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 ObamaThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing 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) SandersFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Ben & Jerry’s co-founders announce effort to help 7 Dem House challengers Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE of Vermont (75 percent) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her More Massachusetts Voters Prefer Deval Patrick for President than Elizabeth Warren Trump's trade war — firing all cannons or closing the portholes? 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 BookerEx-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report CNN editor: Booker's 'groping incident' 'different' from Kavanaugh allegation Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 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 TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her 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 BidenBiden to campaign for Stacey Abrams next week Dems with political experience could have edge in 2020 primary, says pollster Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing 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 FrankenNelson campaign to donate K from Al Franken group to charity Sexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls 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 ClintonPompeo: 'We've not been successful' in changing US-Russia relations Michael Moore ties Obama to Trump's win in Michigan in 2016 The Memo: Could Kavanaugh furor spark another ‘year of the woman’? 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 HarrisSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle 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