Biden is still the Democrat to beat, but rivals see weakness

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — In a barn down a gravel road in Iowa, Joe Biden tore into President Donald Trump’s moral character, declaring in one of the fiercest speeches of his campaign that the words of the American president matter.

The next day, Biden’s own words tripped him up. He told an audience in Des Moines that poor children are “just as bright and just as talented as white kids,” before immediately clarifying his remarks.

The back-to-back episodes magnified the promise and the peril of Biden’s candidacy. Three months after announcing his White House bid, he remains atop early polling for Democratic candidates, buoyed by a long history with voters and a belief among many of them that his decades of experience best position him to defeat Trump. Those attributes appear to have helped the former vice president withstand weeks of attacks on his lengthy record in politics.

But Biden’s rivals remain confident that his fumbles, like the one in Iowa this week, eventually will catch up to him, undermining his electability argument.

“He has been durable,” said David Axelrod, a longtime political strategist for President Barack Obama. “The question is whether that durability is because we aren’t fully geared into the race or whether there are inherent strengths there.”

Biden’s team has been heartened by the consistency of his early polling numbers, despite the push from fellow candidates to cast the 76-year-old as out of step with the Democratic Party on women’s health issues and race. Nearly every survey, both nationally and in the early primary states, shows him leading the crowded primary field, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris following behind but so far unable to find a way to surpass him.

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