Joe Biden Will Probably Run For President — But Can He Even Win The Democratic Nomination? [Opinion]

A number of factors will be in play to determine whether Biden will cruise to victory, or face difficulties, as he chases the presidency.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaking at a campaign rally.
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

A number of factors will be in play to determine whether Biden will cruise to victory, or face difficulties, as he chases the presidency.

Former Vice President Joe Biden says that he’s the most qualified person to run against President Donald Trump in 2020.

“I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” Biden said at the University of Montana recently, according to reporting from CNN. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I’ve worked on my whole life.”

He’s probably not wrong. Biden was a lawmaker in Washington D.C. from the early 1970s until his tenure in the Obama administration ended in January 2017. That’s certainly a lot of experience, a lot of debate, and a lot of knowledge that can’t be overlooked by anyone in the party. Biden is, for all intents and purposes, the current front-runner for the top of the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket.

In a small number of polls that have already asked the question, including a Politico/Morning Consult poll released in August, Biden is leading Trump in a hypothetical presidential match-up.

It seems Biden would have a strong chance at defeating Trump. Yet whether he wins his party’s nomination or not, however, is going to depend on a few factors.

For starters, the Democratic Party is getting younger — which could make it harder for the 76-year-old Biden to appeal to progressive voters. Individuals in the party, like New York’s Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Texas’s Beto O’Rourke, are inspiring a new generation of voters on the left to look toward candidates who weren’t even born yet — or barely taking their first steps — when individuals like Biden were first elected to Washington. How will Biden appeal to voters in this growing demographic within the party?

Another factor to consider is how many Democrats are planning to run for president in 2020. If a lot run, that could play well in Biden’s favor: as the front-runner, a crowded primary would allow him to get 25 to 30 percent of the vote from Democrats across the nation, while a smattering of other candidates barely manage to get 5 to 10 percent each from primary-to-primary. Then again, if a small number of Democrats run, or if the “top tier” of Democratic contenders get figured out in the first few weeks of contests, it could create problems for the former vice president.

Consider what happened to Hillary Clinton in 2008, when she was challenged by Barack Obama. Clinton was the clear favorite in the lead-up to the primaries, but Obama proved himself a formidable contender, and chipped away the presumptions that Clinton had to be the nominee throughout the primary season that year, ultimately winning the nomination for the party. He would have had a much harder time doing that if one or two other legitimate challengers had been in the race also, challenging Clinton alongside him.

Any number of other factors can still come about between now and when the presidential nomination contests gear up in earnest — after all, we’re still two years away from the general election, and there are still 426 days until the Iowa caucuses. No legitimate candidate has declared himself or herself as running for office yet, and so we cannot make reasonable assumptions about what is — or isn’t — going to happen.

That won’t stop people from doing so, however, and statements like Biden’s recent ones — declaring himself the most qualified to run — won’t stop the speculation anytime soon.