Biden’s midterm strategy has a presidential feel

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

Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDems with political experience could have edge in 2020 primary, says pollster Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing Trump endorses Republican candidate in key NJ House race 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 TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE in 2016.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 MurphyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ MORE, whose race is rated “likely Democrat” by the Cook Political Report. In Nevada, he’ll campaign for Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHeller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada GOP senator sees 'little hiccup' in Kavanaugh confirmation MORE (D), who is in a neck-and-neck Senate race with Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerHeller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November McConnell suggests he could hold Senate in session through October The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify 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 FrelinghuysenTrump endorses Republican candidate in key NJ House race On The Money: Lawmakers get deal to avoid shutdown | House panel approves 'tax cuts 2.0' bill | Jobless claims hold steady near 49-year low Congress sends first spending package to Trump in push to avert shutdown 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) TesterMontana lawmakers cheer recommendation to ban mining north of Yellowstone Cook Political Report moves Texas Senate race to ‘toss-up’ Trump Jr. campaign event looks for new venue after Montana restaurant declines to host MORE in Montana, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampGOP Senate candidate: Allegations against Kavanaugh 'absurd' The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination MORE in North Dakota and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls GOP in striking distance to retake Franken seat 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 WarrenMore Massachusetts Voters Prefer Deval Patrick for President than Elizabeth Warren Trump's trade war — firing all cannons or closing the portholes? Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Ben & Jerry’s co-founders announce effort to help 7 Dem House challengers Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle 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.