This is more than name recognition: he’s very viable candidate
One reason above all others convinced me in October 2015 that Donald Trump should be taken seriously as a presidential candidate: his performance in the opinion polls. It was easy to write him off as an amateur with a penchant for controversy and self-publicity; someone who would be overtaken by both his own absurdity and by professional politicians come the actual voting in the primaries. Easy but wrong, and the signs were there.
Trump had headed the polls for about three months by that stage: more than long enough to be tested in the spotlight. Lesser candidates who rose to brief prominence faded in the glare: Trump didn’t.
We’re not at anything like the same stage in the 2020 campaign yet but we are far enough in that we should now be taking the polls seriously. Candidates are declaring and campaigns are organizing. We’re past the shadow-boxing and into the real thing.
And yet for all the focus on those declared candidates, the most obvious stat from the polls is that one at the top: Joe Biden leads them. All of them. In the more than two dozen nationwide Democrat primary polls published this year, Biden has headed every single one in which he’s been named. Furthermore, since Sanders declared his candidacy four weeks ago, none but the Vermont senator and the former Vice President have scored more than 11% (Sanders has ranged 14-27; Biden, 24-39).
This is despite the fact that Biden isn’t yet a declared candidate and hasn’t even formed an exploratory committee, whereas the likes of Klobuchar, Warren, Harris and Sanders all have. To me, that says that there’s both a lot of goodwill towards Biden among Democrat voters, and that those same voters are sceptical of other candidates, which is an extremely healthy position for him to be in. Put another way, this is more than name-recognition now.
There are of course reasons for us to exercise caution. Most obviously, he isn’t yet a candidate and might not become one. However, at the very least he is seriously weighing another tilt at the Oval Office, dropping strong hints in recent appearances and signing the sort of people he’d need for a campaign. Biden’s age might be an issue – he’d be the oldest-ever US president on his first day in office – though age didn’t harm Sanders in 2016, nor is it obviously adversely affecting either man this time round. Likewise, while Biden does have a reputation as gaffe-prone – a legacy of previous failed presidential bids – I wonder whether that’s now outdated: he served for eight years with distinction and without embarrassment as Vice President.
There’s a lot of time between now and the Iowa caucus in February next year; plenty enough for one or more to capture the public imagination and emerge from the extremely large field. However, front-runners can and often do win the nominations. The current betting has near four-way co-favourites, with Sanders, Harris, Biden and O’Rourke all available at either 9/2 or 5/1, which makes little sense to me given the strength of Biden’s polling. Sure, he should have a discount because of the possibility that he might not run but it’s a diminishing risk.
I think Biden is getting ready to announce that he’ll run, and that based on his polling and record, will make an extremely strong contender for the nomination and indeed the presidency. 5/1 is definitely value.