This morning at 6AM, Joe Biden entered the 2020 Democratic primary. Although he’s missing the endorsement of the previous President, he’s still going to be a formidable foe against characters like Sanders, Harris, and Beto.
While Biden still has to make it out of that circular firing squad, he’s long been positioned to be the best candidate to run against Donald Trump.
The latest polling hasn’t changed that narrative.
As former Vice President Joe Biden prepares to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, he’s doing so as the front-runner, polling ahead of both fellow Democrats and President Donald Trump.
A new Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted April 19-21 among 1,992 registered voters found Biden leading the president by 8 percentage points in a hypothetical matchup, 42 percent to 34 percent. Biden has a significant edge over Trump among women (17 points), millennials (22 points) and independents (10 points).
The national, online survey has a 2-point margin of error.
Some will simply dismiss all polls outright but a sample of nearly 2000 people showing an eight point lead is not something to ignore. Trump mired at 34% is more troubling than the top line result. Yes, the polls were off in some states in 2016. No, they were not wildly off in regards to the national totals. That’s important to note because Trump essentially has the same path to victory as 2016 by winning some combination of WI/PA/MI and he’ll likely have to do so while losing the popular vote again.
A 2-3 point deficit to Biden says that’s doable, an 8 point deficit says it’s not. That’s the kind of deficit Republicans ran against Democrats in 2018 when they lost 40+ seats in the House. By comparison, Hillary led the RCP polling average in 2016 at 3.1%. She won the popular vote by 2.3% Another few fractions of a percent in her total vote share, and she would have pulled out those mid-west states by the skin of her teeth.
In other words, Biden is a problem. Pretending he’s not won’t deliver victory in 2020. He’s the only Democrat in the field (save maybe Buttigieg) who has wide, moderate appeal among independents and suburban women. If you are looking for the worst case scenario for Trump to run against, Biden is it.
With all that said, Biden’s best days are probably already behind him. Even against Trump, you should expect the numbers to close. Right now, Biden isn’t having to run on anything. He’s not having to embrace crazed inter-sectional policies, Medicare for all, or the Green new Deal. He’s not having to defend Ilhan Omar or whatever latest insanity is on AOC’s Twitter feed.
Eventually, he’s going to have to cozy up to the left wing of his party and that will shift the race off of just being a referendum on Trump.
Here’s the thing I’m worried about. There seems to be a large contingent of Republicans who think that Trump is going to win just because he’s Trump, as if he is some kind of political magician who can’t be beaten. That myth was largely busted during the 2018 election and if Trump and Republicans continue to sit on their laurels, they’ll lose in 2020. You aren’t going to beat Joe Biden by just calling him “sleepy” and hoping for the best. Trump has to figure out how to both go after Biden aggressively while simultaneously winning back the voters his party lost in 2018. That’s a tough row to hoe against someone like Biden, who comes across as mostly harmless.
Trump is the incumbent now, which means he has to appear to be the safer, more sane option than what the Democrats put up, otherwise people will vote for change just as they did in 2016.
Many voters don’t see the same dangers in electing Biden that they might see in electing a Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris. While conservatives see him as just another liberal Democrat, a lot of people see him as a harmless moderate. That’s his curse in the Democratic primary but it’s his blessing in a general election.
If Trump wants to win re-election, he’s going to have to think about how he wins back suburban women and maintains a hold on blue collar workers. While Bernie Sanders isn’t going to appeal to those groups, Biden will. Maybe that means being more disciplined on Twitter? Maybe it means crafting his messaging to better highlight his successes? More likely it means talking less overall so that those who are still undecided can feel less chaos emanating from his administration. Sit back and let the Democrats eat themselves.
I know none of that is going to get his base’s juices flowing, but he already has their vote. He has to expand his reach in 2020 to beat someone like Joe Biden, otherwise he’ll lose just enough on the margins to not thread the needle this time.
Of course, it’s very probable that Biden doesn’t make it out of his primary anyway and this is all moot. Then Trump can essentially run an “I’m not crazy like those people” campaign and come out victorious. We’ll see where it goes.
Enjoying the read? Please visit my archive and check out some of my latest articles.
I’ve got a new twitter! Please help by following @bonchieredstate.