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Joe Biden has bolted to a large lead in polls of the Democratic presidential race.

A supposedly wide-open race thus resembles a certain conventionality, with the most recent Democratic vice president surging as the obvious heir apparent, which would be run of the mill.

Biden surges largely because of African American support vital to almost any Democratic nomination, along with the establishment theory that he is the best bet to defeat Donald Trump and the fact that no one else other than Bernie Sanders, who may have a low niche ceiling, is much stepping up.

And, as The New York Times reported over the weekend, Biden has so far relieved his aides by not committing a gaffe through his never-met-a-stranger gabbiness.

Biden gaffe? Go to and search those two words. You'll get more than 400 results. That's not to say Biden has committed more than 400 gaffes, though he might've. It's to say Politico, a relatively young news organization covering only a recent portion of Biden's long career, has used that phrase close to his name more than 400 times.

The closest to a gaffe that Biden seems to have come in his latest and young formal candidacy was when he said China was led by fine people and was no economic competition to the United States.

He took it back two days later, saying he hadn't meant China was no economic competition to us when he said China was no economic competition to us.

We will hear more about that--clearly--in a general election if Biden gets to it. His son, Hunter, already is the subject of negative right-wing media coverage of business dealings in China and Ukraine--about which, indeed, more needs to become known.

My nomination for the most serious recent Biden gaffe came last year, well before he was an announced candidate, when he dismissed millennials' concerns, saying, "The younger generation now tells me how tough things are--give me a break. No, no. I have no empathy for it. Give me a break. Because here's the deal, guys. We decided we were gonna change the world, and we did. We did. We finished the civil rights movement in the first stage. The women's movement came to be."

Today's millennials--or many of them, anyway--surely are unimpressed with Biden's generational chauvinism that dismisses the student debt they're carrying that rivals many of his generation's home mortgages. They might wonder why his generation so abused the planet that their very existence is threatened. They might wonder why his generation started pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that they fought.

Perhaps that is why, in all Democratic polls to date, Biden leads all groups except whites 34 years of age and younger. What may save him is that Sanders gets a plurality of those but is sharing them with Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, mainly.

Biden leads a national average of polling with 41 points, lapping Sanders at 14, Warren at 8, Kamala Harris at 7 and Buttigieg at 6. His leads are more precarious in Iowa and New Hampshire--23-17 over Sanders in Iowa and 28-15, again over Sanders, in New Hampshire. But those are states famously devoid of black voters, who otherwise dominate Democratic presidential primaries.

Look, then, to South Carolina, the third big primary, where two-thirds of the Democratic voters are African American, and which is probably Biden's firewall. He leads a new poll 46-15 over Sanders, with Harris, Warren and Buttigieg limping at 10 and under.

Walter Mondale beat Gary Hart for the Democratic nomination because of the black vote, which offset high-end white liberal support for Hart. Bill Clinton beat Paul Tsongas because of black support. Al Gore over Bill Bradley--ditto. Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton--ditto.

The only exception was Michael Dukakis, whose white liberal support outpolled Jesse Jackson's black vote in 1988. That merely demonstrated that the black vote alone can't dictate a nomination. It can only decide one if supplemental to some measure of white support.

So we have a front-runner, as clearly as Mondale was, and Dukakis, and Bill Clinton, and Gore, and Obama, and Hillary Clinton in 2016 over Sanders.

We should keep ears open whenever Biden is speaking and eyes open should Warren, Harris or Buttigieg begin to break from the pack and take support from Sanders.

Otherwise, and as yet, 2020 doesn't look much different than any other Democratic nomination cycle.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Web only on 05/15/2019

Print Headline: Uncle Joe by a mile


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Archived Comments

  • mozarky2
    May 15, 2019 at 5:45 a.m.

    Let's start with today's Morning Consult polling:
    Gropin' Joe is at 39%
    Former Secret Service agents say Biden was guilty of "Weinstein level" groping of female agents.
    Berniezuela Sandernista at 19%
    Typical enviroweenie-owns several houses in the woods, but doesn't want you to own one. He's also a millionaire, but he doesn't want you to be one.
    Heap Big Squaw Gray Beaver and Willie Brown's side piece are tied at 8%
    Y'know, Warren claims "white privilege" is a thing, so why did she claim to be an Indian?!?!?
    As to Harris, most women resent women who slept their way to the top, often over the backs of more qualified women.
    Alfred E. Buttigieg at 6%
    President Trump has very effectively Alinsky'ed Mayor Pete!
    Beta at 5%
    Geez, what a doofus! No surprise that progs found him, initially, anyway Kennedyesque! What a laugh!
    Spartacus at 3%
    His unhinged performance at the Kavanaugh hearings should sink his entire political career.
    Francine Hart at 2%
    Nobody likes a martinet.
    Castro, Gillibrand, Gabbard, Inslee, and Yang are all at 1%.
    The rest of the "contenders" can't even reach that threshold.

  • RBear
    May 15, 2019 at 6:55 a.m.

    And we see the Brummett troll come in with complete gibberish. The stupidity of the right on full display.
    As far as Biden's lead, I chalk it up to the first month of a candidacy. The strong lead is something to contend with, but I don't think the Democratic voter is anything like it was in 2016 when the party anointed Clinton with the nomination. I think this is a "fool me once, fool me twice" situation where many of the younger voters who are now 4 years older are looking for something more substantial in a nomination.
    Of course, when the right starts mangling your names and acting like juveniles you know you must be doing something right since they can't seem to come up with any substance to the attack. Trump and his hard right minions like Frank just don't have any real concept of issues. I mean, many of them are the same ones who, when polled about whether Arabic numbers should be taught in school, opposed it by large margins. Frank are you opposed to the indoctrination of Arabic numbers in our schools as opposed to Roman numerals?

