The FINANCIAL — As Vice President Joe Biden reportedly deliberates a bid for president while he vacations in South Carolina, a new Gallup poll finds Democrats evenly split over whether he should enter the race. Forty-five percent of Democrats, including independents who lean Democratic, say they want him to run for president in 2016; 47% do not. By comparison, Democrats are less eager to see Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has maintained she will not run despite grass-roots efforts to encourage her candidacy, jump in.
There are currently five major candidates for the Democratic nomination: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee. Though Clinton dominates the race, both in national preference polls and in media coverage, some Democrats would like to see a more competitive race to help attract some of the media coverage that the Republican field of 17 is currently monopolizing, according to Gallup.
Eight in 10 Democrats Open to Backing Biden
There does not appear to be a large groundswell of support in the Democratic Party for Biden, or for that matter, Warren, to get into the 2016 presidential race to challenge Clinton. But Democrats and Democratic leaners do not widely oppose a Biden candidacy, either.
The Aug. 5-9 Gallup poll finds 19% of Democrats saying they would definitely support Biden if he runs for the 2016 presidential nomination. However, another 61% say they might consider it; 19% say they definitely would not. While Warren has effectively ruled out a run this cycle, if she changes her mind, she would have 15% of Democrats solidly behind her and another 56% willing to consider her.
Gallup asked the same question in reference to Hillary Clinton in January 2007, about a month before she officially joined the race and a year before she made a strong showing in the initial 2008 Democratic primaries. At that time, a third of Democrats said they would definitely support her — about twice the number who are ready to commit to Biden today. But most Clinton supporters still fell into the potential category, with 52% saying they might support her.
Three in Four Democrats View Biden Favorably
Whether or not they would vote for Biden, most Democrats and Democratic leaners — 74% — have a favorable view of him, up from 65% a year ago, and similar to Democrats’ recent favorable ratings of Hillary Clinton. Just 16% view Biden unfavorably. Biden has been in the news in recent months following the death of his 46-year-old son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, who succumbed to brain cancer in late May.
Similarly, Biden’s image among all Americans has also improved, with nearly half of Americans now holding a favorable impression of him, up from 38% and 39% within the past year. His current 47% to 40% favorable/unfavorable ratio is the most positive Gallup has recorded since immediately after the 2012 election.
The vice president has many personal and political factors to consider in deciding whether to pursue a third bid for president. Should Biden emerge as a viable nominee, it would likely be an expensive and bruising battle with Hillary Clinton. But, if Biden is looking for a clear signal from rank-and-file Democrats, this poll doesn’t provide one. While nearly half say he should run and most view him favorably, most also view Clinton favorably, and only 19% say they would definitely back him — similar to the percentage saying they would back Warren. Rather than seeking an alternative to Clinton, Democrats may simply believe other candidates, Biden included, deserve a chance — and like to keep their own options open.