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Credit: Linda Ting

As the Democratic presidential primary field grows increasingly crowded, Penn Presidential Professor of Practice Joe Biden has been keeping the public on their toes about his potential 2020 campaign.

In a recent CNN poll, 62 percent of Democratic voters agreed that the former vice president should announce his presidential run. But Penn professors are doubtful of the possibilities of his success, just as Biden is uncertain about announcing his candidacy.

Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are just some of the prominent Democrats who have already declared their candidacies.

A Real Clear Politics average of recent polls regarding the Democratic primary has Biden leading potential contenders, with an average support of 32.8 percent.

Biden was installed as a Presidential Professor of Practice in February 2017 and announced the creation of the Penn Biden Center in Washington D.C. a year later.

Penn writer-in-residence Dick Polman said he would not be surprised if the former vice president opted out of running, given his advanced age of almost 80 years old.

“[Biden] knows what it takes to run nonstop and how physically punishing it is,” Polman said. “He keeps second-guessing [his run]. The fact that he keeps talking about it, ruminating about it openly, makes me think that he’s not 100 percent in the game.”

Although Political Science professor Marc Meredith said Biden is “doing all the things one would need to be doing if they were going to run,” given his D.C.-based center, he remains uncertain about Biden’s potential candidacy due to his baggage from a lengthy political career.

Credit: Son Nguyen

Former Vice President Joe Biden will speak at Irvine Auditorium on Feb. 19. 

Meredith referenced how Biden handled the 1991 Anita Hill hearing against Justice Clarence Thomas as a potential problem. Polman also referred to his unsuccessful bids for presidency in the past, and the 1987 accusations of speech plagiarism against him.

Political Science professor Matthew Levendusky said he believes Biden is unlikely to run.

As for Biden’s chances of securing the Democratic nomination, experts agree that his Washington and foreign policy experience will play to his strengths. 

Meredith said Biden may rise to the top in early polls because of name recognition, and added that initial polls are not wholly accurate. Levendusky noted, however, that Biden may benefit from a “halo effect” from being associated with former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Polman added that Biden matches up well to potential 2020 Republican rival President Donald Trump because of his connection to his hometown Scranton, Pa., a working-class city in a state that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election.

“Never underestimate the importance of a visceral connection,” Polman said. “He can speak to a lot of the voters that swung from Obama to Trump.”

Polman estimated that Biden’s chance of winning would be around 30 to 40 percent and noted that there were many credentialed women running as well.

“He may strike voters as yesterday’s news,” Polman said.

On Jan. 28, Biden said he was "closer" to a 2020 decision, an announcement that will leave many closely watching the Penn professor in coming months.

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