Exclusive: Biden almost certain to enter 2020 race

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenRon Johnson signals some GOP senators concerned about his Obama-era probes On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE is almost certain to enter the 2020 presidential race, according to sources familiar with his plans. 

“It’s pretty clear he’s jumping in,” said one source with direct knowledge of the would-be campaign’s moves, adding that Biden is “95 percent there.”

In recent days, Biden has sought to build support from grass-roots activists and is specifically asking donors for their help in the lead-up to an announcement, according to sources.

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In phone conversations, Biden has been making the case for why he’d be the best candidate in what is already a crowded field. 

“Here are the facts: He’s coming off a great midterm,” said Robert Wolf, the Democratic mega-donor who confirmed he spoke to Biden on a 25-minute call on Wednesday. 

“He has been the most popular surrogate during the midterms and one of the only surrogates that can play in all 50 states, and that has given him a lot of confidence that he can do well in a national election," Wolf said.  

“He can campaign everywhere and that’s certainly what many people would say is an incredible strength for him.”

Biden has led a number of polls surveying Democratic voters on their preferences for the 2020 race, results that could point to the former vice president’s high name ID but that also underscore support for his candidacy. 

In a Monmouth University poll released on Feb. 4, Biden won 29 percent support compared to 16 percent for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez's 2nd grade teacher tells her 'you've got this' ahead of DNC speech Trump and allies grapple with how to target Harris Chris Wallace: Kamala Harris 'not far to the left despite what Republicans are gonna try to say' MORE (I-Vt.), who also has not decided on whether to run for the White House. 

Candidates who have jumped into the race trailed both Biden and Sanders: Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisCandidates on Biden's VP list were asked what they thought Trump would nickname them as part of process: report Bass on filling Harris's Senate spot: 'I'll keep all my options open' Election security advocates see strong ally in Harris MORE (D-Calif.) won 11 percent support while Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenNew poll shows Markey with wide lead over Kennedy in Massachusetts Trump and allies grapple with how to target Harris Chris Wallace: Kamala Harris 'not far to the left despite what Republicans are gonna try to say' MORE (D-Mass.) took 8 percent. 

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who is also thinking about entering the race, took 7 percent. 

Biden had a favorable rating of 80 percent among those surveyed, compared to just 9 percent who had an unfavorable view of him.

A Morning Consult/Politico poll released at about the same time found Biden with 33 percent support, compared to 15 percent support for Sanders and 10 percent support for Harris.

With more and more candidates getting into the race, Biden’s popularity with Democratic voters and early success in polls could be a boon to his candidacy. 

In addition to Warren and Harris, a number of other well-known political figures have jumped into the race, including Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Harris make first public appearance as running mates Booker hits back at Trump tweet, mocks misspelling of name MORE (D-N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandExpanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (D-N.Y.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharElection security advocates see strong ally in Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup MORE (D-Minn.), in addition to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardTrump and allies grapple with how to target Harris It's Harris — and we're not surprised Democrat Kai Kahele wins Hawaii primary to replace Tulsi Gabbard MORE (D-Hawaii). 

O’Rourke is expected to jump into the race, and Sanders and Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownWhat Trump's orders will and won't do for payroll taxes, unemployment benefits Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw MORE (D-Ohio) are both openly considering candidacies, as is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

With that crowded a field, the potential for candidates to split up the vote — to the benefit of Biden — would seem to increase.

Wolf said he came away from his phone call with Biden with the feeling that the former vice president is “90 percent” running. 

“He feels incredibly excited to enter the race,” Wolf said. “He feels he would be the best candidate and he's ready to go for it. That's what it felt like to me.”

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Biden has lost some potential campaign aides with his indecision about getting into the race. The story was headlined: “Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign decision: Quietly agonizing as months go by.”

But sources close to Biden say he has been taking his time on making a decision and doesn’t feel the need to get out there quickly because he already has the name recognition needed to run. 

The former vice president initially said he would reach a decision by the end of the year and has since said that a decision would come soon.

“I don’t want to make this a fool’s errand,” he said at an event in Florida last month to applause from the crowd. 

He said he was “running the traps” on a decision to enter the race. “I’m a lot closer than I was before Christmas, and we’ll make a decision soon,” Biden added. 

In a tweet on Thursday, Wolf firmly pushed back on the Post story. 

“Sorry but I spoke with @JoeBiden yesterday and 'agonizing' is just way off the mark - you could feel his enthusiasm and excitement throughout the conversation,” Wolf tweeted. 

Even Biden’s staunchest allies acknowledge he will have a tough time winning the primary, despite the polls showing enthusiasm for his candidacy.

The party has moved increasingly to the left, and while Biden would have a decent shot at defeating President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE in a general election, they point out that he would have a difficult time in a primary where he is perceived as being more of a centrist. 

Democrats have also said they want a fresh face to run the party after 2016 nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Harris make first public appearance as running mates Trump campaign spox rips GOP congressman over rejection of QAnon conspiracy Biden hits back after Trump's attacks on Harris MORE’s stunning election defeat, and some worry he would have the same problems Clinton had in the general election. 

Biden, 76, is an older white male at a time when some Democrats are looking for fresh faces and would like a woman or minority candidate to take on Trump. 

At the same time, many Democrats see Biden as the strongest general election candidate against Trump — and someone who can take back the Rust Belt states that Trump won over Democrats in 2016. 

And in an election where Democrats are desperate to make Trump's a one-term presidency, the ability to win is a big calling card for Biden and his supporters.