Joe Biden is an official candidate yet, but he was the
target of a series of attacks from women who accused him of unwanted touching last
week. Despite the #MeToo onslaught and the fact that he isn’t officially
running, Biden is still the Democratic frontrunner.
Two new polls show that the former vice president still
maintains a commanding lead over Vermont Democrat-in-name-only Bernie Sanders.
The most recent poll, by The
Hill and HarrisX, was taken on April 5 and 6 after the accusations against
Biden had become public knowledge. Among voters who identify as Democrats, the
Delaware Democrat won the support of 36 percent. Sanders, the second-place
finisher, had 19 percent. No other candidates had more than 10 percent support.
A second poll, by Morning Consult,
was taken over the period from April 1 through 7. As the poll began, the Biden
scandal was just erupting, which may have resulted in some respondents changing
their minds. In this poll, Biden still had the support of 32 percent of
Democrats with Sanders trailing at 23 percent. Again, the two old white men
were the only candidates with support above 10 percent. This was virtually
unchanged from polls taken before the accusations.
Biden’s resilience in the polls may be due to the fact that Biden’s
touchy-feely nature was an open secret. While not discussed by the Democrats of
the #MeToo era until recently, the former vice president’s tendency to get
close to women had been the subject of ridicule from the right for years.
“Everybody knows Joe Biden. None of this is anything new,” Sam
Lieberman, former chairman of the Nevada Democratic Party told Politico.
“I don’t think it’s sexual harassment. I don’t think it’s anything except for
who he is and who he’s been for years.”
Indeed, so far no one has accused Biden of anything more
than creepy and annoying behavior. In contrast with Donald Trump, who was
accused by 23
women of sexual misconduct, none of
Biden’s accusers have accused him of sexual impropriety or illegal behavior.
Despite claims to the contrary, Trump’s accusers have not gone away since the
election. Trump is currently the defendant in at least two lawsuits involving the
mistreatment of women. In one ongoing suit, Summer
Zervos, says that Trump defamed her when he denied her accusation of sexual
harassment. In another lawsuit filed in February, Alva
Johnson, a former Trump campaign staffer, claims that Trump sexually
assaulted her during the 2016 campaign.
At this point, it appears that the Democratic primary is evolving
into a two-man race between Biden and Sanders. The top two candidates likely
benefit from name recognition from their previous campaigns while the other
candidates are all newcomers to the national stage.
It is likely that the other candidates will begin to drop
out as they fail to gain traction and run short of funds. The narrowing of the field
will likely benefit Biden as well. The Morning Consult poll found that Biden
was the preferred second choice of Harris and O’Rourke supporters, who ranked
third and fourth in both polls. Sanders was the second pick of the few Democrats
who support Elizabeth Warren.
After having survived his first scandal, Joe Biden now must come
to a decision on whether to formally enter the race. If he intends to run then
he will need to make a formal announcement and set up an organization to start
collecting donations. It is a virtual certainty that Biden will run.
For Democrats who place a high value on defeating Trump, Biden
is likely to be the candidate of choice. Recent polling has Biden
beating Trump by an average of almost nine points. Sanders
also bests Trump in current polling but by a smaller margin. Biden is a
known quantity while Sanders is likely to be a treasure trove of embarrassing
videos and soundbites.
The attacks on Biden, which have been linked
to the Sanders campaign, so far do not seem to have derailed his chances at
winning the nomination and becoming the Democratic standard-bearer after
several failed attempts. Biden’s standing in the polls may indicate that a
large share of Democrats prefers a more moderate and safer candidate over the radical
leftists that comprise much of the rest of the field.