(CN) – John Kerry, former Secretary of State under Barack Obama and a onetime Democratic nominee for president, threw his weight behind Joe Biden Thursday in the Democratic Primary race.
Kerry said Biden has the temperament, experience and “middle-class Scranton values” necessary to wrest the White House away from President Donald Trump in 2020.
“Joe will defeat Donald Trump next November,” Kerry said in a statement. “He’s the candidate with the wisdom and standing to fix what Trump has broken, to restore our place in the world, and improve the lives of working people here at home.”
Kerry’s formal endorsement of the former vice president is not unexpected given the two men’s long-standing political relationship, but comes as the Democratic field is still taking shape.
The endorsement could be a sign that the Democratic Party apparatus is starting to align itself behind Biden, who experienced some turbulence at the outset of his campaign and continued questions about his age and mental acuity but still manages to lead the field in most national polls.
“Kinda seems like some of those “party elites” moving toward Biden after all,” wrote Nate Silver, editor of FiveThirtyEight, on Thursday. “A fairly good run of endorsements lately.”
Others speculated Kerry may be fishing for a future cabinet position.
The former secretary of state will join Biden on the campaign trail as early as Friday, making an appearance in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and then flying to New Hampshire with Biden to appear alongside the nominee-hopeful at an event slated for Dec. 8.
Kerry and Biden served together as Northeast Democrats for 24 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Biden was chairman of that committee until he agreed to join Barack Obama as vice president, eventually serving all eight years of Obama’s two terms.
Kerry took over for Biden as chairman of the highly coveted Senate committee and then became Secretary of State, after Hillary Clinton stepped down in 2013. He served as the 68th secretary of state until Obama’s term concluded in January 2017.
First elected to the United States Senate in 1984, Kerry represented the state of Massachusetts until 2013. He also ran for president against George W. Bush in 2004, where the two men litigated the rationale behind the Iraq War. Kerry beat out Howard Dean and Jonathan Edwards for the Democratic nomination, and Edwards eventually became his running mate.
Kerry was in a similar situation to where Biden is now, lagging in the polls in Iowa and challenged by more progressive candidates. According to the latest poll in Iowa, Biden is running at a distant fourth in the state with only 12% of the vote.
But Biden’s chances look increasingly promising when viewed at a national scope, polling 9% ahead of his nearest competitor in the latest Yougov poll released Wednesday. Biden captured 27% approval compared to 18% for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 13% for Sen. Bernie Sanders and 12% for South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Sen. Kamala Harris polled at 4%, but with her announcement this week that she is dropping out of the race, it will be incumbent upon Biden and the others to assimilate her support.
The race for the Democratic nomination is still in its early stage, but the Iowa caucus is approximately two months out on Feb. 3.
Biden has been able to secure the older, moderate vote of the Democratic Party and has rated consistently well with minority voters, particularly black voters who have steadily preferred him over minority candidates like Harris and Sen. Corey Booker (who garnered 2% in the latest poll.)
Also, several pundits point to Iowa as an outlier, not reflective of the broader concerns of the country. Overwhelmingly white and thoroughly midwestern, the state favors Buttigieg at 26%, with Warren and Sanders second and third with 19% and 18%, respectively.
But in South Carolina, with a large black population and larger segment of moderate Democratic voters, Biden is leading by a large margin, according to the latest poll.
“Unlike tight races in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina has a clear front-runner in the Democratic primary,” said Quinnipiac University Polling analyst Mary Snow. “Former Vice President Joe Biden has broad-based appeal, with particularly strong leads among black and moderate/conservative voters.”
But Snow noted the field still must be further winnowed and many voters have yet to decide on their preferred candidate.
“Roughly 4 in 10 of likely Democratic primary voters say their minds are made up,” she said.