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Is Joe Biden actually underrated now?

A new poll shows Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg struggling to gain support from black voters in South Carolina.

Posted: Nov 19, 2019 7:20 AM
Updated: Nov 19, 2019 7:20 AM

It's popular -- particularly on Twitter! -- to blast former Vice President Joe Biden and declare his presidential hopes dead. And given his poor fundraising through the end of September and his, uh, middling debate performances, there are some real facts behind that perception.

But one of the under-told storylines of the 2020 campaign to date is that despite the defeatist conventional wisdom, the support for the former vice president has -- and continues -- to show surprising resilience. That's especially true of Biden's support among African Americans, a critical voting bloc in a Democratic presidential primary.

Two polls released Monday out of South Carolina tell that story. In a Quinnipiac University poll, Biden is at 33% with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts a distant second at 13%. A University of North Florida poll showed much the same -- Biden at 36% with Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont lagging well behind at 10% each.

Among black voters in the Quinnipiac poll, Biden took 44% to 10% for Sanders and just 8% for Warren. (South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg received less than 1% of the black vote in South Carolina in the new Q poll. Ouch.)

Of the UNF poll, Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab, said: "Buoyed by his support among African American voters, Biden has an established lead far above the other contenders in South Carolina."

Biden's lasting strength in South Carolina and with black voters is mirrored in his improving performance in national 2020 polling as well. Biden was in danger of losing his edge over Warren in national 2020 surveys as recently as a few weeks ago. Now? He averages more than 7 points over Warren, according to the polling database maintained by Real Clear Politics.

To be clear: Biden is still not where he wants to be in Iowa or New Hampshire. And his fundraising needs to get drastically better. But his continued strength in South Carolina -- and the persistence of support from black voters even amid online predictions of his imminent demise -- suggest that Biden may have more strengths than he is getting credit for at the moment.

The Point: Biden isn't the freshest face in the race. He's not the most liberal. He's not the most eloquent. But he may well have the deepest reservoir of support among the key bloc of voters who have decided the identity of the last two Democratic presidential nominees.

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