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Biden’s midterm strategy has a presidential feel

Biden’s midterm strategy has a presidential feel
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Joe BidenJoe BidenAzar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments House Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits 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 TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit 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 MurphyLobbying world Newspaper editorial board apologizes for endorsing Republican over support for Texas lawsuit Raising the required minimum distribution age for America's seniors MORE, whose race is rated “likely Democrat” by the Cook Political Report. In Nevada, he’ll campaign for Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses MORE (D), who is in a neck-and-neck Senate race with Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play 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 FrelinghuysenBottom line Republican lobbying firms riding high despite uncertainty of 2020 race Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm 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) Tester50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency Coronavirus relief deal hinges on talks over Fed lending powers MORE in Montana, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHarrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA guidance may exempt some water polluters from Supreme Court permit mandate | Vilsack's stock rises with Team Biden | Arctic wildfires linked to warming temperatures: NOAA MORE in North Dakota and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGoogle completes Fitbit acquisition Hillicon Valley: Fringe social networks boosted after Capitol attack | Planned protests spark fears of violence in Trump's final days | Election security efforts likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress US Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots 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 WarrenPorter loses seat on House panel overseeing financial sector OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Nine, including former Michigan governor, charged over Flint water crisis | Regulator finalizes rule forcing banks to serve oil, gun companies | Trump admin adds hurdle to increase efficiency standards for furnaces, water heaters DeVos mulled unilateral student loan forgiveness as COVID-19 wracked economy: memo MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie Sanders'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Biden to seek minimum wage in COVID-19 proposal Former Sanders spokesperson: Progressives 'shouldn't lose sight' of struggling Americans during pandemic MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisOn The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits Biden scolds Republicans for not wearing masks during Capitol attack Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs 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.