One Democratic strategist questioned this week whether Former Vice President Joe Biden is the Democratic front-runner for president “by default.”
Biden is coming off his worst week on the campaign trail and has seen his lead shrink in Iowa in the midst of new attacks from Democratic rivals hoping to close the gap with the race’s front-runner.
This bumpy road, topped with a flip-flop on the Hyde Amendment that brought unwelcome comparisons to other Democratic candidates on the issue of abortion rights, has brought new controversy to Biden and his campaign.
The former vice president is facing concerns regarding whether he is too much of a centrist for a party leaning left, and whether those supporting him in public opinion polls really hold any passion for his candidacy.
“There are times when it feels like he’s the front-runner by default,” said one Democratic strategist, who pointed to the relatively small crowds at Biden campaign events. “That’s not how you win the White House.”
Biden’s team has sometimes kept him out of the public spotlight, with the former vice president recently skipping events in California and Iowa that were attended by many other candidates in the 2020 field.
That approach has reminded some observers of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. They were criticized for being too cautious.
“So far at least, it’s been a campaign of caution,” said the Democratic strategist, who is unaffiliated with any candidate. “You don’t win campaigns by being cautious. You win because you’re out there and you’re confident and you’re inspiring masses to believe in you. I want to see him do well, but I think he’s been struggling on that front.”
CNN commentator Ana Navarro on Monday compared Biden’s campaign to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s effort in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, which was famously labeled as “low energy” by President Trump.
“I say this as someone who really likes Joe Biden,” Navarro said on the cable network. “Right now, he’s giving me Jeb Bush acid reflux. I want to see him pull this together.”
The Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN poll of Iowa voters released on Saturday found Biden with 24 percent support, compared to 16 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 15 percent for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and 14 percent for South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
It’s a drop for Biden since March, when he won 27 percent support in the same poll.