Former Vice President Joe Biden admitted that President Donald Trump won the 2016 election “fair and square” through the Electoral College.
Biden, one of the few Democrats running for president who has not expressed support for abolishing or tinkering with the Electoral College, discussed why he believed Trump did so well in the Midwest during an interview with the Indianapolis Star on Thursday.
“I think he made headway because we stopped talking to our base,” Biden said regarding Trump’s 2016 performance. “And that’s not a criticism of Hillary [Clinton]. It’s just the way in which we got sucked into the last election talking about whether he touched women or whether, you know, it all got into … we didn’t talk much about the issues.”
Biden claimed it “was a brilliant strategy,” because it ensured Trump “never had to talk about what we’re gonna do about wages, what we’re gonna do about jobs.” The former vice president then proceeded to get off topic and attack the Trump administration for its tax cuts and foreign policy. When Biden did get back to the question at hand, he admitted that despite everything, Trump had won the presidency “fair and square.”
“A small percentage of people shifted just enough. But for 72,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, we would have a Democratic president now,” Biden said. “She won (the popular vote) by three million votes. Now he won fair and square in the sense that the Electoral College works that way.”
The statement – although not controversial by most standards, as four other presidents have been elected while losing the popular vote – is generally out of line with where Democrats currently stand on the Electoral College. Since 2000, progressives in some form or another have clamored to abolish the institution, which many claim dilutes majority rule.
Support for such a radical idea has generally been relegated to the fringes of the Democratic Party. After Trump’s victory, however, more mainstream Democrats became receptive to the notion, as many publicly acknowledged they viewed Trump as an illegitimate president. In March, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the issue into the presidential primary by becoming the first Democrat running to announce her support during a CNN town hall.
“Every vote matters, and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College,” Warren said at the time.
Her endorsement was quickly echoed by other 2020 Democrats, including former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), as well as Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) struck a slightly less definitive stance, but still admitted she was open to the idea.
While his competitors were jumping over themselves to signal their support for majority rule, Biden remained quiet. Since announcing his campaign in late April, the former vice president has likewise not discussed the issue.
His Senate voting record, though, indicates that Biden opposed a similar push during the early portion of his career. As the Daily Signal reported last month, Biden was among a handful of Democrats to cross party lines in 1979 and kill a constitutional amendment to scrap the Electoral College.