Never underestimate Joe Biden

Never underestimate Joe Biden
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Trump executive order is 'a reckless war on Social Security' Trump got into testy exchange with top GOP donor Adelson: report Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections MORE is statistically tied for second among New Hampshire Democrats with South Bend Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan dies How Republicans can embrace environmentalism and win MORE of Indiana. Meanwhile, Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election Warren urges investment in child care workers amid pandemic 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 TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE from office are zero. In the aftermath of the special counsel report and the contorted attempt by Attorney General William BarrBill BarrGOP lawmaker calls for Justice Dept. to probe international court Barr pulls over to thank pro-police rally in Virginia Trump: Yates either lying or grossly incompetent 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 WarrenBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down Democratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports MORE and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down MORE are pushing impeachment from their side in the Senate. Over in the House, firebrand freshmen Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibEthics Committee orders Tlaib to refund campaign ,800 for salary payments HuffPost reporter discusses progressives' successful showing on Tuesday Minneapolis Star Tribune endorses Ilhan Omar's primary challenger MORE and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports Ethics Committee orders Tlaib to refund campaign ,800 for salary payments Hispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants 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 signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE whisperer in the Obama White House for the cunning Kentuckian, and had kind words for his successor Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Students at school system Pence called 'forefront' of reopening now in quarantine Presidential debates demonstrate who has what it takes MORE, who like Biden has a son who served in the military. Said differently, Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief 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 ClintonBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Hillary Clinton touts student suspended over crowded hallway photo: 'John Lewis would be proud' 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.