With their base chomping at the bit to show President Trump the door in 2020, it looks like Democrats will be facing a presidential field with lots of relatively equal contenders and no strong front-runner, according to a new CNN poll.
To be clear, the poll, which has 16 candidates not named Hillary Clinton, does show Joe Biden as the clear leader, with the support of 33 percent of Democrats. Nobody comes within 20 points. Biden's star has risen among Democrats in recent years due to three main factors: 1) His loyal eight-year service as vice president to former President Barack Obama; 2) The grieving process over the tragic cancer death of his son highlighted his softer side and generated a lot of sympathy; and 3) His "boy from Scranton" narrative has raised hopes among some Democrats that he could counter Trump's appeal to the white working class.
That having been said, count me as a Biden 2020 skeptic. This far ahead of the process, polls have a very heavy bias in favor of those with the biggest name recognition, which clearly benefits Biden. Polls also don't reflect the attacks that Biden is likely to endure were he to transition from being a sympathetic retired elder statesman figure to an active candidate. Even now, Biden is already on the defensive for his handling of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas headings as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991. The belief on the Left that he allowed Hill to be unfairly attacked and for Thomas' nomination to sail through is going to be particularly problematic for him in the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation battle.
His decades-long Senate career, when the Democratic Party was a lot different than today, is going to give ample ammo to his younger opponents. Policies he supported as senator, for instance, are already being highlighted on the Left for having increased mass incarceration. Also, it's worth remembering that Biden already bombed in two previous runs for the presidency, and it's no accident. Once he's in his groove, he comes across as an arrogant know-it-all, and is prone to gaffes.
This doesn't even get into the fact that by Inauguration Day 2021, Biden would be 78 years old. To put that into perspective, if elected, he'd be starting his presidency just about nine months younger than Ronald Reagan was when he left the presidency.
So sure, anything is possible in an uncertain field, but these are too many obstacles Biden would have to overcome to suggest he's in solid position as a front-runner.
After Biden, there's a long dropoff before Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at 13 percent. Sanders would actually be even older than Biden — on pace to turn 80 during the first year of a theoretical presidency. He'd no longer have the advantage of being a protest vote against Hillary Clinton, and would not have sole claim to the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party. That's because Sen. Warren, D-Mass., herself will be running. If there was any doubt, Monday's release of a DNA test and video responding to the controversy over her Native American ancestry removed it.
Warren is at 8 percent in this poll, just behind Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who is at 9 percent.
After that, there's a huge traffic jam: Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and John Kerry are at 5 percent; Michael Bloomberg and Rep. Beto O'Rourke are at 4 percent; Eric Holder is at 3 percent; and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is at 2 percent. The poll also finds a handful at 1 percent: Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Deval Patrick.
Looking from this vantage point, it's very difficult to guess who has the edge in 2020. One other comment worth making before closing — you know who else emerged from a crowded field with no clear front-runner?