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A full slate of Democratic candidates for president

Joe Biden at the University of Miami, March 2018. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

By UM News

Joe Biden at the University of Miami, March 2018. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

A full slate of Democratic candidates for president

By UM News
Gregory Koger, professor of political science, provides some insight on what it means to have Joe Biden join the fray.

When former vice president Joe Biden threw his hat into the ring for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, the field of hopefuls hit 20. The crowded pack includes some well-known figures, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and lesser knowns such as spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

All are hoping for the top spot and the chance to make President Donald Trump a one-term president just like his Republican predecessor George H.W. Bush. But what are their chances? Will voters look for experience or new perspectives and ideas?

Political science professor Gregory Koger provides his insights.

Joe Biden has been at or near the top of polls for leading Democratic candidates for months. Now that he has announced, do you think he is the frontrunner to defeat Trump?

There are varying schools of thoughts on this. One argument that Democrats have been talking about is that they need a moderate white male to help win back some of the voters that Donald Trump took from the Democratic Party. The idea is that a Joe Biden-type of candidate would restore the Obama coalition by bringing back less educated non-Latino whites. A different school of thought is that Democrats think that the reason Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, among other things, was her difficulty in turning out non-Caucasian voters and so the best thing Democrats can do is nominate a person of color, perhaps female or male, but from that point of view Joe Biden would be the least competitive candidate.

So it could go one way or another.

Will Biden's age work against him?

Yes. If elected he would be the oldest person starting a first-term as president in American history. The Democratic Party has been doing well among young voters; the challenge is getting them to vote. Nominating someone who is in his late 70s might not be the most exciting candidate to younger voters.

What about his long political history? Will that work against him?

I think it would not benefit him. He certainly has experience that make him qualified for the job, but that also means that he has a long history of taking positions on issues, doing things that may have made sense at the time, but it may not be the best position for the Democratic Party in 2019. 

What kind of running mate would Joe Biden need to clinch the Democratic nomination?

Well normally candidates clinch the nomination and then chose a running mate, so it was quite unusual when the name of Stacy Abrams (former Georgia gubernatorial candidate) was floated as his running mate. She never agreed to that. That has not happened. But his choice of running mate suggests that he and his campaign staff think that his weakness is that he is an older white male and may struggle to energize younger voters and people of color. 

When will voters start to pay attention to this group of candidates?

In November or December, which is the time when primary voters will start to make their final choices. At this point, there is a lot to learn about the candidates. We do not even know which candidates will make it that long.

So voters need to stand back, maybe watch the debates and see who is emerging as a strong candidate, based on fund raising, based on media coverage, and to a lesser extent, based on polls. Candidates at this point lead in polls based on name recognition. Joe Biden leads in polls, in part, because he was the vice president of the United States.