Under pressure, Biden drifts leftward on abortion, climate change

The Joe Biden Express to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination went a bit off track this week.
Since Biden joined the race in April, his campaign has worked to craft an aura of inevitability around the former vice president’s bid. Biden has engaged President Donald Trump more often than his Democratic rivals, while speaking in broad, thematic outlines rather pinpointing policy.
To a large extent, the strategy has succeeded. Biden enjoys a comfortable lead over his 23 competitors – drawing 31% of support from Democratic and independent voters compared to the 14% received by second-place U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the Reuters/Ipsos poll this week – and remains the favourite to battle Trump in the November 2020 election.
But as Biden increasingly has to stake out policy positions, he finds himself under fire from progressives in the party — and has shown a willingness to bow to demands that could hurt him with more moderate voters.
Facing intense criticism from liberals and abortion-rights groups, Biden on Thursday suddenly reversed himself on the Hyde Amendment, a law that prohibits federal funds for most abortions. After 40 years of supporting the measure, Biden, a Roman Catholic, announced at an event in Atlanta that he now opposed it.
Earlier this week, Biden rolled out a climate-change plan that was more ambitious and far-reaching than many expected. It came after weeks of progressives openly fretting that his plan would seek some sort of “middle ground” in an attempt to mollify labour unions and other industry groups concerned about the economic impact of a massive shift away from fossil fuels.
In both cases, Biden was not necessarily speaking to his loyal base of supporters, the largely middle-aged and middle-of-the-road voters – many of them union members – who came out to see him in New Hampshire this week.
Instead, he was courting the groups he needs to consolidate his grip on the nomination: the activists, progressives and millennials who right now have the louder voices in the party.
Biden’s chief antagonist has been Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-term congresswoman from New York who is not running for president but who commands a fervent following on social media. She called out Biden on both his climate and abortion positions.–DT

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