Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s vice-president, has emerged as an early frontrunner among Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination with a dominant lead among voters in Iowa, who will be the first to state their preference next year.
A new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll finds 32 per cent of likely caucusgoers saying they back Mr Biden as their first choice, ahead of 19 per cent for Bernie Sanders and 11 per cent for Beto O’Rourke, the telegenic campaigner who came close to an against-the-odds win in Texas last month.
The results have Democrats salivating about a dream ticket that matches a 76-year-old veteran, who is popular with blue-collar voters, with Mr O’Rourke, a 46-year-old with a knack for producing viral videos.
“It’s early days and a lot can change but it could be a way to get past the age issue with Joe,” said a Democratic strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of endorsing a candidate. “Then again, it’s two white men.”
Mr Biden has not yet decided whether he will join a crowded field of contenders.
However, he has done little to dispel the speculation and has touted his age as an advantage.
Profile | Joe Biden
“I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” he said during a speech at the University of Montana earlier this month. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse that I’ve worked on my whole life.”
His supporters say he is best placed to woo back the parts of the Rust Belt and middle America that were unimpressed with Hillary Clinton’s run and defected to Donald Trump in 2016.
But doubts remain that the Democrats are in danger of losing the youth vote if they plump for Mr Biden or the likes of Mr Sanders, 77, or Elizabeth Warren, 69.
The Associated Press reported at the weekend that Mr Biden was talking to friends and long-time supporters about whether he was too old to run for the White House. They have floated the idea of teaming up with Mr O’Rourke.
Mr O’Rourke excited Democratic voters and individuals donors in Texas, a usually staunch Republican state.
The three-term Congressman initially ruled himself out of a 2020 run but is now considering capitalising on his sudden national profile. He became famous for livestreaming almost every aspect of his life during the midterm campaign when he came within three percentage points of a giant-killing victory over Ted Cruz.
Iowa is a critical state for would-be presidents. It represents the first votes of the election cycle as, come February 2020, party supporters gather in caucuses to select their preferred candidate.
The winner has gone on to clinch the nomination in every contested primary season since 2000.
Among other notable contenders, Ms Warren, the Massachusetts Senator, polled eight percent and Kamala Harris, the California Senator, won the backing of five percent of respondents in the new poll.
Last week the New York Times reported that Mr Sanders and Ms Warren had met to discuss their rival presidential ambitions, but that neither had tried to dissuade the other from running, nor had they agreed to a joint-ticket.
Ms Warren, a noted progressive like Mr Sanders, has drawn fierce criticism for publishing the results of a DNA test to prove that she has Native American ancestry. The move followed Mr Trump, who mockingly dubbed Ms Warren "Pocahontas", alleging such claims were false.