Jill Biden laid out the political calculus of her husband’s presidential campaign in extraordinarily blunt terms on Monday, directly acknowledging that some voters may prefer other candidates but urging them to support Joseph R. Biden Jr. anyway, in an effort to defeat President Trump.
As Mr. Biden, the early poll leader, works — and sometimes struggles — to excite a Democratic base that has moved left since he last ran for office, Dr. Biden, campaigning in New Hampshire, called on Democrats to prioritize perceived electability over enthusiasm for individual contenders or their policies.
“You may like another candidate better, but you have to look at who is going to win,” she said, addressing a gathering of educators. “And if education is your main issue, Joe is that person.”
“Your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, health care than Joe is, but you’ve got to look at who’s going to win this election,” Dr. Biden said. “And maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, ‘O.K., I sort of personally like so-and-so better,’ but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.”
Her remarks were first reported by NBC News.
A Biden aide noted that Dr. Biden had also said that many people in the room were not sold on her husband — a suggestion that she was simply trying to persuade.
“I know that not all of you are committed to my husband, and I respect that, but I want you to think about your candidate, his or her electability, and who’s going to win this race,” she said, pointing to polls showing Mr. Biden with consistent leads.
Mr. Biden has indeed led both national and state polls throughout the summer, though he has seen his leads in Iowa and New Hampshire slide in some surveys, and his overall favorability rating has dipped as a presidential candidate. He will return to Iowa on Tuesday for another campaign swing.
Many political strategists caution that it is far too early for general election matchup polling to be predictive of the outcome in November 2020. Still, Mr. Biden’s allies have pointed to several surveys that do show him ahead of his rivals in matchups against Mr. Trump nationally or in key states including Ohio.
He and his allies often argue that of all of the Democratic candidates running, his more centrist approach, potential appeal to independents and longstanding ties to labor would help him win back states Mr. Trump won in the industrial Midwest.
Dr. Biden’s unvarnished emphasis on pragmatism reflected that bet, even as many other candidates believe that the way to defeat Mr. Trump is by energizing young voters, particularly younger voters of color, through boldly progressive policy proposals.
“Electability is not only the most important issue, it’s virtually the only issue,” Dick Harpootlian, a South Carolina state senator and longtime friend of Mr. Biden’s, said about Dr. Biden’s remarks.
Asked whether he perceived the comments as an acknowledgment of enthusiasm challenges for Mr. Biden, Mr. Harpootlian replied: “This is not an admission of anything. It’s an admission that he is the strongest person to beat Donald Trump. That’s all it is.”