Republicans' favorite presidential candidate is ... Joe Biden

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The 2016 election has tried its damnedest to be as entertaining as a reality-TV show during the usual doldrums of the invisible primary — going so far as making an actual reality-TV host its star. But every show worth its salty language must also have a "will they or won't they" side plot, a responsibility that has been foisted on Joe Biden and his hypothetical presidential bid. Republican strategists and pundits have been drowning the vice-president in compliments and noting that he is perhaps the most terrifying general-election candidate they can imagine.

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However, since the pundits and strategists are not here to make friends, it seems unlikely that the effusive praise is entirely sincere. This looks like a cut-and-dry case of Mrs. Benneting: meddling in the affairs of others in a way that appears helpful, but usually ends up creating mayhem. And the GOP, currently suffering through another overcrowded and sloppy primary — while Republican Enemy No. 1 Hillary Clinton has managed to retain much of the spotlight, donors, and support in the Democratic primary, although injured a bit by a barrage of controversies — probably wouldn't mind if Clinton were given a taste of their party's indecisive pain. Which makes the many odes to Biden — Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Does he run or not? — look less like something he should put in his first campaign ad and more like a not-so-subtle offensive fueled by the GOP's smoldering dislike for Clinton.

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Here is a brief excerpt of Republican pundits' speculative fiction about 2016, in which a politician who has failed in multiple presidential bids suddenly achieves super-campaign-strength by the sheer force of his grin and authenticity — superpowers that only seem to win elections in the imaginative playground of op-eds and cable-news spots.

David Brooks, New York Times

On the Democratic side, a Biden run would be more formidable than I thought last month. You need emotion to beat emotion. With Stephen Colbert he revealed a story and suggested a campaign that is moving, compelling and in tune with the moment.

Rich Lowry, National Review

You can disagree with Biden, you can mock him, you can cringe at his miscues — but it's impossible not to like him. ... he'll also be a breath of fresh air in a Democratic race that was supposed to be a stultifying march to the nomination by one of the dullest politicians of our time.

Former H.W. Bush speechwriter Mark Davis

That someone is now on the sidelines, staying quiet, getting briefed, coached and prepared for the moment when Clinton's candidacy falls to earth. At that point, Biden will come in as a white knight, without the scuffmarks of a long primary.

RNC chair Reince Priebus

I think he's probably tougher ... Certainly Joe Biden is far more likable. ... I think Joe Biden is someone that a lot of people, whether they like his politics or not, they like him, and likability - you can analyze politics all you want, likability is probably the number one issue on the ballot.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

Don't bet that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. Get started on researching Vice President Biden, who may prove to be a much tougher opponent than the scandal-plagued Clinton.

Jim Geraghty, National Review

Between her record at the State Department, stiffness on the stump, scandalous mess at the family's foundation, private e-mail server investigation, and overall sense of perpetual duplicity, Hillary Clinton is a uniquely flawed candidate. Biden, too, has his flaws, but it would take a strong Republican candidate to beat him.

GOP strategistLiz Mair

I think if Joe Biden is to get into this race, if he sees this sign of Hillary Clinton's weakness as an indicator that he needs to get in, that is something that as a Republican is troubling to me because I think that the party can beat Hillary Clinton. I don't know if we can beat Joe Biden.

Former Mitt Romney spokesperson Ryan Williams

I'd love to see Joe Biden get into the race. He would be a formidable candidate.

Donald Trump

She's got a big problem with the e-mails and, obviously, her numbers are going down drastically, so somebody like Biden could probably go in and do very well and maybe win.

Rupert Murdoch

Looks like Biden already running. Very likely he wins nomination and be hard to beat.

Recent photos of Biden as he mulls a presidential run:
13 PHOTOS
Joe Biden as he mulls over a presidential run
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Republicans' favorite presidential candidate is ... Joe Biden
FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a White House Champions of Change Law Enforcement and Youth meeting, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. CNN said Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, it will allow Biden to participate in the first Democratic presidential primary debate even if he decides that day to be a candidate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Solar Power International Trade Show in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Taking aim at his potential political opponents, Biden railed against Republicans who "deny climate change" and want to shut down the federal government over funding for Planned Parenthood, and pleaded with them to "just get out of the way." (AP Photo/Christine Cotter)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 10: Stephen talks with Vice President Joe Biden, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Thursday Sept 10, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
In this Sept. 10, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a labor rally in New York. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
In this Sept. 7, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden, center, greets some of the crowd as he walks in the annual Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this Sept. 7, 2015, photo, a crowd gathers, many wearing union shirts, in front of Vice President Joe Biden as he speaks before joining in the annual Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh. Hearing chants of "run Joe, run," Biden marched in Pittsburgh's annual Labor Day parade on Monday as speculation swirled about a potential late entry into the Democratic presidential campaign. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Vice President Joe Biden puts on a United Steelworkers hat before he spoke to a crowd before he joined in the annual Labor Day parade on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this Sept. 10, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in New York. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
In this Sept. 4, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden, right, stands in the Oval Office of the White House during a meeting between President Barack Obama and King Salman of Saudi Arabia in Washington. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Vice President Joe Biden discusses the Iran nuclear deal with Jewish community leaders at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Fla. on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Biden sought to allay concerns of South Florida Jewish leaders who fear Iran won too many concessions in the agreement, which seeks to curb the country's nuclear program in exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)
FILE - In this July 21, 2015, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable discussion at the Advanced Manufacturing Center at Community College of Denver. Although Biden is considering whether to enter the presidential race, he skipped this week’s Democratic National Committee summer meeting. Doing so created an opening for front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton to consolidate her party’s support. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
FILE - In this May 26, 2015 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden listens to remarks to the media during a meeting between President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Although Biden has yet to make a decision on a run for the presidency, his advisers say the discussions taking form in the last several weeks are serious enough that the vice president and his associates have started gaming out mechanics like fundraising, ballot deadlines and an early primary state strategy. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
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