The Democratic primary race has changed, and it has indeed changed fundamentally. Though it has been less than a month since former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE announced his candidacy, he has emerged as the clear frontrunner in a crowded field, which expanded to 22 candidates after the announcement of Montana Governor Steve BullockSteve BullockDark money group spent 0M on voter turnout in 2020 In Montana, a knock-down redistricting fight over a single line 65 former governors, mayors back bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE this week.
Most candidates are struggling to break out and distinguish themselves, and all but a few have yet to break 6 percent or 7 percent in any poll since Biden officially entered the race. The latest poll by The Hill and HarrisX has Biden capturing 46 percent of the Democratic primary vote, followed by Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP ramps up attacks on SALT deduction provision Symone Sanders to leave the White House at the end of the year Briahna Joy Gray says Chris Cuomo will return to CNN following scandal MORE with 14 percent. Trailing Sanders is South Bend Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron Pressed on 2024, Buttigieg says 'we are squarely focused on the job at hand' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud MORE with 8 percent, and then Senator Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE with 7 percent, followed by fellow Senator Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisPolitics must accept the reality of multiracial America and disavow racial backlash Symone Sanders to leave the White House at the end of the year Bidens to attend Kennedy Center Honors following Trumps' absence MORE with 6 percent.
Biden also maintains this substantial lead in key states with early primaries that are crucial to winning the party nomination. According to the latest poll by the Post and Courier and Change Research, Biden holds a lead of 31 points over the rest of the Democratic primary field in South Carolina, the third state to hold its primary in 2020. Sanders trails Biden in a distant second place, garnering 15 percent, compared to Biden with 46 percent. According to a poll by Monmouth University of Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, Biden leads the crowded field by a margin of 18 points with 36 percent support, followed by Sanders with 18 percent support.
Indeed, it is clear many Democrats are prioritizing experience and electability, and looking to someone who they believe can beat Donald Trump. While the high national name recognition of Biden may in part explain his substantial lead in the polls, his lead is so considerable at nearly double that of Sanders, who is polling in a distant second place, that his message of experience, electability, and an ability to take on President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE is capturing the attention of the party in this cycle.
A recent poll by Quinnipiac University asking Democratic voters about electability is illustrative of this, as 35 percent of respondents said Biden has the best chance to beat Trump in the general election. In second place was Sanders at 17 percent. In a Democratic field populated mostly by progressive candidates, many of whom champion policies such as “Medicare for All,” Biden is notably one of the more moderate candidates, which is particularly appealing to voters in Midwest and Rust Belt states that Trump won in 2016 and that Democrats will need to win in 2020.
I have written before that, while the liberal left wing of the party forms a more cohesive coalition than moderates or conservatives do, they nearly comprise the same percentage of Democratic voters. In a poll by Gallup earlier this year, 47 percent of Democrats either identify as moderate or conservative, versus 51 percent of Democrats who identify as liberal.
Of course, this is not to say that liberal members of the party would not be interested in nominating a more moderate candidate to give the party the best chance to beat Trump in 2020. This assumption rings especially true when considering that Biden is leading in most primary polls by upwards of 25 points or more. Additionally, according to the most recent national polls, Biden has a clear lead over Trump. The latest poll by CNN shows Biden ahead by 6 points, and the latest poll by Politico and Morning Consult shows an advantage of 8 points for the former vice president.
Put simply, Biden can win both the Democratic nomination and the White House in the election next year. Despite the concerns surrounding his candidacy and the perils of a long political track record, he is likely the only candidate in the field right now who would be able to beat Trump, and it is clear many Democratic voters recognize that. As the primaries unfold, one can hope that voters will, as much as possible, side step the noise and confusion that are inevitable in a primary with 22 candidates.
Let me be clear, I am not against the primary process, nor am I here to endorse Biden or any other candidate for the moment. Candidates must speak out, and we should have debates over key issues such as health care and climate change. However, if the result of that process is that Biden garners the clear vote of Democrats, we should as a party unite around him in a way that gives us a maximum chance to beat Trump, who is now weakened by the trade war he has created and fueled with China, as well as by potential conflicts with Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.
Ultimately, Biden running for president offers voters a break from the noise, the turmoil, and the legislative stagnation of the Trump years. For the moment, that is a pretty convincing message for the electorate.
Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”