After Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination and Hillary Clinton made peace with most of the Bernie Sanders supporters, some Democrats eagerly envisioned a blowout for Clinton in the November election.

When Trump suffered a series of miscues (larger blunders than the usual fare), Clinton started to pull away in early August and the prospect of an Electoral College landslide seemed to emerge.

Since then, Clinton’s coasting and the endless punditry about her unsecured private emails have taken a toll.

Let’s face it, Republicans are just better at the buzzwords and bullet points and bloviating that keeps certain stories going and going long beyond their usual shelf life.

Yet, a Democratic candidate without all of Clinton’s baggage – and her disastrous disapproval rating in the mid-50s among voters – probably ensures that this will be a close election. It’s painfully obvious for the party that a large bloc of voters is determined to vote against Clinton, even if that means plunking down a vote for one of the mediocre third-party candidates in the running.

But I wonder: What if the Dems had nominated a much stronger, likeable candidate? Perhaps Joe Biden.

The vice president is a much better campaigner than Clinton and he’s far more popular, with a favorable/unfavorable rating of 48-36 percent in the latest Gallup poll, a solid 12-point spread that he has maintained for quite some time.

I suspect the anti-Biden voters would amount to a tiny fraction of the current anti-Clinton crowd – and they would be far less vociferous. No emails, no Clinton Foundation, no Benghazi.

The fact is that a solid Democratic candidate would probably be leading Trump on a state-by-state basis by a huge margin, given the incredibly inept campaign the GOP nominee has mounted.

Trump has failed miserably in picking people to run his campaign and in the basics of raising funds, running TV ads, using email and social media, and setting up numerous campaign offices in key states. He has never gone a week without making an insulting or misleading remark, and his unfavorable ratings (even higher than Clinton’s numbers) bear that out. He still hasn’t united the party around him and it appears he never will. One aspect of the campaign that’s abundantly clear is that Trump will lose by a landslide among several demographic groups within the electorate.

Any steady Democratic candidate would have beaten this guy. And Biden is much more than just steady.

Biden’s one undeniable political weakness in the past has been his penchant for gaffes. But Trump has turned 2016 into a gaffe-proof election.  And Libertarian Gary Johnson is about to offer further proof of that phenomenon, as his embarrassing “What is Aleppo?” remark – a gaffe of disqualifying proportions in any presidential election over the past many decades – is about to fade into obscurity.

I can envision Biden thriving in this atmosphere, playfully picking apart Trump’s lack of substance and temperament to great effect. And doing it all with that trademark smile, not with a Hillary glare.

More importantly, Biden gets along famously with members of Congress, especially in the Senate, and a President Biden would have a far better chance of governing successfully than what we face with the surefire partisan ugliness that will greet a President Trump or a President Clinton for the next four years.


Joe and Beau Biden

Free of distractions, the vice president could have focused on a big agenda, on policies, on priorities. He might have even emerged with a mandate.

But Biden ended all speculation about making a presidential run after the tragic death of his son, Beau, who succumbed to brain cancer. Just more grief for a man whose soul already had been shredded by heartrending bereavement.

Maybe it’s melodramatic to say so, but perhaps our one chance to have a substantive 2016 election — not a crash-and-burn insult-fest — died when Beau Biden’s death sent his father into a tailspin.