Joe Biden breaks with Obama in moving to left

Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE is breaking with some of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump on his 'chosen one' remark: 'It was sarcasm' Kentucky basketball coach praises Obama after golf round: 'He is a really serious golfer' Biden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated MORE’s policy stances even as he ties himself closely to the former president.

Biden says he believes there is “an obligation” to provide health insurance for undocumented immigrants. Such coverage wasn’t provided under ObamaCare.

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The former vice president is backing a $15 minimum wage, much higher than the $10.10 minimum wage advocated by Obama. While some states raised their minimum wages, Obama failed to raise the national minimum wage of $7.25 while in office.

Biden has also endorsed a form of the public option on health care, a proposal that would create a government insurer to compete with private firms.

Obama decided against pursuing a public option as part of ObamaCare, but Biden has endorsed the idea of allowing people to buy into Medicare.

None of the three examples are dramatic departures from Obama’s policies.

In fact, it’s easy to imagine the former president backing a $15 minimum wage in 2019, or a law allowing people to buy into Medicare.

But the shifts are important and notable nonetheless for Biden, who is seeking to craft out an agenda that is his own even as he runs as an Obama-Biden Democrat.

Biden has soared in polls because of the warm feelings many Democratic primary voters have of the Obama years, yet he still needs to carve out his own platform.

“Biden and Obama are so connected that the former vice president can afford to demonstrate he’s his own man and not just Obama’s shadow by putting a little but not a lot of distance between the two of them,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.

Biden also needs to move to the left, though not too far, and in all three cases the breaks with Obama-era policies allowed Biden to shift to a more liberal position.

This is important for a candidate who is battling a number of rivals who have embraced more progressive policies.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Andrew Yang: News coverage of Trump a 'microcosm' of issues facing country MORE (I-Vt.), who is second to Biden in several polls, would go much further on health care by creating a single-payer system under his “Medicare for All” proposal.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-Mass.) has proposed free universal college, the end of the Electoral College and a wealth tax.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-Calif.) is a co-sponsor of Sanders’s Medicare for All bill and is also a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal climate plan, which seeks heavy public investment in renewable energy to create jobs and reduce carbon emissions.

Biden’s campaign is focused on electability, and the vice president has leaned into the argument that he is the best Democrat to defeat Trump. A new Quinnipiac poll on Wednesday found Biden ahead of Trump, 53 percent to 42 percent, in Pennsylvania.

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Biden’s argument that he is the most electable Democrat running for president is centered in part on the idea that he has not embraced extreme policies, and the former vice president and his team want to avoid being pushed too far to the left in a primary where liberals are complaining that he is not liberal enough.

On Monday, Sanders stood alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: Dangers loom for Trump on immigration Students retreating from politics as campuses become progressive playgrounds Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota MORE (D-N.Y.) at a Howard University event on climate change where she hammered politicians who would back a “middle of the road” strategy on climate. The unstated reference to Biden was impossible to miss.

As he has campaigned around the country, Biden has sought to win over the progressive and centrist wings of his party.

“He can read the room,” said Democratic strategist Basil Smikle.

Smikle said Biden has the potential to win over younger voters, who according to polls have not particularly gravitated to his campaign, and older Democrats — who the polls show are embracing him.

“He may be the only candidate with credibility among these voters to convince them of the party’s new direction while reminding younger voters of his ties to Obama’s legacy,” Smikle said. 

Biden has argued his record is a progressive one, and he hasn’t been shy about pointing out changes he’s made in some positions.

Biden has said he “evolved” on issues including gay marriage while serving as vice president. In 2012 he backed same-sex marriage, getting in front of Obama on the issue.

The former vice president is in store for some tough questions about some of his past policies, including his support for the Iraq War while he was in the Senate and his authoring of a Clinton-era crime bill.

But on pocketbook issues, Democrats say Biden has always held progressive views. And now he’s in a position to embrace them even more than during the Obama years.

“Biden always held these more progressive positions on wages and health care and he and Obama were always very open and talked about it publicly,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale. “Highlighting these issues allows [Biden] to talk about his historical record with labor and others on these issues without undermining his ties to Obama.”