While he continues to lead every poll by a healthy margin, the former Vice President remains vulnerable to attack on a number of fronts. Perhaps one the largest opportunities for his competitors in the Democratic primary is the amount of time left in the campaign season. While the buzzer has signaled the start of the race, time is moving slow, and won’t get much of an uptick until the first debate at the end of June.
Let’s take a look at Biden’s vulnerabilities which his opponents will be using to chip away at his sizable lead.
2002 Iraq War vote remains an issue
In 2002, when he was still the Senator from Delaware, Joe Biden voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. It’s worth noting that Hillary Clinton, as the Senator from New York, also voted the same way, yet she still won her party’s nomination in 2016. However, as Politico reports, the vote remains a liability for Biden:
Seventy-three percent of Democratic respondents said Biden’s experience in the Senate and as President Barack Obama’s No. 2 makes them more likely to back him in the primary. But nearly 3 in 10 Democrats said they were turned off by his Iraq War vote, and more than 40 percent of participants between the ages of 18 and 29 said his record on the issue made them less likely to support him.
“Joe Biden’s 2002 vote in favor of authorizing military force against Iraq could hurt his support among the crucial younger voting bloc in the Democratic primary,” said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president. “Notably, 42 percent of young voters 18-29 say they are less likely to support Biden because of his vote for the Iraq war, compared with 14 percent who say they are more likely and 18 percent who say his decision makes no difference at all.”
As the story notes, it’s younger voters who tend to look down on Biden’s Iraq War vote and they’re more likely to forgive his other shortcomings. Most of Biden’s opponents weren’t even in the Senate or any government position where they had to go on the record and vote for or against the invasion of Iraq, so they’re mostly off the hook on the issue.
The topic will most likely come up at the debates, either by the moderators, or by another candidate, and you can be sure that Biden will be working on a way to answer for this vote to set the minds of Democratic voters at ease.
Manufacturing job losses under Obama-Biden
Another area where Biden’s democratic opponents may try to attack him has to do with the number of manufacturing job losses during the Obama administration from 2008 to 2016. Biden has touted his experience in foreign policy and trade negotiation as a notch on his political resume, but the results are mixed and some voters may remember it, according to Fox News:
Former Vice President Joe Biden may be riding high in the current 2020 Democratic presidential polls, but that does not mean he isn’t vulnerable, according to Marc Thiessen.
Thiessen pointed to recent comments Biden made about China, telling a New Hampshire crowd last week that “they’re not competition for us.”
“No other nation can catch us, including China. I got criticized for saying that. I’ve spent as much time with [Chinese President] Xi Jinping as any world leader has,” Biden earlier this month said.
“Joe Biden’s China policies haven’t worked,” Thiessen said, adding that when Biden was vice president America lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs to other countries like China.
Thiessen, it should be noted, is a Republican strategist and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, so he’s naturally inclined to speak against Biden. However, he raises a valid point that Biden’s democratic opponents will surely also raise, especially when it comes to arguing over which candidate can successfully battle Donald Trump in the Midwest and win over blue-collar workers. We’re already beginning to see this play out in Pennsylvania.
Leading early is sometimes bad news
Early presidential polling can either be fairly accurate or totally off-kilter the year before the primaries begin. In 2007, for example, Hillary Clinton was leading in the polls among Democratic primary voters over the field, yet Barack Obama went on to win the Democratic nomination. USAToday looks at what it means to lead early in the polls, which can create a situation where every candidate takes their shots at the leader:
“This is a marathon,” Biden told supporters at a campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles last week. “I know all that polling stuff looks good, but it is a marathon and we have a long way to go.”
History shows that the former vice president is prudent not to put too much stock into his exalted position in the very early going of the crowded 2020 presidential race.
Back in late May 2015, Donald Trump was sitting in eighth place in the crowded Republican contest, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were among those polling ahead of him.
At the time, 21% of Republicans said there was “no way” they’d support Trump. The poll showed that Democrat Hillary Clinton would beat him 50% to 32% if Trump emerged as the GOP nominee.
In June 2007, Clinton had a 11-percentage point lead over the upstart Sen. Barack Obama, and her fellow New Yorker Rudy Giuliani was leading the GOP field, according to a national Gallup poll.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. “Everybody is targeting you. Everybody is focusing on you. You take more hits when you’re in front. Do you want to be ahead right now if you’re Joe Biden? I’d say yes, but you also don’t want to be approaching it as an impregnable place to sit, because the record says it’s not.”
Being the polling front runner means Biden will continue to take the most incoming fire from his Democratic opponents and from Donald Trump. This could be boon for Biden since it may demonstrate how he’s able to handle the stress of a national campaign without buckling in the limelight. However, in the same vein, it also means he’s vulnerable to damage since he’s the candidate everyone is gunning for. His opponents in the primary sitting back in the third or fourth place position aren’t attacked anywhere near the amount that the front runner is.
The intent of this story is not to single out Biden, every candidate in the field has strengths and weaknesses. In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at areas where other Democratic contenders are vulnerable, and also the laundry list of vulnerabilities suffered by President Trump.