In today's toxic political environment, if they can see you, they will kill you. The feeding frenzy that engulfs front-runners is much like a nuclear reactor. The chain reaction it catalyzes gets more and more intense until it explodes in a bomb blast and destroys the front-runner. To win, a candidate must advance in stealth, avoiding the searing intensity to which any front-runner is exposed.
Now it's coming to be Biden's turn in the spotlight. Following his announcement of candidacy, he has surged in the CNN poll by 11 points (up to 39%) and in the Morning Consult survey by 6 points (up to 36%) — both double digits ahead of Sanders.
And so, the attacks against him are escalating ... and Biden is very vulnerable. His long, long record sets him up for hits such as the criticisms with which Bernie slammed him on Monday, saying, "I helped lead the fight against NAFTA; (Biden) voted for NAFTA. I helped lead the fight against (permanent normal trade relations) with China; he voted for it. I strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership; he supported it. I voted against the war in Iraq; he voted for it."
Hits like these will undermine the nascent Biden Boom very quickly.
The anatomy of Biden's surge highlights its fragility: His biggest gains are among African Americans, where the Morning Consult poll has him in first place at 43%, followed by Sanders at 20% and Harris at 10%.
Biden stoked black support with his announcement statement, which focused on the Charlottesville riots and accused President Donald Trump of calling opponents of dismantling Confederate statues "fine people" despite the presence of white supremacists and Nazis in their ranks.
But Biden cannot maintain a front-runner status among blacks in a field that includes candidates of color such as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris.
Under fire from his 20 competitors (and counting) for the Democratic nomination, from journalists smelling blood and from Trump's tweets, Biden will fall back from his momentary high. Then the headlines will herald his "fall," and he will find himself in the sand trap that lies in the path of any elderly candidate: being labeled as yesterday's news.
And Biden will also find himself increasingly under scrutiny for the good fortune of his son, Hunter, in securing a $1.5 billion investment for his hedge fund from the government-owned Bank of China while his father was vice president. The investment was inked 10 days after Dad visited China and met with its president.
Between his past unprogressive record and the potential for scandal in the Hunter-China relationship, Biden will become an easy target. In conventional political parlance, he is peaking too soon.