Many conservative observers predicted that Joe Biden would
be a flash in the pan. Several prominent pundits said that Biden’s first day on
the campaign trail would be his best, followed by a quick downhill slide as the
radical leftist Democrats tossed the old white moderate aside for younger, more
progressive candidates without 50 years of baggage. Those predictions were
wrong. Not one but two new polls show Biden surging ahead of his closest
On Saturday, a Harvard-Harris
poll found that Biden had the support of the 34 percent of Democrats while
another poll released on Monday by Hill-HarrisX gave Biden 46 percent support. While there is a considerable difference in
Biden’s support in the two polls, both are well above his pre-announcement support
levels which were typically in the high 20s to low 30s.
Another three polls released on April 30, five days after
Biden’s formal campaign announcement, also showed that Biden received a boost
after rolling out his official presidential campaign. CNN found Biden with 39 percent support, Quinnipiac had him at 38 percent, and Morning Consult showed 36 percent.
While the exact amount of support that Joe Biden commands is
uncertain, it is a certainty that he has gained since announcing his candidacy
despite accusations of improper touching and complaints
from Democratic activists that he is not progressive enough. Biden seems to
have tapped into a heretofore ignored moderate demographic within the
Equally certain is that Biden’s gains have been at the expense of Bernie Sanders. The two most recent polls show Sanders at 14 percent, down from an average of about 20 percent in pre-announcement polling. At this point, it appears that Sanders was the second choice of a segment of voters who preferred Biden but were waiting on him to enter the race.
The polling indicating that Biden’s lead is solidifying has
several possible explanations. The most obvious is that there are more moderate
Democrats than has been generally assumed. Biden’s core support has typically
been among blue-collar union Democrats, a niche to which no other Democratic
candidate has appealed. This moderate Democrat demographic may be bolstered by
Trump Democrats returning after crossing the aisle in 2016 and disaffected
Republican moderates who are planning to vote against Trump Republicans as they
did in 2018. A second possibility is that Democrats are choosing to forgo ideological
purity for the candidate best positioned to defeat Donald Trump. Finally, as I
have suggested in the past, the large number of leftist candidates may be
splitting the radical Democrat vote and leaving Biden with a plurality. This
scenario is similar to how Donald Trump won the 2016 Republican primary.
Being the frontrunner more than six months before the first
primary doesn’t guarantee that Joe Biden will be Democratic nominee, but the former
vice president remains the candidate to beat, just as he has since the earliest
Democratic primary polling. With Sanders already fading and no other serious
challengers in sight, the Democratic primary may be a foregone conclusion before
the first votes are cast.