Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently leading all the early polls of Democratic primary voters. He’s got support across the party, he’s got the highest name recognition of the entire field, and he’s poised to start the nomination race with fully one-third of Democratic voters behind him. Sounds like he’s set up for a real chance at taking it all the way in 2020 and becoming the Democratic nominee, right?
Well, maybe, and maybe not. Biden has strengths, he has that connection with people most politicians only dream of. Yes, he makes blunders, but in the age of Trump, we’ve learned that it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. Just don’t take Biden’s thoughts as legal advice or you may still end up convicted of a crime trying to use the “Biden shotgun defense” in court.
Does Age Matter?
At 76 years old, Biden is no spring chicken. Some may argue that Donald Trump is older, too, and that’s true. However, Trump was only 70 when he was elected in 2016. Biden is many years past that point and would be pushing 79 years old by the time his potential inauguration rolled around in January of 2021.
Age seems to matter less nowadays, especially as Democratic voters were enamored with Bernie Sanders at 75 years old in 2016. The point with Biden’s age is that it’s now or never. If he has any aspiration left to become President, now is the time to do it. By 2024, he’ll be too far into his 80s to mount a serious challenge. Health issues alone could sideline him.
Working Class Appeal
Along with Biden’s ability to connect with his voters, he’s got a natural connection to the same base of voters that Donald Trump did well with in 2016. Biden can go places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio, and relay the story of his blue-collar upbringing in Scranton, PA, where his father struggled to make ends meet, eventually moving the family to Delaware in 1953.
Biden plays it up well, almost eerily similar to the way Trump does. He’s proud of being “unsophisticated” and brash even if the hoity-toitys in Washington don’t like it. He’ll speak it the way he feels it. Biden, in some ways, is the Democratic counterbalance to Donald Trump. Willing to be outlandish to attract headlines when he wants to, and willing to scrap with policy wonks, like Paul Ryan, to win a debate with style over substance.
Future of the Democratic Party
It’s hard to argue, however, that Joe Biden represents the future of the Democratic Party. Appealing to blue-collar white voters in the rust belt is just not what the party stands for any longer. Perhaps the last serious Democratic President to do so was Bill Clinton.
In 2008, the party was remade by Barack Obama into a coastal party attracting young voters and minorities. The “Obama coalition,” as it was. It’s true, these voters did vote for Joe Biden on the ticket, but that was immaterial since the top of the ticket was Obama.
Biden has support now, among the early polls, but would that support last into the primary season? Would Democratic voters decide that maybe they don’t want to put up an older white guy to counter the older white guy currently in the White House? Maybe they want to put up a younger candidate, a female candidate, or a younger female minority candidate? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s worth asking the question whether Biden, despite this early support, is simply outdated for the party of Obama despite being part of the Obama-revolution within the party.
Nothing to Lose
Ultimately, I don’t think Joe Biden has anything to lose if he runs in 2020. Even if his support wanes, or he’s simply not catching on, he can say he tried and has decided that he’d rather pass the baton and support the eventual nominee. It wouldn’t be what he wants, but I don’t think he’d be diminished by it.
As a recent CNN article explains, Biden is in a very strong position, and there’d be no reason for him to let it slip by. He’s got support from Democratic voters that goes beyond name recognition. His favorability numbers among Democrats are very high meaning that voters tend to like him beyond just knowing his name.
Perhaps the biggest qualification, and possibly the only thing that will matter to Democrats, is that he polls very well against Donald Trump. According to the CNN piece, “Iowa Democrats by a 54% to 40% margin think it’s more important for Democrats to nominate someone who can beat Trump than someone who shares their ideology.” That alone puts Biden at the top of the field since he consistently beats Trump in head-to-head polling matchups.
After exploring this topic, it seems like there are more items in the “pro” column than the “con” column when the question is asked about whether Biden should run in 2020. The downside is small, but the upside could be huge if he can dominate the field with fundraising and campaign presence.
Biden 2020 may be the last chance he has to expand his political resume, and I doubt he’s going to let this opportunity drift by without giving it a shot.