Biden Continues To Expand His Lead In 2020 Democratic Primary

Another post-announcement poll brings good news for the former Vice-President, but there's a long way to go.

There’s more good news for Joe Biden in the most recent national poll of the 2020 Democratic Presidential primary field, and it comes at the expense of his opponents, who continue to fall behind a surging but young Biden campaign:

Joe Biden holds a 30-point lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic presidential field, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill, further signaling that the former vice president is cementing his place as the primary contest’s front-runner.

Forty-four percent of Democratic voters surveyed said they are most likely to vote for Biden in the 2020 Democratic primaries. Sanders comes in second place at 14 percent, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) places third with just 9 percent, the poll found.

The survey results show a surge for Biden since he launched his presidential campaign last week. A Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey from March pegged his support in the primary field at 35 percent, though at the time he hadn’t yet entered the race.

The poll results are largely in line with other surveys conducted in recent days that show Biden widening his lead in the sprawling Democratic primary field.

“The Biden surge is significant and greater than expected,” Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, said. “His launch was super successful and he has opened up a significant lead.”

Among respondents, 5 percent said they would most likely vote for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), while South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, was picked by 4 percent. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) tied for sixth place at 3 percent. 

When it comes to who voters think has the best chance of beating President Trump in the 2020 general election, Biden still has a significant lead, with 40 percent of respondents saying as such. Sanders comes in after the former vice president at 13 percent.

But according to the poll, voters are looking for more than just someone who can defeat Trump. Thirty percent said it was more important to nominate a candidate who shares their positions on the issues, while 26 percent said that the ability to beat Trump was a more important quality in the eventual Democratic nominee.

This poll caps off a first week of relatively good news for the former Vice-President that seems to solidify his status as the front-runner in the race for his party’s nomination. First, we learned that Biden had managed to raise more than $6 million in his first full day of fundraising, a number nearly equal to what many candidates had raised in the entire first quarter of 2019. Second, the first round of polling after Biden’s announcement showed that he was moving upward in the polling, leaving most of the rest of the field behind. This suggested that, at least at the start, the former Vice-President is facing much better conditions than he did in 1988 and 2008.

These numbers are reflected in the latest update to the RealClearPolitics polling average, which shows Biden pulling ahead of the field significantly. In that average, Biden stands atop the field with a 36.8% average and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sits in second place at 16.4%. These are the only two candidates averaging in the double digits. In third place in the average is Elizabeth Warren at 8.0%, followed by Kamala Harris at 7.4%, Pete Buttigieg 7.0%, and Beto O’Rourke at 4.6%. After that, we’ve got Cory Booker at 2.4%, with all of the other candidates averaging below 2.0%. As this chart shows, Biden is the only candidate who has seen his numbers rise recently, while Sanders and others have seen their numbers drop significantly and the rest of the field remains mired at the bottom:

It’s not unusual for candidates to get a favorable bump in their poll number after they formally enter a race, of course, so to that extent what’s happening here isn’t surprising. Additionally, it is very early in the 2020 race, obviously. The Iowa Caucuses are eight months away and debates don’t even begin until the late summer. Given that, these polls are of limited value at best and mostly reflect name recognition on the part of voters, many of whom could change their mind several times before this race is over.

At the same time, though, Biden’s post-announcement bump is better than any other candidate has gotten so far in the race and this is a fairly significant gain. Additionally, these numbers appear to be the best that the former Vice-President has done in any poll for his party’s nomination. His 1988 campaign, for example, ended far too quickly for him to make much of an impact and in 2008 he was far behind Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards before finally dropping out of the race shortly after the Iowa Caucuses.

The question going forward for Biden, of course, is whether he can sustain numbers like this or whether they will fade as the race goes on. To be certain, it is unlikely that he’ll be able to maintain this momentum throughout the race and there will be moments in the future when he will be more seriously challenged for the front-runner spot whether it’s by Bernie Sanders or some other candidate. Additionally, Biden’s own penchant for gaffes could end up manifesting itself at some point in the future. For the moment, though, these numbers show that Biden’s campaign rollout has been successful and that’s going to help going forward.

