Joe Biden has come under fire for an attempt to link his campaign with former President Barack Obama.
The former vice president celebrated “Best Friend Day” by posting a tweet alluding to his closeness with Obama, sharing a picture of a friendship bracelet with both of their names, underneath the caption: “Happy #BestFriendsDay to my friend @Barack Obama.”
The move was viewed by some Democrats as a cynical and insincere attempt to construct his campaign around the legacy of the Obama presidency. David Axelrod, Obama’s former senior adviser, responded with, “This is a joke, right?”
Obama remains highly popular amongst Democrats, particularly people of colour, whose support is essential for any Democratic candidate's electoral chances. A self-described “Obama-Biden Democrat," Biden retains broad support amongst the minority voter demographic.
One rival to the Biden campaign, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, jokingly said: “When I saw the program for today, I thought the same thing you all did, which is this: Joe Biden must really not like to travel."
The accusation from the Democratic candidate is reminiscent of criticism directed at the 2016 Hillary Clinton election campaign (or lack therefore) in traditional Democratic strongholds: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Those states were ultimately carried by President Donald Trump which cost Clinton the presidency.
Biden has been referred to as a “fader," given his previous unsuccessful attempts at the presidency and his campaign pace is already being called into question. However, Biden’s explanation for not attending the dinner was a tweet showing him attending his granddaughter's graduation at Sidwell Friends. The same private school attended by Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia.
Biden's absence from Iowa comes as a new Des Moines Register poll saw Biden’s lead dropping considerably. The poll showed a tie for second place between Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Biden has made attempts to accommodate criticism such as reversing his position on the so-called Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds for abortion.
However, given Biden’s legacy of support for the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, for many Democrats he represents a continuation of the Washington establishment, especially amongst a party which in recent years has drifted significantly to left with the rise of progressives such as Bernie Sanders and New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.