Joe Biden, as of Dec. 8, continues to have a double-digit lead in national polling in national polling for the Democratic nomination. He's ahead by 19 points in South Carolina, a state with a large black vote that has picked the Democratic nominee in every election since 1992. The only good news is that he's currently 4th in the two states with the earliest primaries--Iowa and New Hampshire--and since 1970 no candidate losing in both states has gone on to win the nomination. However, the spread among the top 4 candidates in these states is in the single digits.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump's job approval rate has hovered in the low 40s for nearly two years, which is enough to shake one's faith in American democracy. When combined with the popularity of Biden among Democrats, there is cause for despair or misanthropy. By focusing on Ukraine in their impeachment investigation, the Democrats have guaranteed that national attention will be drawn to a very unsavory fact about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. As Susan Crabtree puts it in RealClear Politics , we will see "the self-inflicted 2020 blowback Democrats face for basing their impeachment campaign on President Trump's attempts to push another country's leader to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, their highly questionable dual roles in Ukraine and the obvious conflicts of interest they posed."
After being discharged from the Navy in February of 2014 for cocaine use, Hunter Biden accepted an invitation in April of 2014 to join the board of Burisma Holdings, one of the largest private natural gas producers in Ukraine. He served on the board for five years, at a salary of $50,000 per month. Since 2012 Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, Burisma's owner, had been under investigation for money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.
Ukraine had been the scene of a violent, American-supported coup that expelled the democratically elected Ukrainian President Yanukovych in February of 2014. (Then) Vice President Joe Biden went to Ukraine that year as President Obama's "point person " in dealing with the newly installed American-approved government. As stated in an October, 2018 article in Foreign Policy, "No one in the U.S. government has wielded more influence over Ukraine than Vice President Joe Biden."
Ironically, one of his tasks was to deal with that country's "incessant corruption." As yet, there is no evidence that either Biden did anything illegal or corrupt. But there is at least something very inappropriate and sleazy in Hunter Biden's sitting on the board of a company owned by a corrupt oligarch while his father was the U.S. proconsul in Ukraine. It is reasonable to call for an investigation under these circumstances, even if Trump's way of doing so was itself corrupt or an abuse of power. The situation in Kiev from 2014 to 2016 reflects poorly on President Obama's judgment in letting it go on.
For Trump supporters and undecideds, the Biden-Burisma connection will undermine the legitimacy of an impeachment narrowly focused on Ukraine. It allows the Republicans to create at least the appearance of a moral equivalency between Trump's pressure on President Zelensky and the Bidens' presence in Ukraine. It's uncertain whether Republicans will want to call witnesses in the forthcoming Senate impeachment trial, although Trump wants the Bidens as witnesses. Joe Biden has said that he will refuse to testify, which would help take the heat off Trump for refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
This issue will dog him on his campaigning. At a town hall in Iowa on Dec. 4, a retired farmer accused him of arranging the Burisma job for his son, thereby "selling access to the presidency." This was something for which Biden should have had a well-rehearsed answer. Instead, he lost his composure and said: "You're a damn liar man."
I have written previously about Biden's deficiencies as a candidate. His past record includes two failed attempts in presidential primaries. He supported the Iraq war and then lied about that support. He is gaffe-prone. He chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Clarence Thomas in which he allowed the hostile treatment of Anita Hill.
He tends to invade the space of women and girls who share the stage with him. A recent incident showed his cluelessness in that regard. He was standing beside his wife at a rally stop on his "No Malarkey" tour in Iowa on Nov. 30. As she gestured to her side, he nibbled on her finger. Not cool, especially for someone with his record.