Joe Biden must be doing something right

Former vice president Joe Biden at a campaign rally in Kansas City, Mo., on March 7. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
May 21, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. EDT

We are more than five months from the presidential election, so polls at this stage are not predictive. But they do tell us what is happening currently, and therein is a lesson for Democrats.

Let’s face it: Democrats were spooked (rightfully) by 2016, so they are always one step from hysteria, sure that President Trump will once more defy the polls and the odds. Insofar as they do not become complacent, let alone cocky, that can be a helpful mind-set. Always campaign as though you’re a few points down, likely said some political type whose candidate probably blew a lead.

That said, Democratic commentators should take a deep breath and stop imagining everything the Biden campaign is doing is wrong. More TV! More attacks! If anyone should be panicking (and they might be), it should be the Trump team.


The latest Quinnipiac poll may be an outlier, but it is also at least some evidence that the presumptive Democratic nominee has the upper hand. (Biden does lead in the RealClearPolitics averages nationally by 5.6 points.) Simply put, Biden is smashing Trump across the board, with a few notable exceptions. “Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Trump 50-39 percent in a head-to-head matchup in the election for president. . . . That’s up from the 49-41 percent lead Biden held in an [April 8] national poll, but the change is within the margin of error.” He leads among independents by 11 percentage points, among women by nearly 30 points, among white women by 11 points (Trump narrowly won this group in 2016), and among older voters by 10 points (an oddity for a Democrat). Trump’s net favorable is minus-15 and his net approval is minus-11.

Opinion | Vice President Biden, you need black women voters. This is how to win us.
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Biden dominates in all sorts of ways: He is regarded as far more honest (47 percent say he’s honest) than Trump (34 percent) and is a better leader (plus-11 vs. minus-18). On the covid-19 pandemic, “By a sixteen-point margin, 55-39 percent, voters say they think Biden would do a better job than President Trump handling the response to the coronavirus. . . . Two-thirds of voters, 67 percent, say that President Trump should wear a face mask when he is out in public, while 27 percent say he should not.” Large percentages of voters are not willing to risk their health to boost the economy. “Three-quarters of voters (75 percent) say the country should reopen slowly, even if it makes the economy worse, while 21 percent say the country should reopen quickly, even if it makes the spread of the coronavirus worse.” Huge majorities think it is currently unsafe to fly or go to a restaurant.

The economy used to be a lifeline for Trump. Now, it is a dark cloud. “About 4 in 10 voters (42 percent) say they are very concerned that the economy will fall into a depression, 39 percent say they are somewhat concerned, 11 percent say they are not so concerned, and 8 percent say they are not concerned at all. Roughly three-quarters of voters, 74 percent, rate the economy as not so good or poor.”

Trump certainly has his base of support among men, non-college-educated whites and white men. But that seems like all he has. There are too many voters, no matter how the GOP strains to reduce turnout, to win with this narrow sliver of the vote. By contrast, Biden is in an enviable position (after spending minimal amounts of money) both nationally and electorally (as states such as Arizona become true swing states). He is everything Trump is not — mature, kind, rooted in reality. Democrats shouldn’t get cocky, but they really need to take a breath. Trumpers, on the other hand, have every reason to be hysterical.

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