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Early polls favor Biden but Senate officials skeptical

Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE is leading the Democratic field in some early polls asking voters about the party’s prospective presidential candidates in 2020.

But in his old stomping grounds in the U.S. Senate, there are plenty of skeptics who point to the former vice president’s age, his support for the Iraq War and his two failed presidential bids as reasons to doubt he would be successful.

“It’s hard to see someone [winning] who voted for the Iraq War. People are looking to turn the page,” one senior Democratic aide said.

A second senior Democratic aide said “polls show that voters want someone who is new.”

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Biden, 75, served for decades in the Senate before his election as vice president.

A Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment on Biden’s chances said “polls this early don’t mean anything” and argued a Politico/Morning Consult survey published Wednesday that showed Biden leading Trump 44 percent to 37 percent among registered voters doesn’t mean much since it didn’t poll other candidates against Trump.

Other Democrats noted Biden’s failed bids for the White House in 2008 and 1988 to argue that he might not be a strong candidate in 2020.

A spokesman for Biden declined to comment for this story.

Perhaps it’s not surprising to find skeptics of Biden in the Senate even among the Democratic caucus, given the number of senators thinking about running for president.

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Philly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersSinema pushes back on criticism of her vote against minimum wage, implying that it's sexist Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Schumer insists Democrats unified after chaotic coronavirus debate MORE (I-Vt.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondent The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls MORE (D-N.Y.) and Cory BookerCory Booker'Bloody Sunday' to be commemorated for first time without John Lewis It's in America's best interest to lead global COVID-19 vaccine distribution ABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondent MORE (D-N.J.) are all seen as likely candidates, and they might not be the only ones running.

Biden also has his supporters, who argue that he’s a strong bet to win back white working-class voters who abandoned the party in three key states: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“I’m a big fan of Biden. We need to win back white voters in the Midwest and Biden can do it,” said a veteran Senate Democratic aide.

The aide said Biden could have an unobstructed shot at appealing to working-class and white male voters in a primary — especially if Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSchumer insists Democrats unified after chaotic coronavirus debate Mandel gets Club for Growth nod in Ohio Senate primary Bipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks MORE (D-Ohio) doesn’t run for president.

Many think Biden will run for president, and he would start out a race with a number of advantages.

Polls showing Biden at the top of Democratic wish lists likely reflect Biden’s high name identification and ties to former President Obama, a revered figure in the party.

Obama’s first retrospective job approval rating as measured by Gallup in February was 63 percent — a point higher than former President Clinton’s and 10 points higher than former President George W. Bush’s.

Just last week, Biden and Obama visited at a bakery in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., together — a photo opportunity that did nothing to dissuade those who think the former vice president will run for the White House.

Whatever they think of Biden’s chances, Democrats feel their party has a good chance of knocking off Trump in 2020.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll found a generic Democratic candidate doing even better than Biden and leading Trump 48-35 percent.

Still, Alan Kessler, a Wilmington, Del., native and a longtime Biden supporter who backed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction Jill Biden redefines role of first lady QAnon supporters unfazed after another false prediction MORE in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, said the poll will encourage Biden to think more seriously about running.

“If you’re toying around [with running for president] and you get a poll like that, certainly you have to be encouraged,” he said.

Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Biden’s longtime Senate colleague, said it’s “not surprising at all” that a poll would show Biden “in a very positive light at this point” because of his “substantial name recognition” from being in public service a long time.

Dorgan is predicting a big presidential field in 2020 and “Democrats will have a lot of choices to make.”

He thinks Biden will start with a lead in the crowded field but expects “we will see new leaders emerge.”

He says the desire for a fresh face is “one of the things that Joe would have to overcome” but added “he will be someone that a lot of Democrats will look at very fondly because he’s provided leadership for a long while.”

Liberal activists argue that Biden’s weaker performance versus Trump compared to a generic candidate shows that the party is ready to nominate a more outspoken progressive.

“He’s basically a Democratic placeholder that has universal name recognition and is kind of stand-in for people. When they think Biden, they think Obama,” said Neil Sroka, communications director for Democracy for America, a nationwide liberal grass-roots activist organization.

“The next Democratic nominee and I believe the next president is going to be an inclusive populist champion. Period. Bar none,” he said. “The idea that you’re going to run in 2020 on a neo-centrist agenda is beyond ludicrous, especially in a big dynamic Democratic primary.”