Joe Biden keeps stepping in it – and voters couldn’t care less – Politico
Joe Biden’s all-too-friendly touching of women in the MeToo era was supposed to be toxic to his presidential campaign. Critics thought his flip flop on subsidized abortions would show how deeply out of touch he was with the modern Democratic Party.
The latest controversy buffeting his campaign — his statements about his working relationships with Dixiecrat segregationists when they served in the U.S. Senate together more than 40 years ago — has chewed through news cycles for the past week.
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Yet none of it seems to have damaged his standing in the race.
Biden remains the front-runner in national polls and in the four early states. And according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll taken several days after his comments about the racist lawmakers made headlines, his most recent flap isn’t hurting his chances in a significant way.
After hearing about Biden’s comments on working with multiple segregationists, 41 percent of likely primary voters said it would make no difference to them and 29 percent said they would be more likely to vote for him. Just 18 percent said they would be less likely to vote for him. The numbers were about the same for black voters: 30 percent said they would be more likely to vote for Biden, 20 percent said less likely and 27 percent said it made no difference.
Morning Consult’s weekly tracking poll of the Democratic primary, conducted last Monday through Sunday, shows Biden leading the field with 38 percent support, identical to his share of the vote the week prior.
It’s the latest data point suggesting that Biden’s candidacy might be more durable than presumed — and that his campaign might have a more accurate feel for the mood and composition of the Democratic electorate than many of his rivals and critics.
“Every time there’s been what would be considered a bad week for Biden — or the issue that’s going to kill him — it hasn’t happened,” said John Anzalone, Biden’s chief pollster. “What the press thinks is a big deal or a death knell just isn’t to voters.”
Much of the conventional wisdom has so far been wrong about Biden — that his best day in polls would be his first as a candidate, that he wouldn’t be able to raise enough money to compete, that he was too moderate, too old or too white for the modern Democratic Party.
After entering the primary exactly two months ago as the front-runner with a 2-to-1 lead over his next-closest rival, Biden is essentially in the same position today.
That would appear to validate the campaign’s theory that the Democratic base isn’t nearly as liberal or youthful as everyone thinks, and that the media is mistaking the disproportionately progressive Democratic voices on Twitter for the sentiments of the wider Democratic electorate.
Anzalone said elite opinion-makers and the chorus of progressive voices, notably New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, don’t reflect the party.
“Sometimes the media narrative is that this is an AOC convention. It’s not,” the Democratic pollster said. “Just like the narrative that the Democratic primary is some ultra-liberal incubator. It isn’t.”
Anzalone contends that Biden’s “stability” shows that another tenet of conventional wisdom is probably wrong — the idea that the former vice president’s support is built on mere name identification.
“We’re beyond ‘oh, this is name ID.’ This is attachment,” Anzalone said. “Voters know this guy.”
Still, while polls show Biden with a strong lead over nearly two dozen Democratic rivals, roughly two-thirds of Democrats aren’t sold on his candidacy. Primary voters are also telling pollsters they’re not completely committed to one candidate, they haven’t fully tuned in and that they don’t know as much about many of the others in the race.
So the cumulative weight of Biden’s troubles could ultimately be too much for him to bear as voters pay more attention. On Thursday, voters will get their first chance to measure him and nine of his opponents together on stage at the Democrats’ first presidential debate in Miami.
Biden will be literally center stage in his most-unscripted setting yet for a prolonged period of time. The moment will carry some risk since he will invariably be targeted by some of his rivals. And it will take him out of the protective cocoon his campaign has effectively wrapped him in.
In two months as a candidate, Biden has avoided nearly every major candidate cattle-call event hosted by Democratic and liberal groups, even at the expense of leaving some of them steamed. He has had just three sit-down interviews with national media outlets and 12 with local outlets. On the campaign trail, Biden seldom engages in question-and-answer gaggles with reporters, though they are permitted access to cover his speeches at fundraisers (which are usually closed to the press).
The first sustained contact with his rivals at Thursday’s debate — where the segregationist flap and Biden’s positions on abortion are likely to be revisited — could test his resilience.
Former Nevada Assemblywoman and lieutenant governor candidate Lucy Flores, who sparked the controversy over Biden’s physical touching earlier this year by going public with her account of an inappropriate encounter in 2014, said Biden’s status in the polls doesn’t mean much this early in the campaign — seven months before the caucuses for first-in-the-nation Iowa.
“[It’s] a disservice to continue to talk about polls when we have clearly seen how unreliable polls have become, and we should continue to focus on each candidate and the issues,” said Flores. “The election is about vetting and getting to know them better. That’s happening and only time will tell if what their campaign is selling is actually what a diverse electorate actually wants.”
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