Never underestimate Joe Biden

Never underestimate Joe Biden
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats redefine center as theirs collapses Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' MORE is statistically tied for second among New Hampshire Democrats with South Bend Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegKlobuchar, Steyer unable to name Mexico's president in pointed interview Democrats redefine center as theirs collapses Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage MORE of Indiana. Meanwhile, Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats redefine center as theirs collapses Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' MORE, who leads Biden and Buttigieg in the Granite State, announced that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber, should have the right to vote from federal prison along with garden variety murderers and rapists. This would put Sanders oddly in sync with Israel, where voting from behind bars is legal.

From the looks of things, the 2020 Democratic primaries will pick up where the 2016 Democratic convention left off. For Biden, that poses a potentially insoluble challenge. Biden is a septuagenarian nonsocialist in a party whose base is trending leftward and whose demographics are turning young and polychromatic. If Sanders is the Howard Beale of the Democratic field, the mad as hell television commentator of the 1976 movie “Network” and Mayor Pete is Beto 2.0, the freshest face this cycle, then Biden is the uncle you are happiest to see at Thanksgiving, the one with the jokes whose kids actually like him, and whose wife smiles through unclenched teeth. He is also the older relative who grieves over a child who died way too soon, for whom the loss is palpable and still fresh.

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All this would be an unalloyed plus for Biden if the Democrats were getting ready for a family reunion, but that is not the case. Instead, the Democrats are itching to impeach a first term president while counting down to Election Day, even if the odds of impeachment resulting in the removal of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE from office are zero. In the aftermath of the special counsel report and the contorted attempt by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrSunday shows - Spotlight shines on Bloomberg, stop and frisk GOP senator on Trump's Roger Stone tweet: 'Just because you can sing ... doesn't mean you should sing' Short defends Trump's tweets as a 'very effective way' to communicate with Americans MORE at performance art, the job approval rating of the president is again falling, while impeachment support is also declining.

Yet, Democratic hopefuls Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats redefine center as theirs collapses Massachusetts Democrats question deployment of Border Patrol teams to sanctuary cities Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage MORE and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisConway: Trump is 'toying with everybody' by attacking Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk comments The Hill's Campaign Report: New challenges for 2020 Dems in Nevada, South Carolina Beleaguered Biden turns to must-win South Carolina MORE are pushing impeachment from their side in the Senate. Over in the House, firebrand freshmen Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibWill Bernie have to turn on his bros? Rashida Tlaib detained by police during protest against low wages at Detroit airport Trump, like most presidents, takes credit for American workers' effort MORE and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezJulián Castro endorses Rep. Cuellar's primary opponent in Texas Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Intercept Bureau Chief: Culinary Union concerns over "Medicare for All" are faulty MORE are by no means alone. Even as a plurality of independents give impeachment a thumbs down, nearly three-fifths of Democrats approve of starting the process. In other words, Democratic stridency is another potential obstacle for Biden.

Less than a decade ago, Biden played Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE whisperer in the Obama White House for the cunning Kentuckian, and had kind words for his successor Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceShort defends Trump's tweets as a 'very effective way' to communicate with Americans Trump's 'two steps forward, one step backward' strategy with China The state of the Democratic primary: Heading to a brokered convention?   MORE, who like Biden has a son who served in the military. Said differently, Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' Short defends Trump's tweets as a 'very effective way' to communicate with Americans Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE can rule her caucus with her fixed gaze and a near iron fist, but primary voters march to their own beat.

The Democratic primary system is another headache. Under party rules, convention delegates are awarded proportionally, and “winner take all” primaries are barred. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe 'Palmetto Promise': South Carolina will decide the race Alabama Senate contender hits Sessions in new ad: 'Hillary still ain't in jail' Worries grow as moderates split Democratic vote MORE only clinched the nomination in early summer 2016. With the outcome of the Democratic nomination potentially in doubt until convention balloting begins in Milwaukee, passion and cash stand to rule, and Biden may be lacking on both counts. Still, do not count Biden out. Right now, he is sitting atop the Democratic pack nationally, and he is more than a niche player. There is a reason that Biden speaks to firefighters and union members. He likes them and they like him back.

Biden runs well among working class and minority voters, unlike Buttigieg, who generates excitement but whose core supporters are reminiscent of those of Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis, and George McGovern. Those core supporters are largely white voters with a college degree. By the same measure, Biden does not turn off wealthier Democrats and those with a college degree, unlike Sanders. For some Democrats, the term “socialist” is not positive, especially if they live in the shadows of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Back in 2016, Sanders lost the New York primary against Clinton, and it was not just because Clinton owns a home in Chappaqua.

In head to head polling against the president, Biden consistently leads. But if you cannot win the nomination, the case for electability becomes quickly moot. For Biden and the rest of the Democratic candidates, the contours of the primaries will soon emerge. In fact, they already are.

Lloyd Green worked as the opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush presidential campaign and later served in the Justice Department. He is now the managing member of research and analytics firm Ospreylytics.