How Joe Biden got his groove back

Likely Democratic primary voters in California are about evenly split among the top three candidates -- Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren -- in the race for the Democratic nomination, while Texas Democrats tend to favor Biden, the nationwide frontrunner, according to new CNN polls conducted by SSRS in two of the largest early states to cast ballots next year.

Posted: Dec 13, 2019 7:10 AM
Updated: Dec 13, 2019 7:10 AM

With less than two months before the first votes of the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden has re-emerged as the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

That simple statement, which is borne out in national and early state polling, seemed unimaginable as recently as two months ago as the former vice president looked to be badly losing altitude on virtually every measure of viability -- from debate performances to fundraising to polling.

So, how did Biden turn it around? That answer isn't simple -- it never is! -- because it was no single factor. But among the reasons for Biden's resurgence are a) the struggles of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) b) skepticism over the "Medicare for All" health care plan backed by Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and c) President Donald Trump's relentless focus on Biden and his son, Hunter.

Before we get anymore into why it happened, let's look at the unquestioned steadying of Biden's standing in the race.

In the Real Clear Politics national polling average, Biden has now opened up a double-digit lead over his nearest competitor -- Sanders. That's a remarkable change since early October when Warren had actually overtaken Biden in the RCP national average.

And while Biden has never been as strong a favorite in the early states as he has been nationally, his numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire are looking better of late, too. In RCP's Iowa average, Biden is in the lead pack. The most recent New Hampshire poll puts Buttigieg at 18% to 17% for Biden and 15% for Sanders. In Nevada, Biden has a 9-point edge over Warren in the RCP averages. And in South Carolina, Biden remains a strong favorite -- up 20-ish points in nearly every survey taken in the Palmetto State.

Even beyond the first four states that will vote in February, Biden's numbers are looking healthy. In new CNN polling looking at the Texas and California primaries -- both set for Super Tuesday on March 3 -- Biden stands in prime position. In Texas, Biden holds a wide 20-point lead over Sanders. In California, Biden is at 21% to 20% for Sanders and 17% for Warren.

While none of those poll numbers make Biden a lock to win any state -- with the possible exception of South Carolina -- it shows that he is ahead or very close to the lead in virtually every state set to vote over the first six weeks of the nomination contest.

And then there is the fundraising chase. Biden, a notoriously unwilling fundraiser, showed less than $9 million in the bank at the end of September -- a total that left him lightyears away from where Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren were at that time. But since October 1, things have turned around for Biden. In a memo sent to reporters, Biden's campaign manager said that as of December 1, he had already raised, in two months, more than the $15.6 million he brought in over the previous three months. The Biden campaign credited the increasing money flow to a surge in online donations tied to Trump's repeated attacks on Biden and his son, Hunter, over their actions in Ukraine. (Side note: There is no evidence suggesting either Biden did anything wrong in Ukraine.)

It's impossible to see what has happened to Biden's numbers without acknowledging Trump's role in it. Contrary to the advice of his advisers, the president has repeatedly attacked Biden -- on and offline. Which has had the effect of making Biden's argument for him -- that he is the strongest Democratic candidate against Trump and that the incumbent is afraid of him.

"He's afraid of just how badly I would beat him next November," Biden said of Trump while campaigning in Nevada In October. In the November presidential debate, Biden made much the same argument: "I've learned something from these impeachment trials -- I've learned that Donald Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee. Vladimir Putin doesn't want me to be president."

The more Trump attacks Biden, the more a sense of Biden-as-de-facto-nominee sets in.

What else is going on here? Well, it appears from a close examination of the polling that more pragmatic voters with an eye on nominating someone who can avoid being caricatured as a socialist or a wild-eyed liberal are beginning to assert themselves. Hence Warren's slight fade and the increase in support for Biden, Buttigieg and, especially in Iowa, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Polling also suggests that voters are skeptical -- at best -- of getting rid of all private health insurance as would happen under "Medicare for All."

All of this could be, of course, be temporary. Polls -- and momentum they reflect -- can change and change rapidly when people are paying close attention and actual votes near.

But at this moment, Biden is riding as high as he has since the early days of his candidacy. Which is a big deal.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61125

Reported Deaths: 1711
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5209106
DeSoto328027
Madison228154
Rankin212428
Harrison209832
Jackson192934
Jones176557
Forrest163153
Washington148032
Lauderdale132388
Lee123230
Neshoba119487
Lamar111512
Oktibbeha105235
Lowndes97332
Warren96426
Scott95317
Bolivar93932
Copiah90924
Panola90711
Sunflower90622
Lafayette8699
Holmes84347
Leflore83259
Pike82632
Grenada81220
Yazoo77311
Leake76725
Lincoln74339
Wayne73221
Pontotoc7247
Simpson71126
Monroe69750
Coahoma65910
Tate64523
Marion59918
Adams58025
Covington57811
Winston57115
Marshall5668
George5415
Union51913
Newton51611
Attala49524
Tallahatchie49310
Pearl River48236
Walthall44218
Chickasaw43519
Noxubee41710
Claiborne40013
Smith37713
Jasper3758
Calhoun3748
Clay36814
Alcorn3544
Prentiss3376
Hancock32614
Tishomingo3163
Yalobusha31610
Lawrence3135
Itawamba30710
Tippah30412
Clarke29825
Montgomery2913
Humphreys26911
Tunica2656
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Kemper22315
Perry2217
Quitman2211
Amite2105
Jefferson Davis1986
Webster19712
Jefferson1916
Wilkinson18712
Sharkey1801
Stone1483
Choctaw1264
Benton1240
Franklin1142
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 89927

Reported Deaths: 1580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11650225
Mobile8998191
Montgomery6198143
Madison493225
Tuscaloosa391263
Baldwin317522
Shelby300232
Marshall294730
Unassigned263351
Lee249140
Morgan220615
Etowah191425
DeKalb167713
Elmore158437
Calhoun15359
Walker145763
Houston130912
Dallas128023
Russell12201
Franklin118420
Limestone118313
St. Clair118212
Cullman111311
Colbert107612
Lauderdale105312
Autauga101020
Escambia96515
Talladega89013
Jackson8163
Chambers81438
Tallapoosa80478
Dale77619
Butler75135
Blount7223
Covington70420
Coffee7035
Chilton6976
Pike6547
Barbour5625
Lowndes54624
Marion53524
Marengo51514
Clarke4849
Hale44925
Bullock43711
Perry4284
Winston42811
Wilcox4029
Monroe3884
Randolph38810
Conecuh37110
Bibb3643
Pickens3639
Sumter36118
Washington31011
Macon30813
Lawrence3060
Crenshaw2843
Choctaw27312
Henry2433
Greene24011
Cherokee2337
Geneva2260
Clay2165
Lamar1942
Fayette1695
Cleburne1141
Coosa902
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