2020 Campaign Catch-Up

May 18, 2019
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to turn now to the upcoming presidential race, where the Democrats have a very large field of candidates who want the chance to run against President Trump. And at the head of that pack, according to the latest polls, is former Vice President Joe Biden. Today, he held a big rally in Philadelphia, and NPR's political editor Domenico Montanaro was at that rally. And he is with us now.

Domenico, nice to talk to you. Thanks for joining us.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Michel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: What's the essence of Vice President Biden's message today? Any takeaways?

MONTANARO: You know, he's really trying to distinguish himself from the rest of the Democratic field. But his thing was, let's pick hope over fear - again, kind of hearkening back to those Obama-Biden days - and really talking about how you can't run and win and govern with a clenched fist. And yet, at the same time, he wanted to show that he knew how to take the fight to President Trump and then delivered that blow with this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

JOE BIDEN: President Trump inherited an economy from Obama-Biden administration.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: That was given to him, just like he inherited everything else in his life.

(CHEERING)

BIDEN: And just like everything else he's been given in his life, he's in the process of squandering that as well.

MARTIN: What about that, Domenico? How was his message received by the people that you talked to?

MONTANARO: You know, a lot of the people here, even if they were undecided, said they really like it. They said that that focus that they want from these candidates is how to beat President Trump. They said that's their No. 1 priority. They want to beat Trump. They like a lot of the other candidates in the race, but they think that Joe Biden is well known. They think that the country is familiar with him. They know him. They like him generally. And they have tremendous fondness for President Obama. I saw more than one Obama-Biden throwback retro T-shirt here, I have to say. And, you know, people really felt like that message resonates with them. They don't want to take a chance, and they think that he's the person who can beat President Trump.

MARTIN: Well, as you've just as alluded to, there are about two dozen candidates running for the Democratic nomination. Now, some of these candidates, like Governor Steve Bullock of Montana, who announced earlier this week, are people who would have been attractive Senate candidates, which the Democrats would very much...

MONTANARO: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Like to take back. Or they would be sure bets for re-election - as much as anybody's a sure bet these days - for re-election to the House, which the Democrats very much need to keep in their column. But they're all going right to the presidency. Why do you think this is happening?

MONTANARO: Well, I think that, first of all, anybody who runs for president can up their name ID. They can raise their profile. They can sort of be able to put together a campaign potentially for the future. I mean, this is the kind of thing that you have to start on, and then you can gain those activists and support to do it later on.

MARTIN: And finally, Domenico, given that the Democrats say it is such a high priority to defeat President Trump, I mean, does it say anything that there is such a large field?

MONTANARO: Well, look - a lot of people wind up learning the wrong lessons from the last election. People think that they - because President Trump broke all the rules and changed the way things are done that they should run, too. The other part of it is that it is kind of indicative of a weak field. If everybody else in the field thinks that the other person is beatable, it doesn't say very much about how strongly they think this field is going to be - going to do in 2020.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Domenico Montanaro in Philadelphia.

Domenico, thank you so much.

MONTANARO: You're so welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.