Washington (CNN) - Speaking to a group of donors and lobbyists in Washington on Monday night, Joe Biden said this of the Republican Party post-Donald Trump:
"With Trump gone you're going to begin to see things change. Because these folks know better. They know this isn't what they're supposed to be doing."
That is, without any exaggeration, a radical view from the man who polling suggests is the front-runner to be the party's nominee against Trump in November 2020.
Why? Because the commonly held view among liberals, who compose the base of the Democratic Party, is that Trump is not an anomaly or a virus within the broader Republican Party, he is the Republican Party. That attempts, like Biden's, to say Trump is "other" than the GOP lessens the party's culpability on its capitulation to the darker forces at work in the President's message and the party he represents.
It's not the first time Biden has voiced this Trump-is-terrible-but-Republicans-are-OK sentiment.
In March in Omaha, Nebraska, Biden was talking about the icy reception Vice President Mike Pence had received at a security conference in Germany in February. "The fact of the matter is it was followed on by a guy who's a decent guy, our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, 'I'm here on behalf of President Trump,' and there was dead silence," Biden said. "Dead silence."
The implication was clear. Pence is a fine guy but has been tainted -- on the world stage -- by his association with Trump. Liberals were very unhappy with Biden's characterization of Pence as a "decent guy," considering his views on LGBT rights. (The former vice president sought to clarify that he was talking only about Pence's foreign policy record.)
That tone and approach from Biden may be what distinguishes him most clearly from the other top-tier candidates running against him for the Democratic nomination. From Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren to Kamala Harris, each of them sees Trump less as something that has infected the GOP than as the symptom of a party that has been sick for a long time.
"[Mitch McConnell] doesn't want us to consider the mountain of evidence against the President," Warren said from the floor of the Senate last month. "That is wrong. He and his colleagues have moved to protect the President instead of defending the Constitution."
The Point: Biden is marching to the message of a very different drummer here. His pitch is that with Trump gone, things -- and Republicans -- will return to "normal." Will that sell in today's mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore Democratic Party?