Never underestimate Joe Biden

Never underestimate Joe Biden
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump: I'd rather run against Biden Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage Biden: Roe v. Wade 'should be the law' MORE is statistically tied for second among New Hampshire Democrats with South Bend Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegDemocrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Gillibrand leads 'Happy Birthday' to Warren in South Carolina Maher mocks 2020 Democrats, implores Oprah to run: She is only 'sure-thing winner' MORE of Indiana. Meanwhile, Senator Bernie SandersBernie Sanders Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage Sanders: Trump taking credit for easing tensions he helped create 2020 Democrats vow to expand abortion access at Planned Parenthood event 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 TrumpFormer Joint Chiefs chairman: 'The last thing in the world we need right now is a war with Iran' Pence: 'We're not convinced' downing of drone was 'authorized at the highest levels' Trump: Bolton would take on the whole world at one time MORE from office are zero. In the aftermath of the special counsel report and the contorted attempt by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump: 'I think I win the election easier' if Democrats launch impeachment proceedings Darrell Issa eyes return to Congress Martin Sheen, Robert De Niro join star-studded video breaking down Mueller report findings 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 Warren2020 Democrats vow to expand abortion access at Planned Parenthood event Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Gillibrand leads 'Happy Birthday' to Warren in South Carolina MORE and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Trump delays operation to deport migrant families MORE are pushing impeachment from their side in the Senate. Over in the House, firebrand freshmen Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibGOP hopes dim on reclaiming House Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Democrats take aim at Trump policies by passing T spending package MORE and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezMaher: 'Very hard' to win in 2020 if Democrats run on 'reparations and concentration camps' Holocaust remembrance group invites Ocasio-Cortez to tour Auschwitz with survivor Moving into emergency mode on climate change 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 McConnellGOP senators divided over approach to election security Democrats seek to ban federal spending at Trump businesses Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break MORE whisperer in the Obama White House for the cunning Kentuckian, and had kind words for his successor Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence: 'We're not convinced' downing of drone was 'authorized at the highest levels' '100 percent': Trump says Pence will be running mate Pence to postpone speech on China policy ahead of G-20 meeting between Trump, Xi MORE, who like Biden has a son who served in the military. Said differently, Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump says he'd win the election 'easier' if Democrats impeach him Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks Hispanic Caucus seeks to retain voice in House leadership 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: I'd rather run against Biden Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 George Conway says new rape allegation against Trump 'is more credible' than Juanita Broaddrick 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.