Democrats Divided

Donald Trump has dominated the mainstream media cycle for the better part of three months. The Republican field captures the camera lens of every media outlet and has already gone through its first debate, and it will have its second this week. Little attention, however, has been paid to the Democratic field, which has become increasingly interesting in recent weeks. 

Five candidates have declared candidacy for the Democratic party: Lincoln Chafee (former Governor of Rhode Island); Hillary Clinton (need I say more); Martin O’Malley (former Governor of Maryland); Bernie Sanders (U.S. Senator –VT) and Jim Webb (former U.S. Senator from Virginia). Vice President Joe Biden has also expressed interest in running and is currently exploring his options.

Right now, it is a two-horse race in the Democratic Party. Clinton had a seemingly insurmountable lead before the summer started, but has since given way to red-hot Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has taken the nation by storm these past few months. After polling close to six percent nationally among Democrats in May, the senator reached a height of 28 percent on August 28,  according to Real Clear Politics. His numbers are even better in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he holds 10 and 22 point leads over Clinton respectively. At this point, it seems like nothing will stop his meteoric rise in the polls. Nothing, that is until Biden enters the race.

Before he became President Obama’s running mate in 2008, Biden was one of the most popular Senators in Washington. His state was entirely devoted to him, and he was able to reach voter constituencies that Obama could not. Today, Biden still holds a lot of popularity among Democratic voters. He is currently polling in third behind Clinton and Sanders nationally, but those numbers will improve dramatically should he enter the race. 

Democratic voters know Biden much better than they know Sanders. He’s been in the White House for almost eight years and possesses the blue-collar charisma that Sanders sometimes lacks. 

The current Vice President also has a clear advantage over Sanders among black voters. Sanders polls at about 23 percent among black voters compared to Hillary Clinton’s 80 percent. Most black voters are unfamiliar with the Senator; about two thirds of black voters can’t identify him. He desperately needs to win the votes of African-Americans if he wishes to win the nomination. A Biden entry would make that impossible.

Conversely, the entrance of Biden into the race could also help Sanders and hurt Clinton. Clinton and Biden are both moderate Democrats who appeal to the same types of voters. A Biden entrance could split the moderates down the middle and open things up for Bernie Sanders as a progressive. Biden and Clinton both voted in favor of the Iraq war, compared to the relatively pacifist Sanders, who voted against it. This primary could potentially determine how the Democratic Party will look moving forward. Should Sanders win the nomination, the party’s progressive wing, headed by Sanders and the beloved Elizabeth Warren (Sen. D-MA), will have a powerful voice. 

It’s still far too early to tell how things will shape up in either party, but it no longer seems that Clinton will have an easy fight moving forward. Her dominant lead has vanished and she still suffers from her email scandal. This should make for a refreshingly exciting primary battle in the Democratic field—hopefully with an emphasis on ideas and policy rather than the mindless conjecture of a certain reality TV star flush with cash and hypocrisy.