Can Joe Biden beat Donald Trump?

Can Joe Biden beat Donald Trump?
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Unemployment sits under 4 percent and the economy continues to grow, but voters are dissatisfied. Polls show President TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems MORE down by double digits against former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Panel: Jill Biden's campaign message MORE. As for other Democratic contenders Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Sanders, the numbers reflect a foot race. For the moment, Quinnipiac University and Morning Consult polls signal that Biden winning in 2020 is now a plausible possibility.

Beyond the obvious, Trump has reason to worry. If Biden is elected, Trump would become the Republican counterpart to Jimmy Carter, a one and done president who was shown the door after his party held the reins of power for just a single term. Beyond that, if Trump is out of office after the election next year, he may yet feel the sting of criminal indictment. That is certainly not the way most folks envision spending their golden years.

However, let us not get too far ahead of things. Instead, let us look at the numbers, which do not augur well for the incumbent in a matchup against Biden, a son of the rustbelt and a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. Biden leads Trump by comfortable margins in Pennsylvania and Michigan, two states that Trump won in 2016, but that last went Republican in 1988.

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If those were the only two states to flip in 2020, neither candidate would possess a majority of electoral votes, and Trump would likely be reelected as the result of the presidential race being thrown over to the House of Representatives to decide. Trump and his minions could take solace in a second term and “owning the libs” as they see it. Beyond that, our national fissures would become deeper and more acrimonious.

But that is not where the story ends, at least at this moment. Polls also show Biden leading in Texas by 4 points and in North Carolina by more than 10 points, and that is a very big deal. The Lone Star State last went Democratic when Carter squared off against Gerald Ford in 1976. As for the Tar Heel State, it too cast its lot with Carter back then, and it also lined up for Barack Obama in 2008. In other words, Biden has reason to smile.

Still, he should not bask in glory too much or too soon. First, Biden faces the challenge of emerging as the Democratic nominee, and from the looks of things that outcome is far from a foregone conclusion. Biden leads the field nationally, as well as in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which will host the first four nominating contests. Biden also appears to be at the top in Massachusetts, home to Elizabeth Warren. No matter what any Biden rival may say publicly, those are impressive stats.

But early polls are no guarantee of ultimate success. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was the early favorite, until she was not. That same cycle, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, went from the Republican front runner to one of the first candidates to exit the race. In 2016, there was the tale of woe told by Jeb Bush. Inevitability is fickle and fleeting.

Beyond that stand, there are the numerous Democratic Party rules and constituencies. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats bar “winner take all” primaries. Instead, delegates are awarded proportionally. Practically speaking, that opens the door to an elongated nominating season and to the possibility that the nomination will be decided until the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee next year. This leaves plenty of time for acrimony, demands, and grudges to accumulate and fester in the ranks.

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Finally, there are the Democrats themselves. Who they choose as their standard bearer will be linked by one degree or another to their policy preferences and demographics. How important is Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and abortion to primary voters? How crucial is age to a party that nominated John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama?

Then there are the debates. Bluntly, will Biden wilt under the heat of the stage lights or shrink in the face of likely attacks? Or will he dominate his competitors the way he schooled Paul Ryan in 2012? The bottom line is that Trump should not take anything for granted. He is loathed by many. As for Biden, it is too early to gloat. A lot can happen before next fall.

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.