Bernie Sanders has consistently trailed in polls that do not include Joe Biden, but now that the vice president has officially closed the door on a run for president in 2016, it may actually give a boost to Sanders.
Biden appeared on Wednesday beside President Barack Obama, saying that the window for his entering the race had closed. Biden cited the death of his son Beau, noting that his family had been working through the grieving process.
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) October 21, 2015
But his speech may have been even more telling, and it could end up giving Joe Biden a bump in the polls. Though Biden did not endorse another candidate by name, he made several pointed statements that appear to be taking on Hillary Clinton.
In one statement, Biden replied to to Clinton’s statement that enemy she is most proud of is the Republican Party. Biden, who had criticized the statement before this week, again echoed his criticism of Clinton (transcript via Time).
“I believe we have to end the divisive partisan politics that is ripping this country apart, and I think we can. It’s mean-spirited, it’s petty, and it’s gone on for much too long. I don’t believe, like some do, that’s it naive to talk to Republicans. I don’t think we should look at Republicans as our enemies.”
In the speech, Joe Biden emphasized fighting for the middle class, which has been a hallmark of Sanders’s campaign. He also echoed Bernie’s comments on the dangers of a political process tilted toward the rich.
“I believe the huge sums of unlimited and often secret money pouring into our politics is a fundamental threat to our democracy. And I really mean that. I think it’s a fundamental threat. Because the middle class will never have a fighting chance in this country as long as just several hundred families—the wealthiest families—control the process. It’s just that simple.”
It’s not clear whether Bernie Sanders would genuinely move in the polls with Joe Biden’s exit. In nearly every survey, the bulk of Biden’s supporters go to Clinton with his exit, leaving Sanders with a roughly 10-point deficit.
Some polls predict an even larger boost to Clinton. An Emerson College Polling Society survey found that when voters were not given the option of choosing Biden, Clinton’s support grew to 68 percent, compared to 20 percent for Sanders, according to The Hill.
Political experts said Biden’s decision not to enter the race puts Clinton solidly back in the driver’s seat.
“More than changing the race, his decision confirms what we know, which is the nomination is hers to lose,” said long-time political analyst Stuart Rothenberg in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It removes a question mark, it removes an alternative who could have taken advantage of another stumble if she did that.”
But it is unclear what an official endorsement could mean for Bernie Sanders, but it would mark the highest-profile Democrat to move out of Clinton’s camp to her opponent. If Sanders can hang on through the early part of primary season, the possibility of Biden actively stumping for Sanders could give an important edge.
Before Biden’s exit, Bernie Sanders had been gaining rapidly in the polls, including erasing 10 points for Hillary Clinton’s advantage just before the first presidential debate. In order to keep his standing in the race Biden would need to find a way to continue that momentum against an emboldened Clinton.
A new outreach could help that. Sanders announced that he is planning a major speech in which he would define democratic socialism, the sticky label that he adheres to. Sanders has said in the past that most institutions Americans use and trust — including police and fire departments — fall under this concept.
How Bernie Sanders Should Talk About Democratic Socialism https://t.co/xf5hfhcRVh
— The Nation (@thenation) October 21, 2015
It is not yet clear how much Bernie Sanders will be impacted in the polls after Biden’s exit, but with Bernie’s speech and another debate still on the horizon, it may take weeks to truly shake out.
[Image via Instagram/Bernie Sanders]