Former Vice President Joe Biden was expected to lose support as polls normalized the week after he announced his intention to compete for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, but so far, that hasn’t happened. In fact, according to a poll released Tuesday, Biden has opened a near-40 point lead on the next highest competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
The Hill, which conducted the poll, reveals that Sanders has taken a precipitous drop since Biden entered the race, and the pair are now a wide margin apart, with Biden commanding 46% of the vote to Sanders’ 14%.
No competitor other than Sanders cracked double digits. South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg is currently in third with 7%, one point ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who has 6%.
This is hardly the first poll to show Biden ahead; he’s been placing first in early primary polling since late 2018, and has remained consistently at the top of the pack in both national polls and polls in first-in-the-nation primary states, including Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.
But Biden was expected to “normalize” after announcing, particularly in light of a wave of opposition research that hit just as Biden was making his first speeches and holding his first rallies, accusing the former Veep of everything from sexual harassment to abject racism (for his stance on criminal justice reform in the Bill Clinton era). Oddly enough, though, Biden’s appeal has only increased in the days since he announced his run, giving him a huge advantage over any other competitor in the race.
Biden’s rise has, interestingly enough, come at Sanders’ expense. A Real Clear Politics tracking graph, which shows the increasing and decreasing polling averages for the 2020 Democratic competitors, shows a marked divergence between the two candidates beginning around April 26, 2018.
Although Sanders’ drop off has occasionally leveled, it hasn’t ended.
Biden may not be the only factor involved in Sanders’ sudden and steep decline, though. His drop-off also coincides with a town hall event, where Sanders expressed unwavering support for restoring voting rights to felons — including dangerous individuals and those convicted of terrorism against the United States — while they serve their prison sentences. The plan didn’t go over well, and Democrats who joined Sanders’ rallying cry for felon voting rights quickly abandoned the plan.
Bernie still hasn’t.
The Hill poll is no excuse for Biden to get comfortable. As May draws to a close, candidates will be calculating their poll numbers and assessing the donor support in an effort to make the argument that they should be included in the first Democratic primary debate, set to take place sometime in late June. In order to qualify for that debate, Democrats must demonstrate at least 5% support in a majority of national polls or show that they have a base of at least 65,000 individual donors.
If the debate were to be held tomorrow, only Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg, Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), would likely make the cut, with former Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on the cusp. Sen, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who barely registers in the polls, has been the one candidate begging for one-dollar donations, in the hopes that she can scrape together at least 65,000 individual one-dollar donors to prove she belongs on the debate stage.
There’s also quite a way until the first primary. Biden will have to hang onto his lead until at least February of 2020, when both Iowa and New Hampshire begin casting ballots.