Former Vice President Joe Biden has potential to deliver a presidential campaign shocker in the Feb. 3 caucus by surpassing modest expectations and claiming the top spot in Iowa.

Bob Beatty, a Washburn University professor who has written profiles of presidential candidates in the Democratic field, said that would mean the Delaware Democrat put distance between himself and his chief rivals, including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind. It would be a significant accomplishment in the first showdown in the Democratic Party's nomination process, because Biden had been denounced early in the race for avoiding Iowa.

"I'm going to make a wild prediction and say Biden shocks everybody and wins the caucus," Beatty said during the Capitol Insider podcast, a project of The Topeka Capital-Journal. "He's going for a really tricky one, which, if he can accomplish it, it will be a master stroke. He's there a lot now, but he's still saying, 'Well, I may not do that well.' "

 

In previous Iowa polling, the big four — Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg — were in a four-way tie. A new poll from the Des Moines Register and CNN showed Sanders with his first-ever lead in the state. It showed Sanders with 20%, Warren at 17%, Buttigieg at 16% and Biden at 15%. No other candidate was in double digits.

Beatty's latest candidate profiles published by The Capitol-Journal were of second-tier candidates New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Hawaii U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang. He also chronicled the campaign of California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who dropped out in December.

He said Booker, the former mayor of Newark, N.J., had a colorful personality on the stump and a speaking style similar to that of former President Barack Obama.

"He can bring a crowd to its feet. I've witnessed it several times in Iowa," Beatty said. "There's a few people surprised he's not broken out of the pack yet."

Gabbard, the first woman combat veteran to run for president, doesn't plan to seek re-election to the U.S. House. In a bizarre twist, she was accused by some Democrats as being a stooge for Russians attempting to help President Donald Trump win a second term.

She has pressed to bring U.S. troops home and invest more federal resources in education, health care and infrastructure, Beatty said.

"She's absolutely fascinating," Beatty said. "She really just wants to spend her time, 80% on the campaign trial, talking about foreign policy. It's unusual."

Yang, a wealthy entrepreneur, philanthropist and attorney, formed a "Yang Gang" group of supporters in a campaign for president that began in 2017. He has drawn interest by proposing a novel method of narrowing the country's income inequity.

"His most famous idea is a guaranteed income of $1,000 a month to every single American," Beatty said.

He said Harris' campaign was weakened by her career as California attorney general from 2011 until 2017 and as district attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011.

"In a general election, you get a tough woman of color who has prosecuted criminals, that may be a heck of a candidate," Beatty said. "But in a Democratic primary, she took crap from Day One. She either advocated for or enforced laws that put people in prison. Right now, in the Democratic primary, that is not a popular thing."