- - Thursday, April 25, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden made if official. He issued a video announcement and appeared at a pizza parlor and just like that, he was in the 2020 presidential race.

Born less than two weeks after the United States entered World War II, the 76-year-old Biden has lived a full and impressive life. After just two years in local elected office, he was first elected to the U.S. Senate at the age of 29 in a come-from-behind victory against an entrenched Republican incumbent. His track record is one that includes fights for environmental issues and consumer protection. Mr. Biden carved out a track record of standing up for the working man and remains beloved among blue-collar and union workers.

Mr. Biden famously commuted on Amtrak back and forth to his Delaware home while serving in the Senate. As former vice president he remains approachable and likable.

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Polls show him with the enviable position of being the strong front-runner the day he entered the race. Some believe the fact there are now 20 Democrats running for President makes his high name ID even that much more valuable. The latest numbers show Mr. Biden pulling 30 percent among Democrats, followed by Bernie Sanders at 24 percent and the rest of the field far back in the rear view mirror.

When one looks at the early and influential primary/caucus states it looks even stronger for Mr. Biden. His lead over Bernie Sanders and all those other Democrats, well known and unknown, is bigger in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada than the national numbers.

Perhaps most impressive is a Morning Consult poll showing Mr. Biden winning a head-to-head match up with President Trump by 8 points (Mr. Biden 42 percent - Mr. Trump 34 percent). So is that it? Has the Democrat Party found its savior, ready to breeze through the primary season and take back the White House?

Slow down big fella. Let’s put things in perspective.

In 2015 there were 17 Republicans running for president. In June of 2015 an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found Jeb Bush was the clear front-runner with 22 percent of likely GOP voters supporting him. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was next at 17 percent followed by Sen. Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson at 14 percent and 11 percent, respectively. How did that turn out for all of them? That same poll, by the way, put Donald Trump in 11th place at 1 percent.

In May of 2015 several news agencies commissioned polls matching the anointed Democrat, Hillary Clinton, in one-on-one match ups against several Republicans. Eighteen months before Election Day, she beat them all. Sens. Rand Paul, Rubio and Gov. Mike Huckabee offered the tightest races against her. At that time Clinton’s highest margin of victory over any Republican was against Donald Trump. Polls showed her with an 18-point advantage over the billionaire. Of course no one actually thought Mr. Trump had a shot at the nomination anyway.

What about the current Morning Consult poll showing Mr. Biden with the big lead over Mr. Trump? Mr. Biden beats the president by 17 points among women. He has a 22 point advantage with millennials. Mr. Trump is down by 10 among independents.

What do all of these polls mean? In a word, nothing.

That same polling company, Morning Consult, issued their final November 2016 poll immediately before Election Day in that year’s presidential race with the following numbers:

Clinton (Democrat): 45 percent

Trump (Republican): 42 percent

Johnson (Libertarian): 8 percent

Jill Stein (Green): 4 percent

Unlike the Morning Consult poll, Johnson and Stein were not factors. Likewise, Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker’s initial high polling primary numbers crashed and ended up with early departures from the race. When the choice finally came down to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, there was no 18 percent blowout.

The bottom line is that all the handicapping by the pundits and cable news commentators this early in the race may fill up programming hours, but mean absolutely nothing. Early leaders, particularly in crowded fields, go down far more often than they run away from their competitors.

Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Biden is a name most in his party know. That recognition boosts his polling numbers this early in the process, but as 24/7 social media, 24/7 cable news discussions, fundraising and the reality that is modern American politics shakes down the big Democratic field, anything can happen. Polls 18 months before the general election are notoriously unreliable.

Ignore the polls. You can roll four dice and have just as good a chance at figuring out who will ultimately be the Democrat nominee next year. Instead, study the positions of the candidates, look for anyone who offers substance and spend a lot of time at the beach this summer. Check back in on the primary race in about November and you’ll have a much more meaningful glimpse.

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