Some in Vegas Like His Odds

-By Valerie Miller

As the first night of a virtual 2020 convention took shape in mid-August, one word was being used over and over again by Democrats to describe Joe Biden – “decent.”

Whether it was former First Lady Michelle Obama, or Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, or former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, speaker after speaker used the word “decent” when praising former Vice President Joe Biden. During the Aug. 17-21 Democratic National Convention, the party pretty much ditched its original convention site of Milwaukee out of concern of the spreading Coronavirus.

In a matchup some have dubbed “the most-important election of our lifetimes,” Biden, 77, will try to defeat President Donald Trump. The incumbent president has been challenged by the COVID-19 outbreak, and the economic shutdown that derailed an economy with some of the lowest unemployment rates since record-keeping began in the late 1960s.

And while the stock market has rebounded nicely, millions and millions of Americans are still jobless. Thousands of businesses will be forever shuttered due to the COVID-19 closures. Americans have been hurting. The crisis in the country was only exacerbated by months of social- justice protests, which have devolved in some cities into riots and near-anarchy.

A Long, Hot Summer

The protests started out in Minneapolis in late May, and quickly turned into violence, arson and looting in Minneapolis — and many other cities — in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The protests have included ongoing riots (for various reasons) in places like Chicago, Portland, Ore. and Seattle. The involvement of Antifa, in some cities’ unrest, has also arguably contributed to a whole summer of almost-nightly riots in Portland. As some cities spiraled out of control in late August, a Trump supporter was shot and killed in Portland by a protestor who publicly identified himself as a member of Antifa.

In the week after the Democrats were forced to scrap their convention in Milwaukee, riots broke out in suburban Wisconsin city of Kenosha over the police shooting of a black man who had a knife. At the same time, the Republicans were in the midst of their Aug. 24-27 convention, which was a mix of virtual and live events.

Vice President Mike Pence, in his Aug. 26th nomination acceptance speech, warned that, “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” Pence, who accepted from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, noted that the violence in places like Kenosha, Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis had all taken place in Democrat-run cities.

The next night, Trump continued the “law and order” theme, sensing the American public was afraid in the wake of months of rising violence. In his Aug. 27th re-nomination acceptance speech from the White House south lawn, Trump warned, “make no mistake, if you give power to Joe Biden, the radical left will defund police departments all across America.” The president went on to say, “They will make every city look like Democrat-run Portland, Oregon. No one will be safe in Biden’s America.”

Biden has denied he would defund the police, but has said in interviews that he was in favor a re-allocating some police funding.

The battle of rhetoric continues as Biden announced his “Build Back Better” motto. Meanwhile, in President Trump’s nomination acceptance speech, he warned that Biden would be “The destroyer of American greatness.”

Biden has, more recently, come out publicly to denounce the ongoing violence and looting in American cities. Biden rebutted, that this is “Trump’s America.” Biden accused Trump of fanning the flames of unrest in American cities.

Supporters call Biden “Conventional,” “The Right Guy”

Supporters of Joe Biden believe he can be the cure to what ails America. They maintain that he can bring the country together.

“I think Joe Biden is the right guy, and will surround himself with all the right people,” says Dan Hart, a Las Vegas political consultant who has been involved in Democratic campaigns since the 1980 President Jimmy Carter vs. Ronald Reagan race.

“We will get back to some more-conventional federal government, and a more-conventional president,” Hart adds.

Hart’s support of Biden is motivated by more than business or politics, he says. “I have kids, teenagers, who are 16 and 18. I am concerned about what kind of jobs they will be able to get.”

As for the business end, Harts says he may very well also do work for the Biden campaign. Whether it is his supporters or opponents, people just feel like they know Joe Biden – and with good reason.

Biden has been a fixture in American politics for 47 years, first taking a seat in the United States Senate in 1973. Tragically, the then-Delaware senator-elect lost his first wife and young daughter in a car accident in 1972, prior to taking office. Joe Biden, who since remarried to now-wife Jill, raised sons Beau and Hunter, and younger daughter Ashley (with Jill) while representing Delaware.

