The likely White House contender has a cadre of senior Democrats ready to defend him against attacks.
When Joe Biden was embroiled in controversy over his “tactile” politics, he didn’t have to lift a finger before Sen. Chris Coons rushed to his defense.
“I didn’t need to,” said his fellow Delaware Democrat when asked if he spoke to Biden before pushing back against the narrative that Biden had behaved inappropriately with women. “I didn’t need any particular advice or coaching.”
Other senior Democrats including House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Sen. Dianne Feinstein also spoke out in Biden’s favor in interviews with POLITICO. They’ll be valuable allies as he faces criticism for his record on race and his handling of Anita Hill’s treatment during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas‘ confirmation.
The two-term vice president has a built-in institutional advantage over his Democratic rivals as he prepares to enter the crowded primary as the presumptive frontrunner in the contest to take on President Donald Trump. Biden has a stable of as many as a dozen senators and still more in the House that are prepared to vouch for him when he inevitably comes under siege.
Biden’s surrogates expect that moment to come sooner rather than later, given concerns about his conduct toward women and his throwback bipartisan style of politics that’s rare in a hyperpolarized political climate.
“He’s clearly in the lead. So he’s the one to aim at,” said Feinstein who supports Biden over fellow California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris.
“He will be among the frontrunners,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), in part because of “the very deep relationships he has with many, many people, including members of Congress.”
It’s not clear that the 2020 primary electorate will care what members of Congress have to say. Younger, more left-leaning voters in particular are likely to be skeptical — especially when they see with their own eyes Biden’s conduct or liberal apostasies. But many Democrats are not as fire-breathing as those on Twitter, and having a cadre of senior party figures will help him in his pursuit of the nomination.
Already, it seems Biden’s rivals have moved on from his interactions with women to his lengthy record, with stories surfacing about his resistance to busing to integrate schools, past opposition to some abortion rights and comments like his Thursday praise for former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.
Such is the nature of being a frontrunner, and Biden is in some ways an easy target as a garrulous politician who got his start in another era. He served in the Senate for 36 years, spanning Democratic generations that shifted from a more ideologically diverse party with a real conservative wing to one where moderates are all but extinct from Capitol Hill.