News & Politics

Has the Democratic Party Passed Joe Biden By?

(Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

A new poll is out in Iowa that shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.

Des Moines Register:

According to a new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers, 27 percent say Biden is their first choice for president. That’s down slightly from the 32 percent who said the same in December, but it tops the 19 other declared and potential candidates tested.

Biden has a 2-percentage-point advantage over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Though that’s within the poll’s 4.9 percentage point margin of error, other numbers bode well for the former vice president and suggest a stronger advantage over Sanders. The poll of 401 likely Democratic caucusgoers was conducted March 3 through 6.

“If I’m Joe Biden sitting on the fence and I see this poll, this might make me want to jump in,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of the Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “I just can’t find much in this poll that would be a red flag for Joe Biden.”

Seventy percent of respondents say they believe Biden’s political views are neither too liberal nor too conservative, but instead, are “about right” — the highest percentage of any candidate tested.

And 64 percent — including a majority in every demographic group — say they think Biden’s experience is an asset and he should enter the race. About a third of respondents say his time has passed and he should not run.

Biden is dithering about making a run, and who can blame him? With 30 percent of Iowans believing his time has passed and he shouldn’t run, you have to wonder if that percentage is even higher in more liberal states.

There was a time when Biden was seen as a liberal lion — about as far left a Democrat as there was in the 1980s. But times change and so has the Democratic Party. In fact, the party is unrecognizable compared to what it looked like in 2008 when Biden was chosen as Barack Obama’s running mate.

Many on the far-left see Biden as “too conservative,” if you can believe that. The media sees him as a “centrist.” I can imagine Joe Biden blanching if someone had called him that in the 1980s.

The conventional wisdom among Democratic pundits is that Sanders is too liberal to win the nomination and that Biden is the odds-on favorite because of his deep ties to the party establishment. If anything, the Democratic Party establishment is weaker at this point in the race than the GOP establishment was in 2016. They are being superseded by the energy, commitment, and fervor of radical activists who think that Bernie Sanders might not pursue their agenda with sufficient zeal. It is the activists who are now driving the debate and they don’t care for Biden at all.

Iowa is a fairly conservative state for Democrats and you would expect Biden to do well there. But what about the rest of the country? The recent spate of Democrats declining to run for president gives us a hint at the shape of the Democratic electorate.


Around the time that story ran, a trickle of “no’s” began. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former Republican and independent, announced he wouldn’t run on Tuesday. Bloomberg is more of a centrist who has been known to reach across the aisle — as Biden often did during his decades in the Senate, in addition to retaining close friendships with Republicans. The Times also reported that Bloomberg’s advisers saw Biden as major hurdle, with many focus groups fawning over Biden’s “Uncle Joe” persona.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder is another member of the Obama administration who was testing the watersbut ultimately decided against jumping in this week. Like Holder, Biden has made voting rights a priority in his post-administration days.

Perhaps Biden’s biggest potential ideological rival was Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who conducted a “dignity of work” tour through several early states before announcing on Thursday that he would not run. Brown would have appealed to the same white working-class, populist base as Biden — voters who proved to be Hillary Clinton’s Achilles heel in 2016.

But that assumes that the rising Democratic leadership of radicals cares about the “white working class” vote. They don’t. They believe they can win with the young, with women, and with minorities giving their candidate huge majorities. It’s the Obama coalition on steroids and given the antipathy of all these groups toward Donald Trump, they have a chance to pull it off — even with a radical candidate like Sanders or Beto O’Rourke.

Biden will run and he will be well financed. But I think by the time the primaries begin, his star will have begun to fade as the true heart of the Democratic Party asserts control. Biden will split the establishment vote with several other candidates, leaving the field wide open for a radical alternative.