Never underestimate Joe Biden

Never underestimate Joe Biden
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE is statistically tied for second among New Hampshire Democrats with South Bend Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates MORE of Indiana. Meanwhile, Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersHickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Andrew Yang: News coverage of Trump a 'microcosm' of issues facing country 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 TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE from office are zero. In the aftermath of the special counsel report and the contorted attempt by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFeds charge five in international ID theft ring targeting military members, veterans The road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces Correctional officers subpoenaed in Epstein investigation: report 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 WarrenSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE are pushing impeachment from their side in the Senate. Over in the House, firebrand freshmen Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibMichigan city declines to renew contract with ICE to hold detainees Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Israel should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support MORE and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTlaib says Trump 'scared' of 'Squad' The Memo: Dangers loom for Trump on immigration Students retreating from politics as campuses become progressive playgrounds 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 McConnellDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE whisperer in the Obama White House for the cunning Kentuckian, and had kind words for his successor Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBill Maher says he's 'glad' David Koch is dead Five things to know about David Koch Former sheriff's deputy files lawsuit claiming he was fired for not wanting to be alone with a woman MORE, who like Biden has a son who served in the military. Said differently, Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? Pelosi says Dems 'have to be ready to throw a punch — for the children' in 2020 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 ClintonTrump takes aim at media after 'hereby' ordering US businesses out of China Trump knocks news of CNN hiring ex-FBI official McCabe Taylor Swift says Trump is 'gaslighting the American public' 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.