Joe Biden’s campaign nearly imploded before it began. Here’s why he could still win

Wanting to be president is not something that White House wannabes ever really get over. Remember Richard Nixon? John McCain? Hillary Clinton?

Now comes Joe Biden — again. Most likely.

He’s late starting his third bid, which should launch shortly after Easter, a good time, symbolically speaking, to attempt political resurrection. Biden is so of the 1980s and ‘90s, olden times that seem much longer ago than they really are.

Watch today’s growing mob of progressive jump-on-the-counter, government-should-do-everything, sure-I’ve-inhaled-marijuana, watch-my-dental-cleaning, yes-I-took-Mom-to-a-porn-flick crowd of ambitious, uber-liberal Democrats. And you’d think Joe belongs in a bat-lined mausoleum with the likes of Tip O’Neill, Hugh Scott, Mike Mansfield and Everett Dirksen.

Competitors will assail him as an antediluvian time traveler.

He may be. After all, the guy was born before Pearl Harbor. He’ll turn 78 right after the 2020 election. He’s eight years older than Donald Trump was when he became the newest, oldest incoming U.S. president.

Biden’s already three years older than McCain was in 2008 when Biden pronounced the Republican senator simply too old to become commander-in-chief.

This president says many things he doesn’t really hold dear for long. Last week, Trump said he does not consider Biden a re-election threat. Perhaps he should. Or actually does.

Somebody’s seriously worried about Biden’s competitive campaign potential. The guy isn’t even in the race, yet already opposition forces are feeding hungry media outlets damaging — and familiar — #MeToo stories about Biden’s wandering hands and smoochy mouth.

Just as Biden’s announcement prep shifted into gear, Lisa Flores suddenly recalled that five years ago, he touched her and kissed her head at a Nevada rally. Flores happens to be — wait for it — a staunch backer of Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent geezer who turns into a Democrat every four years.

Socialist Sanders runs second to Biden in early polls of Democratic primary voters. In other surveys, both Democrats best Trump in some states.

Primary polls this early are more about name recognition than actual allegiance. After 36 years in the Senate and eight as Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden’s name recognition had better exceed that of Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Jay Inslee and Tim Ryan.

American politics have grown unpredictable amid recent tumult. Four years ago, a Donald Trump presidency was a late-night joke. It still is, except now it’s real.

So, ponder this: Biden’s been around the block and then some. In fact, he’s been in national politics seven years longer than that South Bend mayor has been alive.

Biden thus has a long voting record to critique if anyone happens to still care about the Glass-Steagall Act. His liberal bona fides are otherwise solid.

He’s a native of Pennsylvania, which Democrats need to win but narrowly lost last time. Sens. Kamala Harris (California), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) bring in no states the party doesn’t already have.

Biden has long, strong support among unions and African Americans, which is handy in Iowa and South Carolina, which both hold early contests.

He has been prone to verbal gaffes. But let’s be honest about this country’s changing manners and mores. If enough 21st-century Americans are willing to look past what Trump has been caught explicitly saying and accused of doing with women, then a huggy Biden cussing on a live mic seems more misdemeanor than disqualifying felony.

Remember how totally terminated Trump’s political career was after the “Access Hollywood” tape? Or how assuredly doomed Virginia’s top three Democrats were after alleged race and sex scandals were reported? Our contemporary politics have become largely consequence-free for personal behavior.

Biden’s nascent presidential campaign seemed DBA (Dead Before Arrival) after the recent spate of creepy, hands-on accusations. More may come. His response was too slow. But it proved effective in a video and statement that sounded sincere.

He didn’t actually apologize but acknowledged changing social norms for personal space. “I’ll be much more mindful,” he promised.

“I’m sorry I didn’t understand more,” Biden added, “I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done.”

When this erupts in party debates beginning in June, he can merely repeat that. If pushed, he can point out some competitors’ liberal vulnerabilities. Like Warren’s phony heritage claim, Sanders’ longtime support of the NRA, Klobuchar’s legendary anger. You want the hand that throws office staplers on the nuclear button?

Virtually every Democratic candidate will get his or her bright moment in the coming months when securing the nomination in Milwaukee seems hypothetically possible. Media require fresh narratives every week. And they are absolutely addicted to new faces and storylines. Perhaps you’ve already heard the Beto chorus.

Party primaries are for divisions and strident claims, not kumbaya moments. But what if Biden’s calm experience shines in debates? What if he steps up his mediocre fundraising record, looks more presidential and electable than anyone in a crowd of pushy kids?

What if he proposes a sensible liberal agenda that makes gradual changes, in contrast to a scary, hard-left radical transformation of a nation that most reasonable Americans know needs ongoing work but remains far better than anywhere else?

Right now, thanks to the economy and Trump’s diligence, the president’s base and GOP support seem solid. Trump’s defiant tweets and antics bring them great joy.

However, that’s not enough now to win. And inexplicably, the president who outsmarted everyone in 2016 has done absolutely zilch to grow it this time.

Some of us sense a smoldering national fatigue, unhappiness, even fear over the steady thunder of rancor and divisions promoted by the president and both parties for passing petty advantage.

Someone calm and likeable with verified experience working across the aisle who acts presidential, promising to restore a civil calm and serve only a single term could be tempting. And helpful in electing new Democratic senators.

Biden might very well harvest enough energized Democrats who are ABT (Anyone But Trump) while attracting sufficient worried voters in precisely the right places to capture a slim Electoral College majority. That would hand Joe Biden the title of newest, oldest incoming president.