Former Vice President Joe Biden had his roughest week on the campaign trail yet last week, but Democratic primary voters are totally unmoved, according to a Morning Consult poll released Tuesday.
Politico reports that support for Biden has remained unchanged since last week, and that the former VP sits at a comfortable 38% of the vote, doubling the market share of his closest competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — who sits at 19% approval — and easily ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who has 13%. As usual, no other candidate in the poll was able to break into double digits.
The results are surprising given that Biden faced the first true test of his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination last week, after he spoke approvingly of several openly segregationist senators, and defended time spent working with those senators to pass legislation during his early career in Congress.
The comments drew ire from several of Biden's competitors, including Sanders and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who demanded an apology from Biden and spoke at length about how Biden's record of ignoring racism in the name of "civility" and "cooperation" would ultimately hurt Biden with the minority vote.
But if voters were concerned about blips in Biden's years-long career in Congress, they certainly didn't tell Morning Consult, who polled the issue directly. A shocking 41% of voters said that their support for Biden remained unchanged from the weeks prior. Even stranger, 30% of black voters said Biden's recent racially charged comments made no impact on how they view the former vice president.
That's lucky for Biden but maybe not surprising. Voters may simply be, at this point, used to Biden gaffes on the campaign trail and trust what they think they know about Biden — and what they remember from his time in the Obama administration — over the Biden they're currently seeing on the campaign trail. In other words, they're used to Biden saying weird things, and tolerance for controversial Biden quotes is "baked in" to their support.
Politico also suggests that Biden is benefitting from a misread of the Democratic base.
"[The poll results] would appear to validate the campaign’s theory that the Democratic base isn’t nearly as liberal or youthful as everyone thinks, and that the media is mistaking the disproportionately progressive Democratic voices on Twitter for the sentiments of the wider Democratic electorate," Politico claims.
It's also possible, of course, that the media is mistaking their own preference for that of the Democratic base.
What also may be saving Biden is that the focus of other front-running candidates hasn't been on Joe Biden — they've been at each other's throats, instead. In a second poll, released Tuesday, the far-left progressive organization MoveOn.org claims that Warren has pulled ahead of Bernie Sanders among progressives — a shock that the Sanders camp probably didn't see coming.
The MoveOn.org poll says Warren has the support of nearly 40% of the group's members, while Bernie Sanders commands less than half that, around 17%. Warren, MoveOn.org adds, is the "first or second choice" of around 63% of MoveOn.org members — which represent the furthest left of Democratic voters.
This news comes at the tail end of a week of sniping between the two camps. Sanders began last week by subtly accusing Warren of being the "corporate" candidate for progressive Democrats, and openly chastised a major Democratic organization for backing Warren's campaign over his. Warren spent the week nipping at Sanders' heels in the polls before announcing a series of handout plans designed to rope in Sanders voters, including reparations for LGBT couples who married before the Obergfell decision and were denied tax benefits, and a student loan relief package.
Sanders fought back with his own universal free education package Monday, but it seems the Vermont progressive might have made his move too little too late.
This week, voters will have their first opportunity to see the candidates on the debate stage, but the DNC decided that Biden and Sanders should face off in the main event, rather than Sanders and Warren. Warren will, instead, headline the first of the two debates alongside a slate of lesser candidates.