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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. 

Go deeper:

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Go deeper

6 hours ago - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dave Lawler, author of World
8 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.

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