In the Democratic presidential primary race, Joe Biden’s days as the front-runner might be over.
The former vice president’s dominating lead in the polls for Democratic standard-bearer has been up and down recently, but a poll released Monday by Monmouth University might be Biden’s worst news yet.
It found the race is statistically a three-way tie — with Biden coming in second.
According to a Monmouth news release, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have gained ground on Biden, with each now claiming the support of 20 percent of poll respondents while Biden has 19 percent. (The difference is well within the poll’s margin of error of 5.7 percent.)
Compared with a June poll, that’s a healthy gain for Sanders and Warren, who rose from 14 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
For Biden, though, it’s a plummet of 13 points from 32 percent.
The media and the Democratic establishment have all but anointed Biden as the effective 2020 nominee.
But Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the poll shows the race is far from decided.
“The main takeaway from this poll is that the Democratic race has become volatile,” Murray said.
“Liberal voters are starting to cast about for a candidate they can identify with,” he said. “Moderate voters, who have been paying less attention, seem to be expressing doubts about Biden. But they are swinging more toward one of the left-leaning contenders with high name recognition rather than toward a lesser-known candidate who might be more in line with them politically.”
In a response sent out Monday afternoon, the Biden campaign dismissed the poll.
The Washington Examiner published a statement attributed to an “individual from the former vice president’s campaign” that declared:
“This poll is an outlier that is contradicted by every measure of the national average. Poll after poll also confirms that, because of the high stakes of this election, Democratic primary voters are the most energized about a nominee who can take-on and defeat Donald Trump and the atrocious values he represents, and win the battle we’re in for the soul of this nation. Joe Biden is by all accounts the candidate best positioned to make that happen.”
The Monmouth director acknowledged that the poll needs to be taken into context.
“It’s important to keep in mind this is just one snapshot from one poll,” Murray said. “But it does raise warning signs of increased churning in the Democratic nomination contest now that voters are starting to pay closer attention.”
And Biden, unfortunately for his supporters, has given them plenty to pay attention to.
The poll was taken Aug. 16-20, according to the news release. That means it came after Biden’s publicly misstating the locations of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, on the first weekend of the month. (Biden thought they had taken place in Houston and Michigan, for some reason.)
While the poll was in progress, Biden’s wife, Jill, offered what had to be one of the weakest spousal endorsements in history, telling an audience they might have to “swallow a little bit” and support Biden because… he can beat President Donald Trump in a general election.
Since then, Biden hasn’t done much to improve his own image. Trying to convince potential supporters that he isn’t losing his marbles by proclaiming “I’m not going nuts” over the weekend in the critical early primary state of New Hampshire probably wasn’t as successful as Biden might have thought it would be.
None of that adds to public confidence.
But even if the poll is good news for Warren and Sanders, it’s bad news for the Democratic Party and the American electorate as a whole.
It’s a given that many, many Democrats are so deranged by the idea of Trump in the White House that they’re willing to support basically anyone who runs against him, but as of now, the Democratic Party is faced with the idea that it will have to somehow convince American voters they want to install Sanders or Warren in the White House come 2020.
That won’t be easy — both candidates are deeply flawed.
Sanders’ hectoring (and apparently hypocritical) brand of socialism might have almost toppled Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primaries, but it’s not likely to attract broad enough support in a general election.
Likewise, Warren’s smug pretentiousness, arrogance and appalling history of cynically lying about her own heritage are unlikely to endear her to voters outside the deep-blue Democratic states.
But what it does mean is that all Americans are likely to be subjected to Sanders’ bludgeoning bombast and Warren’s shrill wiles for the foreseeable future, a cacophonous combination of socialist rhetoric that will be as repulsive to the ear as it is to the intellect.
The good news is that Trump’s performance in office — in the face of unrelenting political opposition and virtually monolithic media attacks — is likely to stand up to the best these three — plus the Democratic Party, plus the overwhelmingly liberal news media, Hollywood and academia — can throw at him in the year ahead.
The Democrats might not be Biden’s party anymore, according to the poll, but so far the candidates who are catching him aren’t likely to be able to handle Trump any better.
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