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Biden Holds on to Primary Lead as He Delivers Foreign Policy Address

The former vice president talks foreign policy as his poll numbers drop.

Then-U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the campaign trail at an event in Merrimack, New Hampshire on September 22, 2012. (Image Credit: Marc Nozell)
Then-U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the campaign trail at an event in Merrimack, New Hampshire on September 22, 2012. (Image Credit: Marc Nozell)

In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of registered voters, former U.S. President Joe Biden continues to retain the support of Democrats, but by a thinning margin.

Twenty-six percent of Democratic voters said they would favor Joe Biden as the party’s nominee in the 2020 presidential election. Biden was followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren at 19 percent. Senators Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders tied for third place with support from 13 percent of Democratic voters polled, rounding out the top tier of candidates. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg led the pack of second-tier candidates with 7 percent. Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s standing has plummeted further to 2 percent, tying the eccentric entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Biden, seen as the favorite for the Democratic nomination, now faces a serious challenge from the top two women candidates Harris and Warren, as well as Sanders, who has helped propel the party further to the left. The former vice president has struggled to adapt to an electorate that has become more progressive during his time out of office. His record of support for opponents of bussing for school desegregation, for example, has resurfaced and was used effectively by Harris against him in the first set of Democratic debates. However, Biden retains strong support among black voters, including in the crucial southern state of South Carolina, where he has a 26-point lead over the next-most popular candidate among blacks.

On Thursday, Biden delivered a foreign policy address at the City University of New York, echoing similar themes as that of Buttigieg. Like the South Bend mayor, Biden called for a foreign policy that privileges what matters to the average American. Biden said, “In 2019, foreign policy is domestic policy, in my view, and domestic policy is foreign policy.” He also pledged to end the “forever wars” and address the challenge of global authoritarianism.

In the 2008 presidential race, Biden’s long tenure in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee served as an asset in the general election. But that was seven years after 9/11 and before the Great Recession fully hit. The American electorate—and, in particular, Democrats—has made clear it prefers spending at home than for endless wars abroad. This time around, Biden’s foreign policy experience—including his vote in 2002 for the Iraq war—may provide fodder for his critics. In the end, it is domestic policy that will decide the 2020 Democratic nomination. At best, Biden’s foreign policy speech will provide a necessary but temporary distraction as he faces heat on race-related issues.

Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News and host of The Pivot podcast. He's contributed to publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, and POLITICO Magazine, and has appeared on broadcast outlets such as Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio. Rafiq is also a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.

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