Since entering the Democratic race for the White House, former Vice President Joe Biden has struggled to find his footing.
While virtually every poll has Biden leading the pack of nearly two dozen presidential hopefuls, that lead has been declining steadily for weeks as more left-leaning candidates have made in-roads in the race by appealing to the liberal base. As part of that effort, Biden has been under near constant attack from fellow Democrats attempting to paint the infamously gaffe-prone former VP as too old, too out of touch, and worst of all… too moderate.
And so far, that strategy seems to be working. At least for now.
In addition to his poll numbers dropping, we’ve seen Biden have to apologize several times since his late-entry into the fray.
First, he came under fire for his tendency to invade people’s personal space (especially women). And more recently for comments he made about working with segregationists during his early days in the Senate, for which Kamala Harris suggested was laden with racist undertones.
Biden, himself, admitted to being blind-sided by Harris’ attack made during the first Democratic debate, pointing out he served as vice president under Barack Obama, the first African-American president in U.S. history.
But while some in the media have suggested this weakens Biden’s viability as a Presidential contender, there’s an argument to be made that this early onslaught of criticism from the left could actually bolster Biden’s chances in a general election. And it appears that could be what the Biden team is counting on.
As a matter of fact, the former VP himself used that very argument last week in an interview with CNN where he called out freshman Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), whose push for a more socialist agenda has made her a media darling in some political circles, and whose rising profile has influenced the presidential race. Biden noted, “…she won a primary. In the general election fights, who won? Mainstream Democrats.”
It’s no secret that politicians tend to pander to their base voters during primaries, only to drift back toward the center in a general election. But with so many Democrats running, each trying to differentiate themselves from the rest, this cycle has been marked by a dramatic lurch leftward; with almost all the candidates advocating for free healthcare for illegal immigrants – even some pushing to decriminalize sneaking across the southern border. Not to mention student loan debt forgiveness, making college tuition free, and even one underdog candidate, Andrew Yang, proposing to pay all Americans $1,000 per month for life.
All of this would be paid for by tax increases, ostensibly on the wealthy. But the problem with many of these ideas is it antithetical to what most Americans believe. And herein is Joe Biden’s biggest asset.
His carefulness not to get pulled too far left could be rooted more in political experience than personal ineptitude. Rather, it comes down to one simple reality: The United States is not a far-left nation. And once the Democratic primary results in a candidate, he or she will need to move back toward the center to appeal to moderates, independents, and Republicans in a general election race.
With more registered Democrats in the U.S. than Republicans, the GOP has fared pretty well in their pursuit of power. They hold the White House, the Senate, a majority on the Supreme Court, most governorships nationwide, and this week proved an ability to out-fundraise Democrats, even in small donations.
And considering a new Washington Post-ABC poll shows President Donald Trump’s job approval ratings are at an all-time high, it’s making some seasoned Democrats very nervous. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has made efforts at corralling the more liberal members of her caucus back toward the center – all but dismissing Ocasio-Cortez and others like her as not having any real following beyond Twitter, and almost certainly no real power within the House of Representatives.
To this end, Biden is doing OK. For as long as the primary race drags on (and with 20+ candidates, it could be a while) Biden will have to continue walking a fine line. He needs to show he represents liberal values, while not appearing so radical he has no credibility with moderates in the general.
The good news for Biden is the same poll showing Trump’s approval numbers are up have Biden beating the incumbent by the largest margins in theoretical head-to-head matchups. And that is among liberals, moderates, and conservatives.
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