Biden Goes From the Basement to Denial

May 16, 2024

For President Biden, bad news is piling up. Siena College polls released Monday by the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer show he’s losing to Donald Trump in five of six battleground states. 

He trails Mr. Trump in Nevada by 12 points (38% to 50%), in Georgia by 10 (39% to 49%), and in Michigan and Arizona by 7 (42% to 49% in both). They’re neck and neck in the remaining two with Mr. Trump ahead by 3 points (44% to 47%) in Pennsylvania and Mr. Biden by 2 in Wisconsin (47% to 45%). Both are within the polls’ margins of error. 

Even if Mr. Trump wins only battlegrounds where his lead is outside the margin, that would be enough with the states he won in 2020 to get him 283 electoral votes and a second term.

Democrats may console themselves that there’s plenty of time before Americans vote and one poll isn’t definitive. True, but the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls mirror the Siena results. Mr. Trump leads Mr. Biden in the three Sunbelt states: by 6.2 points in Nevada, 5.2 in Arizona, and 4.6 in Georgia. 

The RealClearPolitics average does show the three Great Lakes states up for grabs. Mr. Trump leads in Wisconsin by 0.6 point, in Michigan by 0.8, and in Pennsylvania by 2. If Mr. Trump wins the 33 Sunbelt battleground electoral votes, he would be only two shy of the 270 necessary to retake the White House. One of the Great Lakes states would be enough for him to win, while Mr. Biden would need all three.

The president has no chance of winning them or any other battleground until he confronts his serious problems. He’s behind in the polls not because his predecessor is outperforming his 2020 numbers but because the president is way underperforming his, especially among black, Hispanic and young voters.

Mr. Biden doesn’t seem to recognize he’s in big trouble. He told a California fundraiser Friday that a poll had him carrying Wisconsin by 6 points, another had him up by 4 nationwide, and “all the rest are basically tied.” It could be that he was putting on a brave face or is simply in denial.

Democratic strategists are more clear-eyed. James Carville, who quarterbacked Bill Clinton’s first run for the White House, complains that Mr. Biden is surrounded by “Ivy League economist academic types” who don’t understand “the world people are living in.” David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s strategist, is concerned Mr. Biden is “making a terrible mistake” by not empathizing with “the way people are experiencing the economy.” 

Hyping his accomplishments hasn’t lifted Mr. Biden in the polls. Nor has emphasizing Mr. Trump’s threat to abortion rights or democracy. Unless there’s a measure on a battleground state’s ballot to drive issue-specific turnout, abortion isn’t likely to be the decisive issue Democrats believed it would. And 53% of independents told an April 25 NPR/PBS/Marist poll that Mr. Biden would “weaken our democracy” in a second term, while only 42% said that of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Biden can turn things around only if he figures out how to take down Mr. Trump with undecided voters, especially those who don’t like either candidate—and soon. The president is running out of time to convince these voters that Donald Trump is worse than he is. Other incumbents were successfully attacking their challengers long before this point in their re-election race.

Biden strategists also have to get it through their heads that swing voters aren’t left-wing Democrats. They don’t want a “transformational” Democratic president but the reassuring, transitional figure they believed they were backing in 2020.

Mr. Biden does, however, have a financial advantage that he’s using to build an aggressive get-out-the vote effort. While this won’t give him 8 or 10 more points, it could boost him enough to win some states that are close today.

Read More at the WSJ

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