Why Smokin' Joe leads the pack of 2020 Democratic hopefuls

Why Smokin' Joe leads the pack of 2020 Democratic hopefuls
© Greg Nash

Presidential politics has as many wild swings as the New England weather. Watch out for the nor'easter that will hit hard in 2020.

When Americans turn on a president, they often turn to a candidate who is completely unlike the chief executive they object to. A born-again Christian Jimmy Carter followed "Tricky Dick," Richard Nixon. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaIntelligence for the days after President Trump leaves office Barack Obama sends Valentine's message to Michelle: 'She does get down to Motown' For 2020, Democrats are lookin’ for somebody to love MORE came after George W. Bush and our current chief executive Donald Trump succeeded a president whose positions on issues was a world apart.

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Could a politician with 36 years as a United States senator and eight years as vice president follow a president who had not one iota of government experience before he was elected?

 

A new national poll conducted by CNN indicates presidential role reversal is a possibility. Only four in 10 Americans approve of Trump's performance.

There are two tiers of support for possible Democratic presidential candidates. Biden leads the first tier with the support of more than eight in 10 (84 percent) Democrats who say they might support his candidacy if he makes the race.

Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration Poll: Sanders, Biden seen as most popular second choices in Dem primary MORE of Vermont (75 percent) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Poll: Sanders, Biden seen as most popular second choices in Dem primary MORE of Massachusetts (68 percent) follow the former vice president in Tier No. 1.

In Tier No. 2, about half of all Democrats say they might support Sens. Kamla Harris of California (53 percent), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union Former Virginia Gov McAuliffe writes book about confronting white nationalism MORE of New Jersey (50 percent) or Kristen Gillibrand of New York (48 percent). None of the other possible Democratic candidates have very much national name recognition.

Biden seems to be here, there and everywhere lately. His high profile suggests he is considering a presidential race in 2020. He has exchanged pointed personal barbs with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE, the former vice president popped up at a March For Our Lives rally in Delaware and earlier this year he embarked on a national tour to promote his book "Promise Me Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose".

Biden has been dubbed "Smokin' Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Trump, Biden in dead heat in hypothetical 2020 matchup among Texas voters Biden calls for reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act MORE" by a late-night comedian. The war of words with Trump is very telling. Biden compared the president to "the fattest, ugliest SOB in the room." When i saw Biden's comments, the first thing I thought of was Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenVirginia scandals pit Democrats against themselves and their message The Hill's Morning Report — Will Ralph Northam survive? Identity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination MORE's book, "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot." The former vice president told a crowd in Miami that "if we were in high school, I'd take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him". 

But some Democratic insiders have criticized the former vice president for not being presidential — whatever that means. But Trump rode to the White House with tough talk. Why shouldn't it work for Uncle Joe? Americans want a chief executive who can dish it out and take it too. Presidential politics has never been an exercise in etiquette.

The spat works well for Biden. It reinforces his reputation for being outspoken, even though it gets him into trouble sometimes. Voters admire politicians like Biden who say what they think without being politically correct. It worked for Trump in 2016. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Sarah Sanders says she was interviewed by Mueller's office Trump: I believe Obama would have gone to war with North Korea MORE always sounded programmed so people didn't see her as authentic. That won't be a problem for Joe. The give and take with Trump also elevates Biden over other 2020 contenders. Blunt talk also plays well with blue collar voters in the Rustbelt. Democrats need these people in 2018 and in 2020.

I saw Biden on his book tour and went in very skeptical about the possibility of a retread running for president but he looked and sounded great. 

Biden spoke of his son's struggle with cancer and how it affected the family and his plan to run for president in 2016. Biden said he had decided to run and then changed his mind when Beau was diagnosed. It was very touching.

Biden's pitch was that America had a great future even though things now under Trump are very ugly.

This cynical and jaded political observer was surprised and impressed. The place was packed. I expected an older crowd but many millennials enthusiastically responded to his pitch. 

Biden's biggest challenge will be the millennial mobilization that is shaking and shaping the Democratic Party. I'm a rabid yellow dog Democrat but my party does need shaping and shaking. A young Democrat like Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment MORE or Cory Booker will be big players in 2020. Both senators have been outspoken critics of Trump. They are young and Harris hasn't been in Washington long enough to be tagged as a political insider.

Biden will also have to compete against another candidate in his own generation, Bernie Sanders, who has a strong following among millennials.

The March for Our Lives was an indication that young people are starting to engage in the political process. God bless them. Many millennials see Biden as part of an antiquated political system. If Sanders doesn't run, former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbad may also emerge as credible candidates.

The presidential campaign begins in earnest on Nov. 7, the day after the midterm elections. So we'll find out soon if a seasoned pro or a fresh face emerges in the Democratic contest.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also a senior advisor to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics. Contact him at brad@bannoncr.com