Former Vice President Joe Biden was bestowed by the media with the mantle of being the frontrunner and presumptive nominee as soon as he officially entered the Democrat primary race, a first-place position he has managed to hold on to despite a relatively lackluster and gaffe-prone performance on the campaign trail thus far — but all that could soon come crashing down.
Biden’s lead over his fellow 2020 hopefuls has thinned, according to the latest Fox News poll — and while he may still be on top, pundits have been left wondering if this is a sign of things to come.
Biden still has the lead – but it’s slipping
The poll of registered voters between Sept. 15-17 showed that Biden was favored as the top Democratic candidate by 29% of respondents, down 2 points from August’s poll and down 6 points from the 35% support he enjoyed in May’s survey.
The top tier of candidates was rounded out by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who are polling at 18% and 16%, respectively. Sanders actually saw an 8-point uptick in support over August, while Warren slid down 4 points over the same span.
Biden still remains the odds-on favorite among the Democratic candidates; 42% of respondents said Biden had the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump, and in the hypothetical head-to-head matchups, Biden beat Trump by the widest margin. The next two closest competitors with the “best chance” at beating Trump were Sanders at 17% and Warren at 12%.
And that particular poll question is crucial — the poll also revealed that 56% believed beating Trump was the most important factor in a candidate, compared to 31% who said supporting the candidate they liked the most was the most important thing.
Voters want change
While all of that may sound pretty good for Biden, the poll nevertheless revealed a few contradictions in the minds of voters that will likely prove unhelpful to Biden’s candidacy — namely, the strong desire for a candidate who will pursue fresh policies and upend the status quo in Washington rather than one who would return to and preserve the old pre-Trump norms of the Obama era — which Biden has explicitly run on as a platform.
Indeed, 49% of respondents said they wanted a Democratic nominee who would take a new approach policy-wise, while only 43% would prefer a nominee who’d restore former President Barack Obama’s legacy.
Likewise, 50% wanted a nominee who would “fundamentally change” how Washington works, while 46% wanted to revert back to how things operated before Trump was elected.
Given how closely Biden has adhered himself to the Obama legacy, on top of his decades-long track record as part of the D.C. establishment, those two results spell trouble for his candidacy.
A gaffe away from a new frontrunner?
As noted, despite a slight slip in the numbers, Biden is still clearly the frontrunner among the Democratic candidates, and the RealClearPolitics average of polls ranked Biden in first place with 28.8% support, a more than 10-point lead over Warren with 18.3% and Sanders with 16.5%.
Still, Warren is clearly gaining momentum and Sanders is steadily plodding along with a solid and relatively unchanged base. Meanwhile, the former VP always seems just one gaffe away from political disaster.