Our Israel Factor panelists seem to like Vice President Joe Biden. Back in February, he was the Factor’s pick for the next Secretary of State in a second Obama administration. In April, he is ranked as best for Israel of all the Vice Presidential prospectives we presented, with the amazing mark of 8 (out of 10).
Obviously, Biden has the advantage of already being the sitting Vice President, while all other prospective VPs are no more than names in newspapers, nominated for the job by the political punditry. Still, it is interesting to note that while Mitt Romney gets the better marks from our panel (over Obama), no Republican contender for the second-in-command job seems nearly as attractive to the panel as Biden. Jeb Bush and Chris Christie score close to a 7 (6.78), Huckabee and Rubio trail behind them with 6.37 and 6.44. If Obama was as acceptable to our panel as Biden, there would barely be any reason to keep asking the panel to rank him against Romney.
Biden was not always as popular with the panel as he is today. When he was running for President, back in 2006, our panelists were only half-enthusiastic about him. They thought he’d take an active role in the peace process, but couldn’t trust him to “take military action against Iran”. In this survey from Sept. 2006, he trailed behind fellow Democrats Clinton, Gore, Richardson and Bayh (and six Republican prospective nominees). In this one, from September 2007, he comes behind nine other candidates including Bloomberg, Thompson, Romney, Brownback (but is still ranked higher than Obama).
Biden is not an easy man to define as far as our panel is concerned. At times unpredictable, our panel was all over the place in an attempt to rank him: “Joe Biden is the one candidate who gets the most remarkable spread of marks, ranging from 1 to 8”, I wrote following a December 2007 Factor survey. Today he is not as confusing as he once was. His lowest score with our panel was 6. His highest score: 9. Even panelists that ranked Romney much higher than Obama gave Biden good grades, in some cases more than all others.
Why? I’m speculating here, but I think it was the famous incident during Biden’s Israel visit back in 2010. Remember? “Hours after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. vowed unyielding American support for Israel’s security here on Tuesday, Israel’s Interior Ministry announced 1,600 new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem”.
Biden was furious, but was willing to accept Israel’s apology and not to let this incident ruin his good relations with many Israeli politicians. No, he does not much admire the Netanyahu government and its policies, but somehow was able to keep it all as disagreements between friends. With Netanyahu and Obama something always seemed personal, with Biden discrepancies weren’t as bitter. We fought, we argued, we got angry, now we’re friends again. True or false, Biden was able not to make Israelis cringe even as he was harshly criticizing their policies. So our panel wants him back (preferably with Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket).