Hillary Clinton’s performance in last night’s debate set off a maelstrom of media filings questioning everything (apparently) we thought we knew about the Democratic primary. Is Joe Biden finished? Did Hillary Clinton just knock Biden out of the running? Is Joe Biden even relevant now?
Personally, I think many of these writers are overstating Clinton’s performance. She sounded strong, but also rehearsed; that being said, nothing we saw last night should shock us. For all her crimes (give it time,) Hillary Clinton was a First Lady, a Senator, and Secretary of State. She knows how to handle herself. Should we use her lack of meltdown as evidence that Biden 2016 is a lost cause?
On the whole, I think not. It’s still too early—and Americans still like Joe Biden.
A Gallup poll released today shows that 49% of Americans still have a favorable view of Biden; this is his best polling performance since Obama’s 2009 “honeymoon” period.
Public opinion of Biden has remained almost consistently split over the course of his tenure as Vice President. Gallup posits that one reason for the uptick could be sympathy for the man in the wake of his son Beau’s death…but of course, there’s always a political reason for a bump in polling.
Another reason Biden’s favorability may be higher is that many Democrats want to see Biden enter the presidential campaign. They may think the Democratic Party needs an alternative to its weakened front-runner, Hillary Clinton, whom Americans currently view more negatively than positively. In stark contrast to Biden’s rising image since March, Clinton’s image has worsened since then.
Right now, Bernie Sanders is Clinton’s closest challenger, but given his admitted socialist leanings, there are questions about his electability. None of the three other announced Democrats has emerged as a credible challenger to Clinton, though that could change in the days after Tuesday’s first Democratic debate.
Biden has gained favorability with key subgroups as well, among them nonwhites, Catholics, and Democrats as a whole:
This isn’t a random bump; Biden is trending positive amongst the very voters Democrats will depend upon to decide on the eventual nominee. Gallup’s data cuts off on October 11, a few days before the debate, which means we don’t yet know how last night’s debate will affect his numbers; but it’s a mistake to count him out based on the predictably solid performance of one embattled candidate.
Biden is on the rise—and Hillary Clinton should be asking herself how she can permanently send him back down to Earth.
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