So it’s now official: Former Vice President Joe Biden joins the presidential race for 2020! Surveys show him on top of the field of Democratic contenders, but it’s going to be harder for him to get the nomination than one might assume. Remember: Surveys are never a prediction! In that sense, it’s important to keep in mind that – unlike many other democratic candidates – Biden has almost 100% awareness. And early surveys mostly reflect awareness. So, what these surveys really say is that 70% don’t vote for Biden. Having been a household name across the nation for at least a decade now, I don’t see easily what new information Biden could offer primary voters that would change that.
Previous to his announcement, Biden was under some fire. As of what we know at the moment, I doubt what Biden told a newspaper in 1975 nor a misguided hug/kiss more than twenty years ago will stop his candidacy. The same is true for criticism on how Biden handled a Senate confirmation hearing in the early 1990is. However, all these issues reinforce one of his main weaknesses: At 76, he will be the oldest candidate ever to run for president. I also don’t see much of an effort by Biden to neutralize this weakness. There’s no strong youth movement for Biden, no championing new technologies or even new ideas for that matter.
Another challenge Biden will face is fundraising. Knowing that himself, the campaign tried to make a statement by launching a concerted effort during the first 24 hours after announcing. With 6 million USD raised, it turned out very well, but let’s see how Biden will be able to sustain the fundraising operation. When running for Senate, he barely had tough fights and he therefore doesn’t have the donor base and lists that Sanders or O’Rourke for example have (who both raised similar amounts on the day of announcing). There’s a natural reflex for the party that is out of the White House to look back at the last party mates who were occupying it. In that sense, Biden is a natural object of interest. But I have a feeling that when things will heat up, Democratic primary voters will ultimately look for something new. I’m not saying that Biden can’t win the nomination. There is definitely some space for a moderate in the Democratic field and electability will become more and more of an issue (and he would certainly be a strong general election candiate). But it will be less of a walk in the park than what the polls at first glance suggest. After all, the succession to the throne is a rather un-American thing.