Early polls favor Biden but Senate officials skeptical

Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenHow Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others Julián Castro calls for ‘tuition-free’ public colleges, apprenticeships Sanders to meet with staffers as he does damage control 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 Ann WarrenMoveOn leaders stepping down before 2020 election Julián Castro calls for ‘tuition-free’ public colleges, apprenticeships Native American leader asks when US will come to its ‘senses’ after Trump’s ‘racist’ attack against Warren MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs Overnight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour MORE (I-Vt.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand and Booker play 'How Well Do You Know Your Co-Worker' game amid 2020 speculation O'Rourke blogs from road trip: 'Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk' Julián Castro calls for ‘tuition-free’ public colleges, apprenticeships MORE (D-N.Y.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGillibrand and Booker play 'How Well Do You Know Your Co-Worker' game amid 2020 speculation The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony 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 BrownCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration 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 ClintonTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs FISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased Pompeo’s Cairo speech more ‘back to the future’ than break with past 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.”