FILED UNDER: Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020, Joe Biden, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Pearce says:

    Additionally, Biden’s own penchant for gaffes could end up manifesting itself at some point in the future.

    Speaking only for myself….I can’t imagine a Biden gaffe big enough to make me forget the stakes.

    I also don’t think there’s any reason to think his poll numbers will fade. They’ll wax and wane and no doubt plateau, but why would they fade? He has 22 challengers now and the latest Harvard-Harris poll has him at +30. Who can touch him?

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  2. Modulo Myself says:

    I’m really curious about how Biden is going to respond to his campaign’s utter cynicism. I’m a big boy and I can handle voting for someone who is offering some kitsch fantasy about Trump being an aberration. But Biden is basically Hillary Clinton for men who couldn’t vote for a much more talented woman. That’s who he is. The bullshit is that obvious. Nobody is going to forget that Trump was elected or supported by goose-stepping Republicans who hate women and find rape funny. We’re not going back to the world before Trump. Biden seems to be offering this fantasy and I’m going to say that nobody who is behind him believes that in any consequential way. It’s incredibly cynical and I’m guessing that’s catnip for older Democrats who have no other ideas about what to do.

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  3. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: The 22 will drop to some more more manageable number before voting starts. The Hickenlooper-or-bust folks will get over themselves, and move to another candidate, Booker will either find his magic or go away, etc.

    The race looks like it’s Biden’s to lose, but if anyone can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Biden can.

    And we haven’t really seen him on the campaign trail this year. He has put out a few videos, which seems distant and patrician. He’s roughly a billion years old, and may lack vigor and look and act unelectably old (four years ago, he still had vigor, but it can vanish overnight at his age…)

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  4. Tony W says:

    Trump has turned me into a single-issue voter – removing Trump from office is job #1, if it’s Biden who can do it, fine. If it’s Pee Wee Herman, I’m good with that too.

  5. Gustopher says:

    @Modulo Myself: I don’t know whether America wants a bold new direction, or just a chance to catch to catch her breath after four years of Trump. Biden is the latter — not cynically the latter, more hopefully the latter.

    Perhaps naively hopefully the latter.

    I hope the Democratic primary electorate will be in the same spot as America with regards to bold new vision and a breather. I’d prefer a bold new vision, but I may be out of step. I don’t think we can put the explosive diarrhea of the Republican Party back into the assholes that spewed it, and that a Biden presidency is going to struggle with returning to a pre-Trump status quo.

    But Biden is basically Hillary Clinton for men who couldn’t vote for a much more talented woman. That’s who he is. The bullshit is that obvious

    Whatever talents Clinton has, they aren’t demonstrated on the campaign trail. The number one job of the nominee is to get elected, and she did a piss poor job of that. Remember Wisconsin, and all that.

    Ahem.

    Biden represents safety. A desire to return to normalcy. Nothing more at this point. His current lead has nothing to do with Clinton, and everything to do with Trump.

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  6. James Pearce says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    But Biden is basically Hillary Clinton for men who couldn’t vote for a much more talented woman.

    Ah, yes, everyone remembers Vice President Clinton so fondly…

    Of all the candidates, women support Joe Biden most of all.

    @Gustopher:

    And we haven’t really seen him on the campaign trail this year.

    Honestly, is this a real concern though? He’s the former vice president. We don’t have to introduce him to the constituents or explain how to say his name phonetically. He’s a known quantity and that’s why people are flocking to him.

    As you say, he represents safety and a return to normalcy.

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  7. An Interested Party says:

    I’m really curious about how Biden is going to respond to his campaign’s utter cynicism.

    That cynicism won’t ever match the cynicism of the Trump campaign…

    He’s roughly a billion years old, and may lack vigor and look and act unelectably old (four years ago, he still had vigor, but it can vanish overnight at his age…)…

    Once again, compared to the current chunky flabby old guy in the White House…

    Trump has turned me into a single-issue voter – removing Trump from office is job #1, if it’s Biden who can do it, fine. If it’s Pee Wee Herman, I’m good with that too.

