Biden hits campaign trail for red-state Dems

Biden hits campaign trail for red-state Dems
© Greg Nash

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenWhite House would like to see Biden ‘in the boxing ring’ in 2020 Pence: I'd pick Trump over Biden in a fight John Dowd’s resignation sets Trump up for trouble in Mueller probe MORE is hitting the campaign trail hard for Democrats running in red states and districts ahead of the midterm elections.

On Tuesday, Biden campaigned twice in Pennsylvania with Democratic House candidate Conor Lamb, who polls show has a good chance of pulling off an upset special election victory next week in a district long held by Republicans.

Biden this weekend will headline the Mansfield Metcalf Dinner in Montana, where Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) Tester2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP: We will grow our majority in midterms Senate passes bipartisan bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (D) is up for reelection in November.

The following weekend, he’ll headline the North Dakota Democratic-NPL convention, campaigning on behalf of Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampKoch-backed group launches six-figure ad buy against Heitkamp Overnight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn't 'right' for space corps Senate sides with Trump on providing Saudi military support MORE, another Democrat who, like Tester, is facing a reelection fight in a state won by President TrumpDonald John TrumpPoll: Both parties need to do more on drug prices Senate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump White House: Trump will delay steel tariffs for EU, six countries MORE.

The appearances highlight how Biden’s star power is attractive to Democrats seeking to hold on to or win back offices on political ground where their party is vulnerable.


It also shows the concerted effort that Biden is making to remain front and center on the national stage as he considers whether to run for president for a third time. 

Biden has been crisscrossing the country and is expected to appear at 30 to 40 campaign events for Democrats running for the House, according to sources close to the former vice president. 

Associates say he has yet to make a decision about running in 2020.

“He’s thinking about it and this is a nice way for him to think about it,” one Biden confidant said.  

“He’s playing this just right. He’s using the political capital he has to champion causes he cares about,” the confidant added. “It’s a smart play to help not just those on the national level but local and county as well.” 

To date, Biden has been on the campaign trail more than a number of high-profile Democrats who could end up being rivals to him for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. The cast includes Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren battles Carson: Housing discrimination 'the scandal that should get you fired' Overnight Regulation: Omnibus includes deal on tip-pooling rule | Groups sue over rules for organic livestock | AT&T, DOJ make opening arguments in merger trial Warren presses Mulvaney, Azar on tip pooling MORE (Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump Feinstein, Harris call for probe of ICE after employee resigns Senators introduced revised version of election cyber bill MORE (Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandCynthia Nixon: Cuomo winning gold in Albany's 'corruption Olympics' 2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Amtrak to rename Rochester station after Louise Slaughter MORE (N.Y.).

His campaign stops also point to his potential strength in red and purple states, which some Democrats think could make him a powerful general election candidate in 2020. Progressive stars, including Warren and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCongress to require FEC report on foreign money in elections DCCC adds first black candidates to list of top candidates Hillary Clinton’s sorry apology is why she’s no champion for women MORE (I-Vt.), may not be as welcome stumping for the likes of Lamb, Heitkamp and Tester, given the political leanings of their constituencies.

Of course, this also raises questions about whether Biden can win the hearts of progressives if he is competing for the Democratic nomination against liberal stars in the party.

His advocates insist that he can appeal to both factions. They say there is a longing for the Obama era and Biden is able to fill that void. He also connects with a wide swath of voters across what remains a divided party. 

Those close to Tester say Biden was an obvious choice for the dinner this weekend.

“We know that Vice President Biden has been strong in his work for working families and that’s something that’s important here in Montana,” said one Tester associate.

While Biden is in demand, his age is a concern to some Democrats. He would be nearly 78 years old on Election Day in 2020. There is also a lingering feeling among Democrats that the party needs to make room for new voices. 

Even major donors to former President Obama aren’t committing to Biden, as The Hill reported in August.

But even doubters of Biden think he could play a pivotal role in both 2018 and 2020.

“Even though he might not be the perfect candidate for 2020, he could make an enormous contribution mobilizing voters, building enthusiasm and attacking President Trump,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, adding that Biden “can command an audience.” 

“In the best scenario, he can encourage newer voices to step forward and actually run,” he said. “Given his love of party and country, this is probably as important as actually winning the presidency.” 

For the time being, Biden aides and associates say his aim is 2018 and helping Democrats win at all levels. 

“He’s more or less an open door,” said one Biden aide. “Anywhere he can be an asset and be helpful, that’s where he’ll be.”