President Obama is giving Vice President Joseph R. Biden space to make a decision about his own presidential run, but the latest poll numbers have to be encouraging, showing him doing better than Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton in matchups with Republicans.
Mrs. Clinton still leads Mr. Biden in polling among Democrats for the party’s nomination in the latest Quinnipiac University survey, but she is falling back as Mr. Biden and Sen. Bernard Sanders gain on her.
Quinnipiac shows Mr. Biden and Mrs. Clinton topping the big names in the Republican field — businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio — but Mr. Biden’s lead was bigger, by several percentage points, in each case.
“That doesn’t mean he should run, or will, but if you were backing him that would be encouraging,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll.
Mr. Biden said this week that he is considering a run but is talking with his family about the emotional effort it would take. His son Beau died of brain cancer earlier this year, and the vice president told Democratic National Committee members on a phone call this week that his heart is “banged up.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that Mr. Obama is giving Mr. Biden space to decide.
“The decision that anyone makes to run for president of the United States is an intensely personal one,” Mr. Earnest said. “This president understands that. And that’s why we have gone to great lengths to try to give the vice president the time and space that he has earned to make this intensely personal decision.”
Many Democrats have been urging Mr. Biden to run, and that pressure has intensified as Mrs. Clinton’s poll numbers continue to sag.
Mr. Earnest told reporters traveling with the president to New Orleans that the vice president “has earned the right to make this decision on a time frame of his own choosing.”
“It takes some time to build a viable and even successful national campaign,” he said. “The vice president is somebody who’s mounted two national campaigns himself and he’s been on the national ticket twice, so he understands that. But he’ll make those decisions about what pressures he feels as it relates to timing based on his own experience and on his own analysis of the current situation.”
Mrs. Clinton still has a commanding lead for the Democratic nomination, with 45 percent support compared with Mr. Sanders’ 22 percent and Mr. Biden’s 18 percent.
But her support has dipped since a Quinnipiac poll released in late July, her favorability is underwater, and “liar” was the first word that came to mind when voters were asked an open-ended question about her.
Fifty-one percent of voters said she does not care about the needs and problems of “people like you,” compared with 46 percent who said she does.
In matchups in a general election, Mr. Biden led Mr. Trump by 8 points, 48 percent to 40 percent; Mr. Bush by 6 points, 45 percent to 39 percent; and Mr. Rubio by 3 points, 44 percent to 41 percent.
Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Trump by 4 points, 45 percent to 41 percent; Mr. Bush by 2 points, 42 percent to 40 percent; and Mr. Rubio by 1 point, 44 percent to 43 percent.
Mr. Sanders performed better than Mrs. Clinton against Mr. Bush, leading him by 4 points, 43 percent to 39 percent. Mr. Sanders led Mr. Trump by 3 points, 44 percent to 41 percent, and trailed Mr. Rubio by 1 point, 41 percent to 40 percent.