Biden widens lead over Sanders, but will he be accepted by the radicals?

A new Morning Consult poll shows former vice president Joe Biden widening his lead over Bernie Sanders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The Hill:

The poll found that Biden leads Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by 8 percentage points with 35 percent of the Democratic primary voters polled supporting him. The 35 percent figure marks a 4 point increase from last week, according to the outlet. Sanders's approval remained unchanged from the week before, according to Morning Consult.

Support for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) dropped 2 percentage points this week to 8 percent support among those who say they may vote in the Democratic primary. She is tied for third in the poll with former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), who announced his presidential bid on Thursday.

Biden maintains an even greater lead among respondents in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.  The former vice president and possible presidential hopeful received support from 39 percent of respondents from those states, an 11 point lead over Sanders, according to the poll.

The results of the poll show the advantages of staying out of the race for as long as possible.  Biden hasn't formally declared his candidacy, although he is expected to make the leap in a matter of days.  As long as he's on the sidelines, he's much less of a target than other declared candidates.

Sanders, Harris, and O'Rourke have all had their problems in the last ten days, while Biden basks in his status as frontrunner.  In truth, he doesn't have to exert much energy.  He's in the enviable position of letting the other candidates criticize each other while he stays above the fray.

That will change soon, but Biden's real problem is the lack of enthusiasm for him on the radical left.  The former vice president has not endorsed Medicaid for all, the Green New Deal, packing the Supreme Court, or slavery reparations.  Those issues are emerging as litmus tests for the various 2020 candidates, who are falling all over themselves in the race to the fringe.

The Hill:

Indeed, many Democrats see Biden as the best hope for reclaiming the Rust Belt.

"I've seen the polling, and it's pretty darn impressive," Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a close Biden friend for nearly 40 years, said in a statement emailed to The Hill.  "Joe runs well among Democrats — traditional Democrats, people on the left, people in the middle, people on the more conservative side.  He is strong with independents.  And there's a surprising number of Republicans who like him, and, as we know, will vote for him."

But the energy is on the left, and Biden's more liberal rivals — including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — are embracing issues that are firing up the progressive base.  It's those voters who will play a big role in picking the Democratic nominee next year.

That dynamic creates a number of difficult decisions for the 76-year-old Biden, who would enter the primary as the front-runner but who also faces a long, hard slog to the nomination.

"It won't be easy," one Democratic strategist said.  "He's going to have to find a way to appeal to a progressive base that just isn't feeling centrist values right now.  They don't want someone who works with Republicans.  They want the exact opposite."

Biden is likely to pay lip service to those issues, acknowledging their importance but stopping short of endorsing them.  It's a high wire act as he tries to balance radical leftists on one side with general election voters on the other. 

Trump, of course, is licking his chops at running against any Democrat, given the high profile their socialist ideas have received.  Most of the radicals, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are doubling down and, rather than moderating their tone, are instead defending their extremist ideas.  It will make it fairly easy to tie Biden to the crazies — especially after a Democratic convention that will remind most Americans of a Communist Party Congress.

If Biden is going to have any chance at all of winning in November 2020, he is going to have to denounce most of those radical ideas as too extreme.  But if he does that, he probably won't get the nomination from Democrats.  How Biden finesses this issue will determine whether or not he gets the nomination and has a chance to beat Trump.

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