Wednesday, March 06, 2019


In the race to be the Democrats' 2020 presidential nominee, Joe Biden is leading in national polls, leading in Iowa, and leading in New Hampshire -- yet smart people don't think he's really the front-runner. They ascribe his lead to name recognition, and assume he'll be a bad presidential candidate in this race because he's been a bad presidential candidate in his past races. They assume his actions and positions as a senator will sink him.

But what if he really is the front-runner? Here's an alternate scenario. As I'll note below, there's some evidence to back this up:

The evidence comes from a political pro working in South Carolina:

Here's what happens when the focus group of South Carolina black Democratic women is asked about Biden:

Above, NBC's Benjy Sarlin imagines that Biden could win a plurality of "normie" voters while the rest of the field remains split. By "normie," I imagine Sarlin means voters who aren't deeply engaged politics obsessives, i.e., folks who watch MSNBC every evening and log a lot of hours on political Twitter. He may be thinking of older white moderate Rust Belt Democrats -- the voters most identified with Biden.

I think Biden will do well with those voters -- but he's also well liked by these black women from South Carolina. It might be appropriate to think of them as "normies," too, assuming they're not politics junkies or tireless campaign volunteers. (Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party in the South, but it's not clear whether these are regular volunteers or just ordinary voters.)

Barefoot goes on to note that, despite what you might imagine, Biden is soundly beating Kamala Harris among these voters so far:

That may not mean much -- at this stage of the 2008 contest, Hillary Clinton was trouncing Barack Obama among black voters. Allegiances can change. But what this does suggest is that Biden has a deep reservoir of goodwill among these voters.

In 2016, it was difficult to sell GOP voters on the notion that Donald Trump was a bad man because they'd seen him for a decade and a half on The Apprentice and they were comfortable with him. For Democratic voters, Biden's eight years as Obama's VP might be his Apprentice.

I realize that CNN recently had its own six-member focus group that rejected Biden outright. I'm not saying for certain that Biden will retain his lead in the polls.

But he might. We shouldn't write him off as a relic.

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