Former Vice President Joe Biden officially entered the race for the White House and instantly became the Democratic front-runner. He got a modest bounce in the polls and now leads Sen. Bernie Sanders by a 33% to 16% margin among Democrats. Nobody else is even in double digits.
Biden’s 17-point lead over Sanders is up from the 11-point lead he had before he formally threw his hat in the ring. And the front-runner is now generating far more positive social media chatter than any of his other challengers.
Looking ahead to the general election, the longtime Democrat leads Donald Trump by a 43% to 36% margin in a general election matchup. He is the only Democrat currently leading Trump in the polls.
On top of all that, 48% of voters nationwide have a favorable opinion of Biden, while just 36% offer a negative assessment. It’s rare for such a well-known politician to have such positive numbers.
The only bad news for Biden at the moment is that the election is a very long way off. That reality is highlighted by the fact that his 7-point lead over the president is down from 9 points a month ago and 11 points two months ago. And his current lead certainly isn’t overwhelming in a poll where 21% of voters are not committed to either candidate.
It’s also reasonable to assume that his bounce from formally entering the race will fade fairly quickly. It has for every other candidate. Plus, as the clear front-runner, Biden can expect challenges from all sides in the coming months.
In that regard, he has a very long history in politics for his opponents to dredge up and exploit for their own benefit. Some of Biden’s statements and positions from earlier times do not fit at all with the Democratic Party of the 21st century.
On the personal side, Biden will face a significant challenge winning over a political party that is getting younger and more diverse. Most Democrats (56%) expect their party to nominate someone under 70. Only 27% think the nominee is likely to be a white male.
In many ways, the former vice president’s position is similar to that of Rudy Giuliani in 2007. The former New York City mayor was well known and popular within the party. He led in the polls all year despite being out of sync with his party’s base on key cultural issues. But once the voting began, Giuliani was finished. He dropped out of the race less than a month after the first votes were cast in Iowa.
While it is not the most likely scenario, a Biden collapse is quite possible to envision. If that happens, the Democrats will be likely to nominate someone much further to the left politically.
On the other hand, at this time four years ago, pundits were routinely dismissing Trump’s lead in the polls. Biden could very well follow the Trump trajectory and hang on to his steady lead over a large field of challengers who all start to sound the same to most voters.
In either case, what happens to the Biden campaign will be the defining feature of the Democratic presidential nominating contest. The race is his to lose.