Joe Biden’s Presidential Strategy

On April 25th, former Vice-President Joe Biden launched his 2020 presidential campaign. On May 18th, Biden gave his first campaign address in Philadelphia (http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1905/18/cnr.05.html), making clear what his strategy will be.  His campaign is not policy based, it is personality based.  Joe has taken the role of the anti-Trump.

Where other Democratic presidential candidates are focussing on policies — improved healthcare, student-loan forgiveness, confronting global climate change, etcetera — and mention Trump in passing, Biden focuses on Trump and mentions policy in passing.  In Philadelphia, Biden said that one of the three reason he’s running for President is “to unite this nation;” adding: “If American people want a president to add to our division, lead with a clenched fist, a closed hand, a hard heart, to demonize your opponent, to spew hatred, they don’t need me. They have got President Donald Trump.”

Biden laid out his three reasons for running:  “The first is to restore the soul of the nation, the essence of who we are… And the second is to rebuild the backbone of this nation. And the third, to unite this nation, one America.”

Biden used this triumvirate to reinforce his credentials:  “I know how to make government work.  Not because I’ve talked or tweeted about it, but because I’ve done it. I’ve worked across the aisle to reach consensus, to help make government work in the past. I can do that again with your help… I’m going to do whatever it takes to make progress on the matters that matter most — civil liberties, civil rights, voting rights, women’s right to choose, national security, personal security, health care, an economy that rewards work, not just wealth, a climate change policy that will save our children and grandchildren and this planet… We need to set the most aggressive goals possible. But folks, we have to work together to get it done.”

It’s not obvious that Biden’s personality-based strategy will garner the Democratic nomination.  An April 22nd, ABC News/Washington Post poll asked registered Democrats (and leaners) this question:  “What’s more important to you — that Democrats nominate the presidential candidate whose positions on the issues come closest to yours, or the candidate who seems most likely to defeat Donald Trump in November 2020?” 47 percent responded that being “closest on the issues” was most important, while 39 percent opted for “most likely to win.”

Here on the left coast, some Democratic activists have dismissed Joe Biden as a lightweight, citing his kickoff as evidence that he lacks policy “cred.”  Nonetheless, at this stage of the presidential campaign, Biden’s likability numbers are daunting.  The most recent Quinnipiac Poll (https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2622 ) indicates that, among the major candidates, only Biden has a positive likability score.

Quinnipiac found: “President Trump begins his reelection campaign in a deep hole as 54 percent of American voters say they ‘definitely’ will not vote for him… Today, 31 percent say they ‘definitely’ will vote for Trump and 12 percent say they will ‘consider voting for him’… American voters give Trump a negative 38 – 57 percent favorability rating.”

With regards to Democratic Presidential contenders, Quinnipiac found: “With a 49 – 39 percent favorability rating, former Vice President Joseph Biden is the only presidential contender, Democrat or Republican, with a clear positive score. Favorability ratings for other Democrats are negative or mixed:

  • 41 – 48 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont;
  • 32 – 41 percent for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts;
  • 27 percent favorable for Sen. Kamala Harris of California, with 30 percent unfavorable;
  • 20 – 32 percent for former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas;
  • 23 – 31 percent for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey;
  • 23 percent favorable for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, to 19 percent unfavorable.”

Towards the end of his Philadelphia speech, Joe Biden talked about climate change: “[Working together] is the only way we’re going to deal with the existential crisis posed by climate change. There’s not much time left. We need a clean energy revolution. We need it now. We have to start now… But folks, we have to work together to get it done. Look, we’re never going to convince the climate deniers or those special interests. But even now, some of those special interests, the traditional polluters, are realizing, gas and oil industry, automobile manufacturing, guess what, they’re saying on television the other day, Mr. President, you have got to do something about global warming… Folks, we need a president who is willing to lead, who insists on dramatic change for the sake of our children… Folks, as long as Donald Trump is in the White House… none of these things… are going to get done. So if you want to know what the first and most important plank in my climate proposal is — beat Trump.” [Emphasis added]

An April 29, Morning Consult poll ( https://morningconsult.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Political-Intelligence-4.29.19.pdf) found that Biden led Senator Bernie Sanders — second in most polls — in all Democratic demographic categories except voters between 18 and 29.  Interestingly, Biden has a strong lead over Sanders among women voters (38 percent to 20 percent) — and carries black women by a margin of 47 percent to 18 percent.   A May 2nd Philip Bump column in The Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/05/02/other-electability-problem-voters-arent-great-determining-electability/?utm_term=.fdc90c278105 )  noted that female Democratic voters are 10 points more likely to support a male candidate than is a male Democratic voter.  Bump speculated that some “middle-aged women” are convinced that the 2016 presidential election proved voters aren’t ready to elect a female President and, therefore, in 2020 are being “strategic.”

Whatever his logic, Joe Biden is running as the anti-Trump.   He’s basing his campaign on his likability.  So far, this strategy is working.