Democratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals

There’s a growing sense among members of the Senate Democratic Conference that life would be easier if Joe BidenJoe BidenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump says impeachment lawyers were 'really good' MORE wins the party’s presidential nomination instead of his two closest competitors, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump on Clinton's Sanders comments: 'She's the one that people don't like' MORE (I-Vt.).

Most Democratic senators are staying neutral in a presidential race that includes six sitting senators along with Biden, who served for decades in the Senate before becoming former President Obama’s vice president.


Many don’t want to take sides in a battle that is pitting colleagues against one another, and senators obviously don’t want to create bad blood with any contenders — who will either return to the Senate or end up at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Yet a number of Democrats privately acknowledge that if Warren or Sanders wins the nomination, it will create immediate tension within the party.

The two progressives are to the left of many of their colleagues, and some of their best-known proposals, such as “Medicare for All” and free college education, do not have widespread support within the Democratic caucus.

If Warren or Sanders wins the party’s presidential nomination, there will be pressure in the Senate to adopt their proposals. And there could be tensions between a nominee and senators who do not back their proposals.

Another factor is the race for the Senate. Some Democrats think it will be easier to win races in conservative-leaning states such as Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia if Biden is their nominee and not Warren or Sanders.

One Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the race said a number of senators neutral in the race are more aligned with Biden.

“Ideologically, they’re definitely more with Biden,” said the Democratic senator, who described colleagues as having doubts about Warren’s and Sanders’s boldest proposals.

“Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, the wealth tax — the list is long,” the senator said.

A second Democratic senator who requested anonymity predicted that if Warren or Sanders is elected president, they will likely face opposition from fellow Democrats to some of their biggest proposals.


“The senators have a great confidence in their own ability with a friendly White House to say, ‘We like a lot of that, but we don’t like all of it,’ ” the senator said. “We’re not going to just do what they ask because they ask.”

The support for Biden is clear just from the list of senators who have endorsed candidates in the race.

Five Democratic senators are publicly backing Biden, while no other candidate has more than a single endorsement from a senator.

Supporters of Biden aren’t afraid to bolster the suggestion that the Senate Democratic Conference is more in tune with Biden than Sanders or Warren. In fact, they are seeking to use it to their advantage.

“Most currently serving senators are attracted to the pragmatic, progressive vision that Joe Biden has laid out,” said Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsWhat to watch for on Day 2 of Senate impeachment trial Broad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover-up,' 'national disgrace' MORE (D-Del.), who represents Biden’s home state and has endorsed the longtime Delaware senator.

Coons makes the electability argument for Biden in both the White House and the Senate.

“I think having Joe Biden as our nominee will not only make it more likely that we will defeat Trump in 2020 but also make it more likely that we will have a Democratic majority in the Senate,” he said, adding that he’s heard the same arguments from fellow Democratic senators.

Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), the most vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbent up for reelection next year, says he endorsed Biden in large part because he thinks it will help him in next year’s election.

“I think he’s more reflective of not only folks here but also Democrats across the country,” Jones said.

Asked about the impact on his race if Warren or Sanders won the Democratic nomination, Jones said: “Clearly, they would not play as well in Alabama.”

As the race has boiled down to the three front-runners, ideological differences have become more prominent. Biden sought to play up those differences at the last Democratic debate by touting himself as a champion of ObamaCare and drawing a contrast with Warren’s and Sanders’s support for Medicare for All.

Asked Tuesday which of the front-runners best reflects the ideological views of the Democratic caucus, Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterI'm a conservative against Citizens United Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week Pelosi says she'll send articles of impeachment to Senate 'soon' MORE (D-Mont.), who is neutral in the race, said, “probably Biden.”

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinRoberts under pressure from both sides in witness fight Senate opens Trump impeachment trial Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin MORE (D-Calif.), who has endorsed Biden over her home-state colleague, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRep. Bobby Rush endorses Bloomberg's White House bid Actor Michael Douglas endorses Bloomberg for president Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover-up,' 'national disgrace' MORE (D-Calif.), said the same.

“If you ask me to weigh the entire Senate, the answer is yes. And if you ask me to weigh America, I actually think America is a pretty centrist country,” said Feinstein.

Other Democrats such as Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Trump health chief: 'Not a need' for ObamaCare replacement plan right now Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover-up,' 'national disgrace' MORE (Conn.), who is neutral in the race, say the ideological differences between Biden, Warren and Sanders are getting overhyped.

“I think we way over-obsess about ideology in the primaries when most voters are voting based on personality, authenticity and style,” Murphy said. “When we have a conversation about electability, I think we have to admit that most voters are looking at the kind of person you are and whether they’re seeing the real individual on the campaign trail.”