Joe Biden is defying the naysayers and regaining lost ground in Democratic primary polling. A new Fox News poll shows the former vice president with a commanding lead over his rivals in the form of the support of 33 percent of Democratic voters. His nearest opponent, Bernie Sanders, was a distant second at 15 percent.
The new poll is not an outlier. Other recent polls have also
shown Biden with support in the upper 20s to low 30s. Another new poll by Economist/YouGov showed Biden at 25 percent, Politico/Morning Consult found him at 33 percent, and a Hill/HarrisX poll from last week gave him 29 percent. The Real
Clear Politics average shows Biden trending upward from a low of 26 percent
to his current average of 29 percent. While Biden’s standing is still below his
average from before the first Democratic debate in June, he has unquestionably
reversed his slide in the polls.
The news is not so good for Kamala Harris. The California
senator saw a surge after the June debate and has since dropped off. Harris
rose as high as 14 percent in the polling average before declining to her
current standing at 11 percent.
The news also is not good for Bernie Sanders. The Vermont
senator’s popularity ebbed after Biden entered the race and has since stagnated
at an average of about 15 percent.
In addition to Biden’s resurgence, Elizabeth Warren has been
the other beneficiary of Sanders’ and Harris’ misfortune. In June, the alleged
Native American candidate almost doubled her single-digit share of average
polling support, climbing from a low of seven percent at the beginning to 14 percent.
She and Sanders are currently in a statistical tie for second place, but both
are far behind Joe Biden. No other candidate aside from the top four has more
than five percent support.
Part of Biden’s appeal is likely that he is seen as more moderate
and electable than the other Democrats. Both Fox News and the Economist reported
that, by about a two-to-one margin, Democrats preferred a candidate who was
more like to beat Trump than one who reflected their policy preferences. In
head-to-head polling matchups, Biden averages an eight-point lead over Trump, which would almost certainly be a large enough win to overcome
College edge that Trump might have. Bernie Sanders is favored over Trump by
points, which could lead to an Electoral College tossup, while Harris and Warren have only a two-point edge.
Biden, who was born in Pennsylvania and later became a senator
from Delaware, which is part of the greater Philadelphia media market, would
also have an important advantage in a state that Trump won in 2016 and hopes to
carry again. The blue-collar Trump voters of Pennsylvania would be more likely
to rally around “Blue Collar Joe” than the other Democratic hopefuls. That is
evident from state polling in which Biden leads his nearest contender by more
Under the new
rules for the Democratic primary, superdelegates will not be allowed to
vote on the first ballot and state delegates are awarded to candidates based on
their proportion of votes in the state primary. There are no winner-take-all
states as in the Republican primary. This means that if Biden can maintain
support from a quarter to a third of Democratic voters, he will almost
certainly win the nomination. There are a couple of scenarios that could change
All eyes will be on Biden next week as Democrats take to the
debate stage in Detroit for their second primary debate, another two-night
affair to be held Tuesday and Wednesday. After his lackluster performance in
June and his subsequent drop in the polls, Biden will be under intense pressure
and scrutiny as Democratic voters decide whether he would be able to stand up
to Donald Trump in a general election fight. Another disappointing performance
could send Biden supporters to their second choice candidate.
Another possibility is that the numbers could change as
candidates drop out. The recent Morning Consult poll also asked about second choices. At 30 percent, Biden was the top second
choice of Sanders supporters but he fared worse with Warren and Harris
supporters at 17 percent and 26 percent respectively. If two of his three
top-tier opponents dropped out, Biden could face a strong challenger in a
two-way race. (If that happens and Bernie Sanders ends up being elected
president, just remember that I predicted the possibility way back in August
The Democratic primary campaign is barely underway but, for
now at least, it seems as though Democratic voters are sticking with Joe Biden.
In an election year in which the primary goal is to oust a very unpopular
opponent who won largely because his previous opponent failed to inspire the
blue-collar core of the Democratic Party, Biden appears to be a safe choice.