It’s been a rough week for former Vice President Joe Biden. Between allegations that he plagiarized elements of his climate plan to a Hyde Amendment flip-flop for the ages, the front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination has been fending off nothing but attacks since the beginning of June.
And now, it seems, his 20-point lead in the polls is slowly shrinking.
A Des Moines Register survey of likely Iowa caucus voters still has Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders comfortably in the lead of other Democratic contenders, but Biden’s once 30-point margin over his closest opponent has been slashed by a third.
Sanders fares little better. His once commanding lead over the rest of the field has shrunk to a single point, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg have now cleared the double digits, sitting at 15% and 14%, respectively, behind Sanders’ 16%.
The Register’s poll also shows an “evening” of the rest of the field and several candidates, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who spent the weekend rubbing elbows with LGBT activists in Iowa, at a firm 0%. Although he isn’t viewed as a serious candidate anywhere in the United States, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio was “not listed by a single poll respondent as either first or second choice for president.”
Support for specific candidates, the Register suggests, is “solidifying,” and Biden’s once-formidable lead is normalizing into something he could, conceivably, hold through the Iowa caucuses early next year. But Biden is running into trouble in Iowa in ways Democrats promoting the former Vice President’s more “moderate” campaign might not have foreseen.
This weekend, nearly the entire field of 2020 Democratic hopefuls descended on Iowa to participate in LGBT Pride parades and give speeches at outdoor events. Sunday, at least 20 of the two dozen candidates competing for Iowa’s delegates will participate in the single largest Democratic event ahead of the Iowa caucuses: the annual Iowa Democratic Party fundraiser.
Joe Biden, the front-runner, won’t be there. He’s skipping the event, reportedly, for a high-dollar fundraiser elsewhere — part of his plan to bypass the Democratic primary process altogether and focus on the presidential election (on the assumption, of course, that he has no need to compete against the rest of the Democratic field).
Last week, Biden balked at his own support for the Hyde Amendment, as well, claiming that “insight” had led him to abandon his decades-long support for the bipartisan measure, which protects taxpayers from having to fund abortions. And while this may not affect him among Democrats — it may, in fact, make him more palatable to “progressives” who fear running Biden sacrifices principles for electoral success — it may affect him among Iowa voters, who are historically skeptical of candidates who appear feckless.
Biden is also now the target of most of his fellow candidates for the nomination. At an event Saturday, Buttigieg added a second refrain to his rant against President Donald Trump, lashing out at Biden for playing on nostalgia for the Barack Obama era, according to Fox News.
“Don’t listen to anybody in either party who says we can just go back to what we were doing,” Buttigieg said. “We in the LGBT community know that when we hear phrases like ‘Make America Great Again,’ that that American past was never quite as great as advertised.”