May 1, 2019 - Health

Joe Biden is running like he won the Democratic primaries

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser

In the opening days of his 2020 campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden has gone all-in on the general election, positioning himself as the eventual Democratic nominee rather than scrapping with the 19 other wannabes. 

Why it matters: This isn't an accident. Biden strategists believe the former V.P. has the luxury of thinking long term rather than scrambling for liberal street credibility. 

  • Polls show a huge bump, including with African American women. (CNN: "Biden solidifies front-runner status with post-announcement bump.")

Biden's "people" tell me they're more convinced than ever that the one dominant, ultimately unifying issue is who can best be counted on to beat President Trump.

  • And they think that's the guy from Scranton.

The strategy is unfolding in real time:

  • Starting with his announcement video and continuing on the road, Biden has been explicitly hitting Trump, trying to make it Trump vs. Biden more than a year ahead of the national conventions.
  • Biden has been making the argument for his strength in swing states that'll matter in November 2020, not during primaries and caucuses.
  • Biden isn't getting sucked into the intra-left debate over "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal.
  • The subtle suggestion that Biden would amount to a third Obama term offers voters hope for something between socialism and Hillary Clinton. 
  • Biden is appealing now to big donors he'll need in a general election. 

The big picture: Several 2020 Democratic campaign aides conceded that they wouldn't be able to pull off the same strategy as Biden.

  • Biden, and to some extent Sen. Bernie Sanders, can jump straight into focusing on the general election because Democrats already know what they're getting.

Be smart: Biden is applying a lens to the campaign that reflects national polls more than the left-leaning conversation on Democratic Twitter. 

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