Joe Biden ranks highest among Democratic contenders in 2020 polling

Anyone who had doubts about whether a third Biden candidacy might happen might have looked up this month’s Gallup Poll. The poll shows that Vice President Joe Biden has the highest favorable rating of any Democratic presidential contender.

The poll of 1,000 likely Democratic voters is an early entry in the 2016 campaign, and as a gauge of potential campaign viability, it’s pretty good.

But don’t get excited. A few quick notes:

Biden’s favorability rating is 51 percent. In February, the latest data possible, John Kerry had a 57 percent favorable rating.

(I know, I know…some of you will tell me that Paul G. Kirk Jr. , the highest-rated V.P. of all time (with 71 percent), back in 1973). But Kerry was the 2004 Democratic candidate, with President Obama on the ticket. And it’s important to remember that a V.P. would make his own primary ballot, if he wanted to run.

The numbers, I suppose, are a sign that there’s genuine interest in a potential candidacy. They’re not a good indicator of Biden’s chances in the primaries. (Couple of caveats. A) He probably doesn’t need any money to get going, and some pollster may be pegging his favorable rating in order to sell him as the John Kerry of 2016. (B) Well, his personal approval rating is the highest it’s been since January 2012, when he was likely a viable candidate for reelection as vice president.

The fact that Biden is considered a plausible contender should not make anyone feel encouraged about the chances of other Democratic contenders. No serious self-styled candidate has a big enough national following, both in organization and media, to overcome the huge and lingering unfavorable feelings toward him from 2008. If other Democrats start announcing, look for negative news coverage of those announcements, and reports from the ground in states like Iowa and New Hampshire that serious campaign plans aren’t moving forward.

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