- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2019

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has yet to declare his presidential intentions, but if he does run, he’s looking at a Trump-like coalition of support within the Democratic Party, with backing from men, the less-educated and older voters.

Mr. Biden would enter the race as the most well-known and most well-liked option, with polls consistently putting the 76-year-old first in the Democratic nomination race.

“There is no question he is the front-runner if he decides to announce,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth Polling Institute, told The Washington Times.

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The Biden buzz picked up last week after Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said she believed her old friend was going to make a third bid for the White House.

Ms. Feinstein confessed that she likely would catch flak for backing him over the female candidates in the field, signaling just how divided Democratic voters are on their potential options.

Democratic strategists say that could complicate things for Mr. Biden, a white man in his 70s, at a time when many in the party want to nominate someone who checks other boxes such as being younger, female or a racial or ethnic minority.

Everyone loves Mr. Biden, but his window for a successful presidential bid may have closed, they say.

The polls so far suggest that’s not a major hurdle.

The latest Monmouth Polling Institute national survey showed him holding a double-digit lead over the pack of contenders. Self-described moderates, the 50-plus crowd, white voters without a college degree, and men are his most fervent supporters.

That’s a serious deviation from the liberal multiracial coalition that powered President Barack Obama — and Mr. Biden, on the same ticket — to victories in 2008 and 2012, then boosted Democrats to a majority in the House in November’s elections.

“Older, white men, working class, ex-union guys still make up a significant, but smaller portion of the Democratic Party, and for the Democratic Party to be a majority party they have to hold this coalition together even as younger voters, and minority voters grow in strength,” Mr. Murray said.”There is no question Joe Biden has a particular appeal to that group of old, labor Democrats.”

Other past candidates have held early national polling leads, only to take a pass at running or to see their campaigns fizzle. Then-Sen. Joe Lieberman was Democrats’ front-runner in 2003, but he failed to win any primaries or caucuses in 2004. Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani was the Republican front-runner in 2007 but failed to win any of the early 2008 states.

Mr. Biden may buck that trend, with polls showing his national support is matched by strong backing in the early primary states.

A UMass Poll released Thursday put the former vice president outpacing the field in New Hampshire, for example.

“With a roster full of fresh, young faces vying to be the Democratic Party’s nominee, New Hampshire’s Democratic primary voters seem more comfortable handing the reins to a seasoned veteran,” said Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science and director of the poll.

The deep reservoir of goodwill for Mr. Biden derives in large part from the eight years he spent as Mr. Obama’s sidekick. He also remains a sympathetic figure, having lost his first wife and 1-year-old daughter in a car crash in 1972 and one of his sons, Beau, to brain cancer in 2015.

Being liked, though, is different than being trusted on the issues, activists say.

He led action on the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act and voted for the Iraq War in 2002 and a bankruptcy reform bill in 2005 — each of them now viewed by liberal activists as a colossal mistake.

Bryce Smith, chairman of the Dallas County Iowa Democrats, said Mr. Biden will have to defend more than four decades of public service that started before four of the declared Democratic candidates were even born.

“Joe Biden has sat at the presidential table,” Mr. Smith said. “He understands that you have an agenda and you have goals and you have ideas, but in all reality you kind of have to be the pragmatic negotiator to get moving towards those goals and ideas, which I think is not a strong point for him in a Democratic primary — especially in this Democratic primary where we see a tremendous amount of pressure to move the party to the left.”

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