Presidential ambitions are nothing new to Biden, who has run for president three times, including in 1988, 2008 and 2020. His other campaigns ended in disappointment, but his fortunes changed in 2008, when then-Illinois Senator Barrack Obama picked Biden to be his vice-presidential running mate.

Obama, of course, would go on to beat Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, to become the first African-American president. In 2012, the Obama-Biden ticket was re-elected. In 2016, former Secretary of State – and First Lady – Hillary Rodham Clinton was nominated to take on Republican Donald Trump. Biden toyed with the idea of running for president in 2016, but ultimately opted not, citing the recent death of this son Beau. The younger Biden had cancer.

Trump, of course, would go on to beat Hillary Clinton and shock the world in November 2016.

Where Does Joe Biden Stand?

In a very crowded 2020 Democratic primary field, Joe Biden made a surprise comeback in the South Carolina contest. Propelled by African-American support, Biden ended up on top as almost every major candidate — except for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — dropped out. Sanders, a progressive candidate who famously pushed for “Medicare for all” and “free college,” eventually suspended his campaign for president. Biden apparently struck a deal with Sanders to adopt parts of the Sanders’ agenda.

Sanders has urged his “Bernie bros” supporters to back Biden. The former rival praised Biden, saying he could become the “most-progressive president.” Sanders has cited Biden’s own words as the basis for that prediction.

The backing of Bernie is critically important if Biden is going to win over the “progressive wing” of the Democratic Party. However, at the same time, President Trump has tried to tie Sanders’ progressive policies with Biden’s policies.

“Biden a just a Trojan horse for socialism,” Trump said during a campaign stop, at the same time the Democratic convention was going on. “He is a puppet of left-wing extremists.”

However, Kasich used his Democratic convention speaking-spot to try to urge independent and “Never Trump” Republican voters to support Biden. Kasich, in his convention address, sought to reassure leery Americans that they had nothing to fear about Biden becoming “too far-left” as critics have warned. “Joe is faithful… Nobody pushes Joe around,” the former Ohio governor maintained.

“There will be a tightrope (Biden) will have to walk,” Hart concedes.

Is it “Biden’s Election to Take”?

Dan Hart is very bullish on Biden’s chances to become the next president of the United States: “I think it is Biden’s election to take, at this point,” he said. “This won’t be a repeat of 2016.”

If there is anything that Hart is concerned about it is that the Biden campaign hasn’t been very public in its targeting of the Hispanic vote. “There is a lot of talk about the importance of the black vote, but there isn’t that much talk about getting out the Latino vote,” he said. “That especially matters in Florida – and in Nevada.”

“Biden needs to do Latino outreach,” Hart opines.

And while much ado is made about the Millennial vote, it is still the senior citizens who will make of the largest segment of voters this fall, Hart points out. He does not think the older generation will mind the social justice movements propelling today’s Democratic Party.

“Basically, seniors feel like, ‘As long as I have my Social Security and Medicare and I am protected, I don’t mind a social experiment,’ “Hart explained.

What will Kamala Harris bring to the Ticket?

When Joe Biden made the long-awaited vice-presidential announcement on Aug. 11th, few were surprised by the choice of the California senator and one-time Biden rival. Biden had long promised to pick a woman as vice president. And, later after the nationwide social unrest following the late-May death of George Floyd, Biden had been urged to pick a black woman as his running mate. Harris was on that short list.

Hart likes the VP choice. “The best thing about her is her sense of humor,” he says. “And I have been impressed with Biden’s campaign.”

But like everything Las Vegas itself is about, the presidential race is also a gamble.

For example, Hart worries about what would happen if the protests and social unrest took some shocking turn. So far, Biden has done an artful job of sidestepping the issue, the political consultant points out.

“But if something happens between now and the election, all bets are off,” Hart predicts. “(Biden) can’t just stay in the basement then. He will have to come out and say something.”

Valerie Miller is a Las Vegas area-based journalist. She can be reached at (702) 683-3986 or