Joe Biden returns to Twitter. Democrats' 2014 secret weapon?

Democrats facing a tough midterm election need someone to fire up the base. Joe Biden, on Twitter and on the trail, can be good at that. But there's a bigger social media powerhouse out there.

Susan Walsh/AP
Vice President Biden speaks at the American Association of Community Colleges' 94th Annual Convention in Washington, Monday, April 7, 2014. On Monday morning, Biden returned to Twitter just in time to fire up Democrats for 2014.

Joe Biden is back on Twitter just in time to fire up Democrats for 2014. On Monday morning he suddenly reactivated his @JoeBiden account on the mini-blog social media site, which had gone radio silent following a happy holidays tweet in 2012.

“Dusting off the Twitter handle for a big midterm election year. Let’s get to it folks!” the US vice president tweeted.

The post was signed “Joe,” so Biden himself allegedly wrote it. Unsigned posts are the work of the Democratic Party, since it’s a campaign-related account.

In a way, Biden never really left Twitter. His official vice presidential handle, @VP, has stayed up throughout the Obama administration. But the official feed has to remain pretty strait-laced, while the campaign site gets to loosen up. So in that sense it’s the real Joe that’s being resurrected.

As the Washington Post’s own un-tight political analyst Chris Cillizza wrote today, “This is going to be good.” Then he ran through all his favorite Joe Biden Twitter memes (twemes?) from years past, such as photos of Biden in aviator sunglasses, and Joe Biden carrying pumpkins.

Great, but is this really going to help? Democrats have obviously worked hard at outreach via modern electronic means, such as social media or the Comedy Central fake talk show “Between Two Ferns.” Biden’s got 550,000 Twitter followers, which isn’t bad.

But the Democrats are facing a tough election this November; political prognosticators generally now rate the GOP as having a good chance to retake the Senate while holding the House.

Sure, Biden gets a lot of ink for being Biden, a long-talking glad-hander who uses the word “literally” more than anybody in Washington. A lot of his coverage deals with the latest unusual thing he said, though, and right now the Democrats don’t need ironic, winking attention. They need somebody to fire up the base.

Biden can be good at that, as he’s an emotional guy. He’s popular with Democratic core constituencies, such as minorities and unions. The bad news for Dems is that the Veep is liked, but not well-liked. His favorable ratings are similar to President Obama’s, or a little worse, depending on the poll. That’s going to limit his ability to serve as a secret weapon.

In February, 46 percent of respondents to a Gallup poll had a favorable view of Biden, while 42 percent were unfavorable. (Seven percent said they’d never heard of him. That’s something we literally cannot believe.)

In March a survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polls had Biden underwater, with a 40 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable rating.

This means that in the upcoming campaign Biden will almost certainly serve the traditional vice presidential role, acting as a leading surrogate speaker around the country, particularly in places where the president cannot go for political reasons (red state) or does not want to go to because it’s too much trouble.

There is a possible social media powerhouse for the Democrats out there, however. He’s always ready, if not particularly rested. He’s got three times as many Twitter followers as Biden, at 1.74 million, and right now he’s more popular than at any other point in his long national political career.

That’s Bill Clinton, of course. While Hillary Clinton’s approach to campaigning for 2014 might be constrained by her need to plan a possible presidential run, Bill Clinton won’t have that problem, and it’s he – not Joe Biden – who’s going to be the most popular and asked-for Democratic speaker in the months to come.

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