The New York Times Shows that Joe Biden Has an Open Lane to the Democratic Nomination

Former Vice President Joe Biden talks to the media after speaking at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers conference in Washington, D.C., April 5, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

I go back and forth on Joe Biden’s chances at the Democratic nomination. On the one hand, we’ve seen him run two primary campaigns, and they both ended badly. Moreover, given the hard left turn of the much of the modern Democratic party, he could find himself constantly on the defensive about his long record in Washington. He voted for the Iraq War. His past tough-on-crime past could haunt him. And he’s got that embarrassing sniffing/kissing/hugging habit.

But on the other hand, what if the universal, hard left turn by virtually every other candidate opens up a center-left superhighway to the nomination? Most of the other candidates are vying for the attention and love of the Online Left, but there’s an entire other Democratic party out there — the majority of the party that doesn’t live on social media. Over at the New York Times, Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy have put together a fascinating interactive piece that separates the Democratic electorate into two large groups, Democrats on social media and Democrats off social media. It begins like this:

Perhaps the most telling poll of the Democratic primary season hasn’t been about the Democratic primary at all — but about the fallout from a 35-year-old racist photo on a yearbook page. Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia was pummeled on social media after the revelation, and virtually every Democratic presidential candidate demanded his resignation.

Yet the majority of ordinary Democrats in Virginia said Mr. Northam should remain in office, according to a Washington Post/Schar School poll a week later. And black Democrats were likelier than white ones to say Mr. Northam should remain.


Today’s Democratic Party is increasingly perceived as dominated by its “woke” left wing. But the views of Democrats on social media often bear little resemblance to those of the wider Democratic electorate.

The outspoken group of Democratic-leaning voters on social media is outnumbered, roughly 2 to 1, by the more moderate, more diverse and less educated group of Democrats who typically don’t post political content online, according to data from the Hidden Tribes Project. This latter group has the numbers to decide the Democratic presidential nomination in favor of a relatively moderate establishment favorite, as it has often done in the past.

The statistics are fascinating. Only 29 percent of online Democrats call themselves moderate or conservative compared to 53 percent of offline Democrats. The large majority of offline Democrats think political correctness is a problem. Online Democrats are whiter, more liberal, and more likely to give money to candidates and attend a protest. In other words — and this should shock exactly no one — Twitter users aren’t a representative slice of Democrats as a group.

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There is room for a candidate and a campaign staff who keeps their noses out of their smartphones, leaves themselves plenty of room to move to the center, and ignores the Twitter outrage of the moment. As John McCormack pointed out earlier today, initial polling indicates that Biden has paid no price for the touching controversy that’s consumed Twitter:

In the week before the story blew up on the weekend of March 31, a Politico/Morning Consult poll showed Biden in first place at 33 percent. In the new Morning Consult poll, conducted from April 1 to April 7, Biden is in first place at 32 percent. His favorability rating dipped from 78 percent to 75 percent.

Interestingly, Bernie Sanders has also demonstrated some recent independence from the Twitter hive mind with some sharp remarks on the downside of open borders and the inability of our nation to handle an influx of poor people from across the globe. He’s also dissented from the fashionable (on Twitter) call for an end to the legislative filibuster.

Social-media activists of course still punch above their weight, but look for smarter candidates to realize rather quickly that there are an immense number of votes on the table for someone who doesn’t endorse the entire platform of the Online Left. A competent Biden campaign could seize that lane, but that of course raises the question — can Joe Biden run a competent campaign?

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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