Biden gets polling boost heading into next Democratic debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden appears to be gaining momentum in the polls ahead of Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate.

An Emerson College survey released this past week found Biden 1 percentage point ahead of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Iowa, while a recent WBUR poll showed Biden just a point behind Buttigieg in New Hampshire.

Both surveys represented strong showings for Biden, who either fell behind or was running even with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in earlier polls.

The newer results also put Biden in a stronger position to notch an early win or two ahead of the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday, two election days when Biden’s advantage with black voters could help him rack up a significant amount of delegates.

Good showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, his campaign says, will help him all the more in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday.

However, a Change Research-Post and Courier poll out of South Carolina on Friday could signal weakening support for Biden in the Palmetto State, where he has dominated throughout the cycle.

The survey from the left-leaning pollster showed Biden at 27 percent support, with Sanders on his heels at 20 percent, marking the first time in this primary Biden has not held a double-digit lead in the state.

Nationally, Biden has seen his lead grow since early October, when Warren matched his popularity in some polls. Despite shaky performances at the debates and gaffes on the campaign trail, Biden has yet to be dislodged from the top spot in the nationwide polls.

President Trump’s sustained attacks on Biden and his son, who worked on the board of an energy company in Ukraine, also have not led to a collapse in the polls.

The Biden campaign argues that his stability in the polls amid the impeachment proceedings stems from voters caring more about kitchen table issues such as health care.

“It’s easy to get sucked into the universe that we’re all in where we feel like impeachment is dominating every headline, but for most voters, it’s really not,” a senior Biden official said at a briefing last month.

But that doesn’t mean Biden hasn’t had to contend with the issue on the campaign trail.

In a memorable moment earlier this month, the former vice president took on a voter who raised Trump’s arguments about Biden’s son.

“You’re a damn liar, man. That’s not true,” Biden said to the voter when confronted with the criticisms.

While some have called the confrontation an outburst, several strategists and operatives say it was a relatable and humanizing moment.

“I think it was brilliant,” Moe Vela, a Democratic strategist and White House adviser in the Clinton and Obama administrations who sits on the board of directors at TransparentBusiness, told The Hill. “I think the vice president’s response to that voter was absolutely appropriate.”

Democratic strategist Jon Reinish said the exchange was reflective of Biden getting better at responding to questions about his family’s connections to the impeachment inquiry.

“I think his answers have gotten better and better,” Reinish said. “I think that this gives a chance for him to correct the record but also to show the fighting-yet-caring family man and leader. That’s why voters love the guy.”

But others warn that Biden should be cognizant of Trump and Republicans using Ukraine as a distraction. They said the 2016 campaign, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee, is a cautionary tale.

“He has to not repeat, perhaps, the sins of the 2016 election in which the media and the right tried to decide our nominating process and overall campaign by distraction,” South Carolina Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright said. “In 2016, it was Clinton’s emails. And it’s the same thing in my mind as Biden’s scenario that seems to be circling around.”

Tags 2020 Democrats Bernie Sanders caucuses Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Iowa Joe Biden New Hampshire Pete Buttigieg polls primaries South Carolina
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