Biden’s midterm strategy has a presidential feel

Biden’s midterm strategy has a presidential feel
© Getty Images

Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenWarren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college Moulton enters 2020 White House race The Hill's Morning Report - Is impeachment back on the table? 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 TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE in 2016.


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 MurphyLeft-center divide forces Dems to scrap budget vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Lawmaker sees political payback in fight over 'deepfakes' measure | Tech giants to testify at hearing on 'censorship' claims | Google pulls the plug on AI council Lawmaker alleges political payback in failed 'deepfakes' measure 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 — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Prosecutors used FISA warrant to get info on Huawei | Study finds discrimination in Facebook ads | Bezos retains voting control over ex-wife's Amazon stocks More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Dem senators introduce bill to combat sexual harassment in STEM MORE (D), who is in a neck-and-neck Senate race with Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds 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) Tester20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Overnight Energy: Bipartisan Senate group seeks more funding for carbon capture technology | Dems want documents on Interior pick's lobbying work | Officials push to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US Bipartisan senators want 'highest possible' funding for carbon capture technology MORE in Montana, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPro-trade groups enlist another ex-Dem lawmaker to push for Trump's NAFTA replacement Pro-trade group targets 4 lawmakers in push for new NAFTA Biden office highlights support from women after second accuser comes forward MORE in North Dakota and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Hill's Morning Report - Is impeachment back on the table? New Hampshire senator to ask 2020 Dems to back repeal of state residency law Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' 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 WarrenTrump pushes back on impeachment talk: 'Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!' Warren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college Moulton enters 2020 White House race MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone GOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Warren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWarren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college Moulton enters 2020 White House race The Hill's Morning Report - Is impeachment back on the table? 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.