages where he stuttered and looked weary, or in viral videos in which he mixed up dates and events, it felt like something of a revelation. This is why Biden was polling so highly, why he was able to win in South Carolina, and why on the eve of Super Tuesday he is once again a serious contender.

Please understand that this is not written as any form of endorsement. Common sense would dictate the nation’s future ought not to lie in the fortunes of a career politician with intense personal ambitions making his third presidential run, who would turn 80 during his first term.

But after listening to Biden at the Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy in Cedar Rapids, and then a few weeks later at an event in Nevada, where he spoke with gun violence activists and appeared empathetic and genuine, the essence of his appeal to voters – an avuncular comfort blanket – came much clearer.

Seeing him up close — close enough to watch him shake hands with supporters — also provided another unlikely insight: his skin somehow looked thicker, his overall appearance much younger than on television.

Data suggests that Biden’s allure, not surprisingly, is most strongly felt among older voters. In South Carolina, where he won in a landslide 48-point victory, the Associated Press’s VoteCast project suggested he secured 60 per cent of African American votes, along with the backing of women, older voters, conservatives and churchgoers regardless of skin color.

The AP found 40 per cent of voters in South Carolina wanted to return to the “politics of the past”, compared to just 30 per cent in Iowa and New Hampshire. Up to 50 per cent of American Americans wanted a president who would emulate Obama’s two terms. Two-thirds of white voters said they wanted fundamental change.

One of Biden’s problems is that he is not Barack Obama, not by any stretch. Indeed, the young Illinois senator pummelled Biden in the 2008 primary when he was making his previous bid for the Oval Office.

Nostalgia for what once was is not the same as the real thing. Soon enough we will know whether Biden can use it to win the nomination and take on Trump.

For now, it’s been enough to put him back in contention.

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