Biden cements spot as 2020 front-runner

Biden cements spot as 2020 front-runner
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Less than a week into his 2020 presidential bid, Joe BidenJoe Robinette BidenButtigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' Buttigieg: The future 'is personal' for me Donald Trump, president for life? We need term limits now MORE is cementing his status as the Democratic front-runner.

The former vice president has been on the receiving end of attacks, not just from his primary opponents but from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE himself, a sign of the outsize political presence Biden commands. 

He raised eyebrows when he announced a staggering $6.3 million fundraising haul in his first 24 hours on the campaign trail. And recent polls show him expanding his lead over the Democratic field.

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A CNN–SRSS poll released Tuesday showed Biden with a commanding 24-point lead over his closest competitor, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg defends appearing on Fox News: Many Americans don't hear Dems' message Buttigieg: The future 'is personal' for me Donald Trump, president for life? We need term limits now MORE (I-Vt.), with 39 percent support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters — an 11-point jump for the former vice president since the last time the poll was conducted, in March.

Likewise, a weekly Morning Consult Political Intelligence survey out Monday showed Biden with 36 percent support. That’s 6 points higher than what he scored in the same survey earlier this month. Sanders, on the other hand, fell 2 points in the most recent poll.

And a Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday found Biden surging to 38 percent support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, up significantly from the 29 percent he carried in the same poll last month.

Taken together, the polling data suggests that the former vice president has quickly secured his spot as the presidential contest’s early front-runner, despite progressive concerns about his long public record and questions about whether a compromise-minded moderate is the right nominee for a Democratic Party that has lurched to the left in recent years.

To be sure, Biden has led the pack in most public polls for months, his early support rivaled only by Sanders. But the latest numbers could help allay the concerns of some of his allies in the weeks and months before he launched his presidential campaign. 

Biden’s late entrance into the presidential race gave many of his Democratic opponents months to find their footing in a crowded primary field and stake out precedent-setting positions on everything from health care to trade policy to criminal justice reform.

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And there were fears that Biden’s hesitation could put him at a disadvantage in the money race, given that several other candidates had already had months to fundraise for what is expected to be a long slog to the Democratic nomination.

But Biden’s campaign announced on Friday that it had raised $6.3 million in the 24 hours since he declared his candidacy, a massive first-day haul that surpassed those of his opponents and exceeded the expectations of his aides and allies.

The former vice president also received near-instant endorsements from a handful of prominent lawmakers, including both of his home-state senators, Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs Lawmakers take EPA head to task for refusing to demand Pruitt repay travel expenses Dems request investigation of lobbyist-turned-EPA employee who met with former boss MORE (D-Del.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMnuchin says carbon capture tax credit guidance will be out soon Mnuchin signals administration won't comply with subpoena for Trump tax returns Menendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions MORE (D-Del.), as well as Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyWhy Congress needs to bring back tax deduction for worker expenses Biden cements spot as 2020 front-runner The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's bid gets under Trump's skin MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), who attended a high-dollar fundraiser for Biden in Philadelphia hours after his announcement.

Even with more than 20 candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nod, Biden’s presence in the race is palpable. 

Fundraising emails from other contenders since last week have all seized on his announcement to plead for donations. 

And two of Biden’s more progressive opponents, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenButtigieg jokes about holding town hall same night as 'Game of Thrones' finale Buttigieg defends appearing on Fox News: Many Americans don't hear Dems' message Warren offers to help Twitter user with her love life MORE (D-Mass.), have gone on the offensive in recent days, assailing the former vice president for his past ties to corporate interests.

Speaking to reporters last week, Warren recalled a feud that erupted between her and Biden in 2005 as the two found themselves on different sides of a bill that sought to address the rising number of bankruptcy filings. 

Warren, a Harvard Law School professor at the time, opposed the legislation, while Biden was one of its most ardent supporters.

“At a time when the biggest financial institutions in this country were trying to put the squeeze on millions of hard-working families who were in bankruptcy because of medical problems, job losses, divorce or death in the family, there was nobody standing up for them,” Warren told reporters at an event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I got in that fight because they just didn’t have anyone,” she continued. “And Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies.”

In an interview on CNN on Monday, Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist and Biden’s closest competitor in the primary contest, contrasted his own legislative record with Biden’s.

“I think when people take a look at my record versus Vice President Biden’s record — I helped lead the fight against [the North American Free Trade Agreement]; he voted for NAFTA,” Sanders said. “I helped lead the fight against [permanent normal trade relations] with China, he voted for it.”

The remarks by Sanders and Warren underscore what may be one of Biden’s biggest vulnerabilities. As a six-term senator from Delaware, he racked up an extensive public record that has unsettled modern progressives in the Democratic Party.

One point of contention, for instance, is his treatment of Anita HillAnita Faye HillHarris knocks Biden on crime bill: 'It did contribute to mass incarceration in our country' Biden defends 1994 crime bill, says it helped him 'beat the NRA' CNN resurfaces Biden remarks calling for a border fence MORE, who faced intense scrutiny over her allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearing. At the time, Biden served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As he prepared to launch his presidential campaign, Biden spoke to Hill privately and expressed regret for the way she was treated. But in a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Hill said that she did not perceive Biden’s conversation with her as an apology and that the former vice president did not go far enough in his comments.

Whether his public record is enough to sink his presidential ambitions remains to be seen. The Iowa caucuses are still nine months away, and the crowded nature of the Democratic primary field makes the party’s presidential nomination a virtual jump ball.

At a campaign stop in Pittsburgh on Monday — his first since entering the presidential race — Biden paid little attention to his legislative history, opting instead to lay out an economic vision that hinged on a vow to rebuild the middle class.

The stop in itself amounted to a shot across the bow for Trump, who carried Pennsylvania in the 2016 presidential election in part because of support from the same white working-class voters that Biden is seeking to win over in 2020.

“If I’m going to beat Donald Trump in 2020, it’s going to happen here,” Biden said.

Biden’s argument — that he is the candidate best positioned to dethrone Trump in 2020 — has particular resonance in the White House. Trump sees the former vice president’s appeal to white working-class voters and broad name recognition as a possible threat to his reelection prospects.

The president has unleashed a volley of attacks against Biden since his campaign launch last week. But the pace of those attacks escalated on Monday after Biden secured a coveted endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), an influential union that declined to back either Trump or Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDe Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con' From dive bars to steakhouses: How Iowa caucus staffers blow off steam Warren policy ideas show signs of paying off MORE in 2016.

“The Dues Sucking firefighters leadership will always support Democrats, even though the membership wants me,” Trump declared in a tweet. “Some things never change!”

In another tweet, Trump took direct aim at Biden’s speech in Pittsburgh, suggesting that it was his own administration’s stewardship of the country that had boosted Pennsylvania’s economic prospects.

“Sleepy Joe Biden is having his first rally in the Great State of Pennsylvania. He obviously doesn’t know that Pennsylvania is having one of the best economic years in its history, with lowest unemployment EVER, a now thriving Steel Industry (that was dead) & great future!”

But at Biden’s speech on Monday, there appeared to be a pervasive sense that the vice president was the best candidate to defeat Trump.

Addressing the crowd before Biden took the stage, Harold Schaitberger, the general president of the IAFF, warned against nominating a candidate “that is too far left.” 

Such a contender, he said, may have “honorable ideals, but little chance of winning.”

“The candidate that can win, the candidate who can and will be our next president, is Joe Biden,” he said.