Never underestimate Joe Biden

Never underestimate Joe Biden
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview Yang cautions Democrats: Impeachment might not be 'successful' Ocasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment MORE is statistically tied for second among New Hampshire Democrats with South Bend Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSenate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' Sanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden seeks to fundraise off fact he's running out of money MORE of Indiana. Meanwhile, Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally 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 TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE from office are zero. In the aftermath of the special counsel report and the contorted attempt by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFederal prosecutors interviewed multiple FBI officials for Russia probe review: report Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe Mulvaney ties withheld Ukraine aid to political probe sought by Trump 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 WarrenTrump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash Ocasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders MORE and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris reacts to supporter who got tattoo of her handwriting Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency Harris campaign releases web video highlighting opposition to death penalty MORE are pushing impeachment from their side in the Senate. Over in the House, firebrand freshmen Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally 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 McConnellWhite House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours The Memo: Trump's sea of troubles deepens McConnell: Trump's troop pull back in Syria a 'grave strategic mistake' MORE whisperer in the Obama White House for the cunning Kentuckian, and had kind words for his successor Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump embarks on Twitter spree amid impeachment inquiry, Syria outrage Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE, who like Biden has a son who served in the military. Said differently, Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash Scrap House defense authorization provision benefitting Russia 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 ClintonJill Stein: 'I am not a Russian spy' Trump criticizes Clinton for suggesting Jill Stein was Russian asset Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' 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.