    Bingo! The most important issue of this election…

  8. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    Honestly, is this a real concern though? He’s the former vice president. We don’t have to introduce him to the constituents or explain how to say his name phonetically. He’s a known quantity and that’s why people are flocking to him.

    Who he was 4 years ago is a known quantity. He’s gone from 72 to 76 in those 4 years, and a lot can happen in 4 years at that age. An appearance of frailty would doom him, likely in the primary.

    We all remember the Biden-Ryan debate from 2012, where we were just waiting for Biden to tear out the little punk twerp’s throat with his unnaturally white teeth, but I don’t think he has that level of vitality anymore.

  9. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher:

    Whatever talents Clinton has, they aren’t demonstrated on the campaign trail. The number one job of the nominee is to get elected, and she did a piss poor job of that.

    But that’s with the benefit of hindsight. At the time she began running many people felt she was a strong candidate–or at the very least a safe one. (Not me–I sensed she’d make a weak presidential candidate from as early as 2000 when I watched her convention speech. It’s one of the main reasons why I didn’t support her in 2008.) People seem to forget that in the 2012-14 period her favorability ratings were astronomically high. Indeed, she was vastly more popular than both Obama and Biden, and I remember seeing pieces arguing that Obama should replace Biden with her for 2012, or that Obama himself should retire and have her run in his place. Grass is always greener.

    Now, in fairness, Biden is a lot more popular now than Hillary was four years ago; she had already started to enter free-fall by mid-2015. Even if his ratings decline from here on out, as I fully expect them to, he may never become toxic to the degree that she did. But he doesn’t need to in order to lose. For one thing, the situations are different: she was facing a wildly unconventional candidate who had never held office; Biden is facing an incumbent presiding over a strong economy. For another, it’s easy to predict how the Republicans (with the aid of the Russians) will attack Biden: they’ll depict him as a doddering, laughable old fool. It’s a fundamentally different image from the “crooked, shrill harpy” they tried to pin on Clinton, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be equally effective–or at least effective enough.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: There were great big gobs of people who “forgot the stakes” in 2016 and, your resolve notwithstanding, I see no particular reason that such forgetfulness cannot strike next election, too.

    On the other hand, if no one “forgets the stakes” in 2020, how will you be able to school the Democrats about how they’re doing it all wrong? Tough choices. A true dilemma.

  11. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: Clinton was an awesome candidate in her first Senate campaign, when she was afraid of losing.

    I think she hated it, though. She had to be open and vulnerable, and respond to questions from common folk like “your husband is a scumbag, why stay with him?” (Answer: “because I love him” — a fantastic answer), “why are you in our state?” (Answer: “It’s a compromise between Arkansas and Chicago, and I think I can do a lot of good here, but ultimately that’s up to you whether it is as your Senator”). But she hated it.

    And, she probably shouldn’t have run for President if she hated that. Or swallowed her hatred of it, and run that way, even when she thought it was an easy win.

    Remember Bill Clinton’s speech at the 2016 convention? It made a point about her desire to serve and help people who were less fortunate than her, and that this is why he fell in love with her. She was afraid/uncomfortable/unwilling to show that side herself in the campaign.

    I don’t like Bill Clinton, but my opinion of him rose after that speech.

    Anyway, she was a piss poor candidate for the Presidency.

  12. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher:

    He’s gone from 72 to 76 in those 4 years, and a lot can happen in 4 years at that age.

    If Biden is the nominee, his age will not be an issue in the general election. Trump is only a few years younger than him.

    I don’t think Biden’s suffering from dementia, but there’s no way for me to really know.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    On the other hand, if no one “forgets the stakes” in 2020, how will you be able to school the Democrats about how they’re doing it all wrong?

    That will be someone else’s job at that point and I’m sure you’ll be just as kind and understanding to them as you’ve been to me.