WHENEVER you are writing about Joe Biden, currently the Democratic front-runner for Presidential nominee status, the unspoken tradition is that you should, at least, consider starting with a joke.

This is because Biden himself, who served as the 47th vice president of the United States from 2009 to 2017 and also represented Delaware in the US Senate from 1973 to 2009, is often framed as such. He is, after all, a walking punchline, a man who not only commits the political mortal sin of making human mistakes – sorry, “gaffes” (see what I did there ... ) – but actually takes the art to a whole new level in making “Biden gaffes” which reek of a broken-down, past-its-sell-by-date stink that’s utterly unique to him and him alone.

So let me honour that unspoken agreement and start with my own jokey Biden story.

Picture the scene: You’re in a grand reception room at the White House in 2010. The youthful, charismatic, president Barack Obama, has been in office barely over a year or so. Most importantly of all, it’s St Patrick’s Day. In Senate and Congressional offices, elected members hold receptions for anyone with a smidgen of Irish ancestry.

Even president Obama gets in on the act with a knowing smile – and later visit – to his Irish roots in Moneygall, Co. Offaly. But he is surpassed by his VP Joe Biden – a politician of the old-school who can spot a potential voter a mile off – who holds a reception with the Irish taoiseach Brian Cowan.

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Biden is in fine form and, true to form, actually acting out his belief that all foreign relations are personal. He takes former speaker of the house Tip O’Neill’s dictum that “All politics is local” to the Nth degree. So he looks at the display of shamrock in the Waterford crystal bowl the Irish PM has just gifted, and, gesturing to Cowan, says the following: “His mom lived in Long Island for 10 years or so. God rest her soul. And – although, she’s – wait – your mom’s still – your mom’s still alive! Your dad passed. Oh ... God bless her soul ... ”

Irish eyes are smiling but jaws drop. However, taoiseach Cowan immediately takes it in his stride. Later he’ll have his own “gaffes” to deal with and at the time of writing he lies ill in a Dublin hospital, so this tale is not jab at him. Instead, everyone in the room that day, smiled, shuffled and cracked on with the business of making deals.

The ghost in the room was, of course, Biden’s hero JFK. Every Potus since has done their best to connect to the Old Country, sometimes for sentimental reasons but mostly for vote-grabbing reasons too. Biden is no different but times have changed.

Now in 2019, Biden has not only to reach out to those same second and third generation immigrants from Ireland and other European countries, but more urgently, to the newer Asian Americans and Latino-Americans. Migration holding centres – more like prisons – lie on the Mexican border and he needs to formulate policies for that.

Of course, his public service credentials are more or less, impeccable. Yes, he fell from grace by probably swiping a line or two from an old Neil Kinnock speech in 1987 but then again he is the senator sworn in at his injured children’s hospital bedside after a car crash which killed his first wife and infant daughter.

He nursed one of his sons, Beau, back to full health – witnessing him become serving US soldier, only to die from a terrible brain tumour. He is the most hopeful yet mortal of men. The words of JFK still inspire and oddly enough, haunt him too.

When he participated in the second of two Democratic debates last week to decide the presidential nominee, he was challenged about being unwilling to “pass the torch” to a new generation, an evocation of Kennedy’s words and new administration in 1961.

In fact, even that accusation by California rep Eric Swalwell, turned out to be inaccurate since Biden was quoting JFK and not claiming it himself. Further damage was done when California Senator Kamala Harris attacked him on an old accusation involving his record on desegregation on buses.

It temporarily flummoxed Biden and gave Harris a bump in the polls. As the current front-runner, Biden emerged from the debates a little battered but still way, way ahead of his many opponents.

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A well-known gabber, he even clipped his remarks when the clock beat him. A poll 72 hrs ago, for example, had him leading the field with 25%, compared to Bernie Sanders on 18% and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Harris on 9%. These polls could change any time. But the reality is that there are very few likely candidates for the Democratic nomination emerging at this stage.

Have you ever heard of Steve Bullock, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mike Gravel, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Wayne Messam, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, Joe Sestak, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang? Probably not.

Yes, a few have broken through, notably Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg but none are serious challengers to Biden and that’s where the money is flowing. Even the energetic Beto O’Rourke, who ran a spirited but failed attempt for the senate in Texas, flopped on the debate podium because of lack of serious policy knowledge, no match for Biden who literally wrote the policy book.

The darling of the Democratic Left, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, slumped in several polls after his debate performance. Thus, an emboldened Biden is now doing a fresh round of interviews on the US TV networks in recent days pitching his centre-left policy agenda which eschews embracing Sanders’ popular policies like wiping off all student debt and radically restructuring medical care for all, instead focusing on policies he favours which will lift the US middle class.

He repeatedly points out that it was candidates embracing those precise policies which won in swing-states during the recent Congressional election which saw the Democrats take the House and directly challenge Trump’s powerbase in DC.

As UK and indeed European politics tilt to extremes on both sides of the political spectrum, and a similar situation potentially prevails in the USA, Biden’s middle-road policy agenda perhaps seems quaint, and, argue his critics, a bit like the man himself, out-of-date.

On the other hand, they might seem sensible, targeted towards the very voters he needs and indeed, even oddly-radical.

Biden is the man who became known for riding the Amtrak train between his district and Washington DC. He was the man the commuters could approach and talk to anytime.

He still does this. Indeed, hours after announcing his run for the White House he was back on the same train, snapped sitting in his seat with only a couple of advisers for company.

America loves the idea of the new. That’s what Kennedy represented. He made a young Nixon look tired and old. In fact, JFK was a physical wreck. Yet, he pulled it off. Maybe it’s time to do something really radical in America and elect an elder. Biden hits that mark in a way Sanders doesn’t. He’s been in the furnace of power and been tested.

He emerges flawed and imperfect, but also unbowed and passionate. His scars are mistakes, are his war-wounds and flesh-and-blood badges of honour. Maybe he’s the old Kennedy, the one who didn’t die. Remember the lines from Cormac McCarthy’s aptly titled novel No Country for Old Men:

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“It’s not about knowing who you are. It’s about thinkin you got there without takin anything with you. Your notions about startin over. or anybody’s. You dont start over. That’s what it’s about. Every step you take is forever. You can’t make it go away. None of it.”

As Trump employs ad hoc and increasingly desperate gimmicks for the headlines – last-minute meetings in the DMZ with Kim Jong Un and ridiculous parades and speeches in DC being only two this week – Biden is already out on the stump in Iowa. He’s pressing the flesh and arm-gripping with the best of them. He knows Trump’s brand is wavering amongst his own party and that the middle-class are not feeling the benefits of his alleged rising economy. Who can you identify with, the guy on the train or the guy tweeting from Air Force One?

Is it possible that this time could be third time lucky for Biden? That a man of his years could be the one to take down one of the most obnoxious, yet powerful presidents of the modern age? Could he do the unthinkable and unite the country in a way that heals the wounds Trump has inflicted?

Reflect on the comments from a senator from Maine: “If you don’t love Joe Biden, it’s time for some serious introspection.”

The senator’s name was Susan Collins. She is a Republican.

And that’s no joke.