    May 15, 2019 at 7:04 a.m.

    Despite most of the primary field and the newbies in Congress being hard left, the Dem 'leadership' knows that most Americans don't want to live in a socialist/communist country.
    They see Venezuela in TV most days. Many remember the Soviet Union (younger voters probably have little idea since the left controls the history textbook 'revisions' that remove any unpleasant facts). Some will hold their noses and vote for a socialist, but most will consider their paychecks and not vote to have them sucked dry to support "free" stuff for the lazy.
    So, Joe fits the bill. An old, white guy who excels in groping and gaffs. But, he doesn't represent the hard left that the DNC wants to avoid (for now).

  • PopMom
    May 15, 2019 at 7:51 a.m.

    While the right wingers and the left wingers both have tried to portray the Democratic Party as far to the left, there is a strong core of moderates who just want to beat Trump. Much of Biden's support comes from the practical reality that Biden would win Pennsylvania and probably Florida. Yes, Biden is old, but many of us feel that he is more "one of us". For one, he had a son who served in the military. Biden also commuted to the Senate by Amtrak train and still lives in Delaware. He and his wife are just more down to earth and likable. The right wing is having fits and trying to throw all the dirt that they can at Biden, but it just ain't sticking. Some of the left is attacking him as well, and it ain't working. Even if some gaffe due to age brings him down, the beneficiaries are likely to be either Amy Klobuchar, the girl from next door in Minnesota even if she is a hard boss, or the still unknown Steve Bulloch from Montana, the popular Democratic governor from a red state. While the far left is calling for socialism, wiser Democrats know that it is the utmost priority to remove the traitorous Trump. Trump, the Hitler/Putin wannabe, had the anti-semitic and white supremacist leader of Hungary to the White House yesterday and was singing his praises.

  • mozarky2
    May 15, 2019 at 7:51 a.m.

    Yes, I've known Arabic numerals longer than you have, RB. I'm smarter than you, I'm happier than you, I'm more successful than you, and I'm far better attuned to the issues than you.
    And, how well I recall your outrage over some of the names President Trump has been called on this forum, RB.
    You're a humorless, self-hating person, and you're only happy when you're miserable, RB. Get something done about that uncontrolled rage of yours.

  • mozarky2
    May 15, 2019 at 7:57 a.m.

    Klobuchar is polling at 1%, PM...
    And I wouldn't be talking about anti-Semitism when your entire U.S. House delegation is demonstrably anti-Semitic.
    And what does it say about you that you proudly dined at the Red Hen, which is run by an entire staff of bigots?
    Look in the mirror, and if you don't at least see a bigot, you can't miss the hypocrite looking back at you.

  • mozarky2
    May 15, 2019 at 8:04 a.m.

    Just released by Emerson College:
    A new Emerson National Poll finds former Vice President Joe Biden with a bump from his official entrance into the race, taking back the lead over Senator Bernie Sanders. The poll finds Biden with 33% and Sanders with 25%. The April Emerson Poll had Sanders ahead of Biden 29% to 24% making this a 13 point swing in favor of the former Vice President. Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Elizabeth Warren are tied for 3rd with each getting 10% of the vote, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg rounds out the top 5 with 8%. No other candidate in the field clears 3% (n=429, +/-4.7%, MM, May 10-13, 2019).
    A majority of Democratic primary voters, 56%, indicate there is a chance they could change their mind and vote for another candidate, whereas 44% say they will definitely vote for the candidate they are currently supporting. Spencer Kimball, Director of Emerson Polling notes that “Biden and Sanders have more loyal supporters, as 52% and 54% of their voters say they will definitely vote for the top two candidates, while only 33% of Harris voters, 27% of Buttigieg and 20% of Warren voters plan to definitely stick with their preferred candidate.”
    A strength for Sanders throughout this early stage of the nominating process has been the support of younger voters. Sanders currently leads Biden among 18-29 year old voters, by an impressive 41% to 11%. However, Sanders’ support weakens with age: 30-49 year olds only break for Sanders 29% to 26%, as compared to 50-64 year olds who break for Biden 42% to 19%. Among those over 65, Biden has a strong lead, beating Sanders 52% to 7%.
    Within the Republican Party, the President remains very popular, and very likely to hold the Republican nomination, leading Republican primary candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld 86% to 14% (n=384, +/-5%, MM, May 10-13).
    President Trump's approval rating remains the same as in the April Emerson Poll with a 43% approval and 49% disapproval (n=1,006, +/-3%, MM, May 10-13).
    In head to head matchups between Trump and his top Democratic rivals, Trump trails Biden and Sanders and is in a statistical dead heat with the other candidates.

  • mozarky2
    May 15, 2019 at 8:10 a.m.

    Yep, Alfred E. Buttigieg is surging, alright-downward!
    Alinsky was right-"ridicule is man's most important weapon".
    President Trump has torn a page from the democrat's playbook, and thrown it right back in their faces. I don't care who the dems nominate, they'll be a quivering pile of jelly when Trump's through with them.

  • Illinoisroy
    May 15, 2019 at 8:26 a.m.

    You don't sound happier. If only you could achieve next level in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, you need some love and belonging brother.

  • Packman
    May 15, 2019 at 9:10 a.m.

    Biden’s numbers are pure name recognition. His numbers will most assuredly drop the more he is seen and heard. He’s a career politician wholly out of touch, and possibly suffering from dementia. Blacks will in deed latch onto him because of Obama but their support will be lackluster and obligatory at best.
    Regardless, the Democrat primary will be a glorious bloodbath. Let to good times roll.