By Jim EllisMarch 11, 2019 — Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, another of the potential Democratic presidential candidates who most observers thought would enter the race, is not.
His announcement late last week was a bit surprising considering his home state with 136 first-ballot delegates and 153 overall (the seventh largest state delegation at the Democratic National Convention) moved the primary to March 10, partially with the idea of giving him a boost.
Sen. Brown’s decision provides us a clue as to what else may happen, however. He, like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, basically said the reason for not becoming a candidate is that the victory path is not evident. The underlying conclusion is they obviously believe former Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race.
Though all three men (Biden, Bloomberg, and Brown) certainly must be considered liberals on the ideological scale, they are not part of the far-left faction that Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and others are attempting to attract. Therefore, if the Bloomberg and Brown paths are blocked, then it is Biden who is their most formidable impediment.
If the former vice president and Delaware senator enters the race, and some say he will do so early next month, is he a lock for the nomination? Polling indicates he would jump to the top of the current heap but would be nowhere close to the majority of delegate votes required to win the nomination on the first convention ballot. In four late February national polls of likely Democratic primary voters, Biden tops them all but with preference percentages of 27, 30, 29, and 31 – hardly dominating numbers.
The Gallup organization released an article about their poll testing the Democratic candidates’ favorability ratings also late last week. According to the results of the mid-late February survey (Feb. 12-28; 1,932 US adults), Biden is the most favorably viewed of the announced candidates, sporting a 56:32 percent favorable to unfavorable rating. Sen. Sanders’ favorability rating — from an earlier Sept. 4, 2018 Gallup poll, however — registers 53:38 percent.
All of the others are upside-down in the current data. Sen. Warren, 32:40 percent; Sen. Harris, 29:34 percent; Sen. Booker, 26:30 percent; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), 20:25 percent, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), 20:22 percent.
Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents, the candidate order is the same, but the results are much different:
Candidate Favorability Ratings
- Biden: 80:9 percent
- Sanders: 76:15 percent (from the Sept. 4, 2018 survey)
- Warren: 53:18 percent
- Harris: 52:10 percent
- Booker: 44:11 percent
- Gillibrand: 33:11 percent
- Klobuchar: 32:11 percent
But how long will Biden maintain such favorable ratings when the others begin attacking him? This invariably will happen since they cannot allow him to get too far ahead, to the point where a first-ballot victory appears feasible even with such a large candidate field and no winner-take-all primaries or caucuses.
Within the Democratic primary voter universe, and particularly among the elected delegate base, Biden becomes vulnerable on several points from his long career. Voting for the Iraq War, the handling of witness Anita Hill before the Senate Judiciary Committee of which he chaired during the Justice Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, opposing busing in the 1970s, and even eulogizing Sen. Strom Thurmond at his memorial service are just a few of the attack points that will be launched at him.
Furthermore, though Mr. Biden is currently riding high in the approval polls, it wasn’t always that way. According to the Gallup historical reference, it was early 2015 when the then-sitting vice president had a dead even 39:39 percentage favorability index among the national electorate at-large. And his negatives were consistently in the 39-42 percentage range from the fourth quarter of 2009 all the way through the aforementioned point in early 2015. Therefore, the current high favorability rating could snap back rather quickly before an electorate that proves itself fickle and volatile.
While it’s difficult to argue with the Bloomberg/Brown reasoning that Biden’s presence blocks their nomination paths, that may not be the case for the others. The tea leaves suggest that the former vice president will join the race, but that doesn’t mean the nomination is his for the asking.