Here's Why Biden Should Stay Out of the Race
Policy + Politics

Here's Why Biden Should Stay Out of the Race


Stories predicting that Vice President Joe Biden’s decision on whether or not to run for president is imminent have become something of a joke, considering the number of supposed deadlines the VP has blown through since mid-summer. But if the latest reports asserting a 48-hour window are true, Biden might want to find a comfy chair and sit down with the details of the most recent CNN/ORC poll before he makes his choice.

The animating theory behind a Biden candidacy is that the generally favorable view of the vice president – he’s the only potential Democratic candidate with a favorability rating above 50 percent in the recent survey – would generate a surge of voter interest propelling him past frontrunner Hillary Clinton and into the lead.

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However, the CNN poll makes that narrative look unlikely. Voters, particularly Democrats, like Biden, but on every single policy issue they were asked about they said they trust Clinton more than they trust him. And it’s hard to make a case for what at this point would look like an insurgent candidacy if there is no set of vital issues that the public thinks Biden would handle better than the current crop of candidates.

On the economy, 48 percent of Democratic voters think Clinton would do the best job out of the candidates. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, currently second in most polls, comes in at 29 percent, with Biden stuck at 13.

The same holds true on most major issues. On health care, race relations, and climate change, Biden isn’t even within the margin of error when compared to Sanders, let alone Clinton.

On foreign policy, arguably Biden’s area of greatest expertise (he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before being elected vice president), he manages to beat Sanders 20 percent to 9 percent. But Clinton leaves both in the dust with 62 percent of Democrats saying they trust her the most to handle the country’s relationships overseas.

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Biden also edges Sanders by a single percentage point, 21 to 20, on gun policy. But again, Clinton is the voters’ preferred candidate there, too.

Perhaps the worst news of all is that a plurality of registered Democrats in the poll would prefer that Biden not run at all. Asked if the VP should get into the race, 49 percent said no, and 47 percent said yes. To be fair, though, the results fall within the margin of error of the poll, making it a virtual tie.

Interestingly, in head-to-head comparisons with all registered voters, Biden is the only one of the top three Democrats in the poll who beats both of the current Republican frontrunners. While Clinton, Sanders and Biden all beat billionaire former reality television star Donald Trump handily, both Clinton and Sanders lose to retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson by a small margin: Clinton by 48-47 and Sanders 48-46. Biden, however, beats Carson convincingly, 52-44.

It’s better than nothing, but probably not enough to build a campaign on.