Biden’s midterm strategy has a presidential feel

Biden’s midterm strategy has a presidential feel
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Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE is plotting a series of campaign stops in purple states and districts crucial to the Democratic Party's hopes of winning back majorities in the House and Senate.

The former vice president is expected to be a constant presence in the Midwest, and is also expected to visit swing districts in states such as Florida and Nevada, according to sources. 

Biden is seen as a strong surrogate for Democrats, particularly in places where they are seeking to win back territory lost to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE in 2016.

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And that means Biden’s trips are being seen through the prism of 2020, when he could make a third run for the White House.

“You can kind of see what his strategy is not just in terms of 2018 but in terms of 2020,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns. “He’s essentially going to the places Democrats need desperately if they want to win in the midterms and the presidential election. This is very much a pre-presidential campaign campaign.”

After Labor Day, Biden is expected to campaign alongside Elissa Slotkin — a former Obama administration official running for a House seat in a toss-up Michigan race against GOP Rep. Mike Bishop. 

Biden is also set to stump in central Florida for Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Democratic leaders seek to have it both ways on impeachment Senate committee advances 'deepfakes' legislation MORE, whose race is rated “likely Democrat” by the Cook Political Report. In Nevada, he’ll campaign for Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Senators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (D), who is in a neck-and-neck Senate race with Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R-Nev.).

He’s also set to campaign with Mikie Sherill in New Jersey, who is seeking to win a House seat held by retiring Rep. Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Top House GOP appropriations staffer moves to lobbying shop Individuals with significant disabilities need hope and action MORE (R). Cook rates the race as leaning Democrat.

Last month, he appeared at a fundraiser for Ben Jealous, the progressive candidate who is running for governor of Maryland. Before a crowd of 250 people, Biden urged Democrats to come together and defeat Republicans in the midterms. 

“We have to stop them,” he said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “We can’t do it if we’re divided.” 

He’s also campaigned for Rep. Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, as well as Sens. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown MORE in Montana, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE in North Dakota and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE in Minnesota.

“Since 2008, Joe Biden has been a man of all markets,” said Democratic strategist Eric Jotkoff. “He is the guy you want showing up to help your campaign in Alabama or Massachusetts and he is someone who is comfortable talking to a crowd in Daytona Beach as he is in Chicago or Houston ... That is why he is in such demand as a surrogate in 2018.”

If the candidates Biden is lending a hand to are successful this fall, it could help his supporters argue that he is the best candidate to beat President Trump in 2020. 

The former vice president has led a number of polls surveying Democratic voters, and he’s also performed well in polls against Trump. Most political observers see him as a credible general election candidate who can win over centrists and independents.

The bigger question is whether Biden, 75, can win over Democratic primary voters further to the left. He’s already been an also-ran in two party primaries, and would face stiff competition from the likes of Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersHickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Andrew Yang: News coverage of Trump a 'microcosm' of issues facing country MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-Calif.).

The case Biden might make to primary voters is that he is the kind of candidate who can take back states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which Trump took from the Democratic column in 2016.

Biden visited many of those states while promoting his book, "Promise Me Dad".

“His book was the first trial run,” the strategist said. “And the midterms are the second and final trial run before he decides whether he should run again.” 

Sources close to Biden refuse to discuss any potential 2020 plans, saying the former vice president’s immediate priority is 2018. But they say he will make a decision about whether he will make a White House bid by January. 

Jim Manley, the Democratic strategist, said Biden’s strategy telegraphs what he may be thinking beyond 2018. 

“He’s playing the long game without being too terribly blatant about it,” Manley said. “He’s clearly focused on the states many believe we can win with the proper candidate.” 

Still, Manley said he’s not convinced Biden is ultimately what the party needs. 

“As we struggle to find new faces I'm not so sure someone like the former VP is what the party is looking for,” he said. 

A Politico/Morning Consult poll out on Wednesday showed Trump trailing Biden by 12 percentage points. The president also trailed Sanders by the same amount, according to the survey. 

The former vice president has also led in other recent polls, including a Zogby poll in June where he received the support of 21 percent of those surveyed. Sanders came in second with 19 percent.