Biden's Game in Swing States Is Not All There

Joe Biden, who is poised to earn enough delegates to formally secure the Democratic presidential nomination this month, promises to enter the general election campaign on offense in states President Trump won in 2016.

As the nation battles a pandemic, high unemployment, and civil unrest, polls show Biden leading Trump in six critical swing states the latter narrowly carried four years ago: Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Arizona, according to CNBC/Change Research poll conducted in mid-June.  Observers note that the battleground advantage polls came shortly after a Gallup poll showed that Trump's net approval rating had dropped 19 points in one month.

These numbers are surely alarming for Trump-supporters.  But there is also some comfort.  First of all, we heard all those optimistic predictions for a Democratic candidate not so long ago.  Listening to the pundits' joyful projections, one may experience a keen sense of déjà vu.  Same pollsters guaranteed us that the White House will be occupied with the first ever female president.  They promised a "bloodbath" of an election in favor of Mrs. Clinton.  "It's great for you [Madame Secretary] that 56 percent of Americans think you have the temperament to serve as president, while only 32 percent think the same of your rival. It's lucky that Trump is your opponent," wrote Vanity Fair, concluding that Clinton would win because sixty-one percent of Americans thought she was qualified to be president, while 64 percent of Americans thought Trump was not.  Oh, Vanity Fair, you shouldn't have inflamed Mrs. Clinton's vanity — she didn't even write a concession speech thanks to people like you, but when the results were out, she, the rumor has it, yelled obscenities to her staff while throwing things at them, caused some furniture damage — so much for the presidential temperament! — and retreated to the woods for months to recover from her defeat.  CNN's coverage that started so cocky and then went as sour as lemons on the election night of 2016 is so delightful that I can play it on the loop for hours.

Today, the columns are not as enthusiastic.  "Biden leads Trump in key states" — carefully observes the N.Y. Times — "[b]ut Hillary Clinton led by more."  The Hill's contributor observes that even though Biden has a "clear lead" and is "probably going to win[.] ... Things can change between now and then," while "recent history reinforces an important lesson: modesty about our ability to predict the future is wise.  Arrogance certainty is not."  It's worth noting that the latest observation is true for both parties.  Some may gloat over evidently declining Joe or feel sorry watching him mumbling incoherently and firmly believing that it's a travesty to run for president while being unable to finish up a sentence.  We may suppose that Biden's record of failed policies, substantial allegations in sexual misconduct, and foreign corruption would drown him.  We recognize that top Democrats' frank desire to keep Biden in his basement indicates that even they realize he is not presidential material.  Or him not holding press conferences as the country is boiling.  Or Biden's campaign's refusal to have more debates.  We comprehend it all while praising Trump's proven record of a unique for any politician's ability to get things done.  To love the country, for a change.  But we must not underestimate the other side's enormous lust for power, when the well-being of Americans is only an exchange currency for that ultimate goal.  Their desperate attempts to destabilize the economy and polarize their atomic electorate may be viewed as indirect proof of Trump's real odds of winning a second term.

Anyway, there was another piece of news that flew under most media's radar.  Apparently, Joe Biden's campaign has only begun to hire top officials in key states, leaving him without senior staff in battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida, alarming some Democrats who say the leadership vacuum could hinder the party's efforts to defeat Donald Trump in November, according to Bloomberg.  State directors oversee the day-to-day running of the campaign and are key to executing its broader strategy.  The Democrats stated that while the delay is not catastrophic, they are concerned about the campaign's protracted hiring process and its effect on building a robust operation heading into the general election.

Perhaps as a crutch to a slow hiring, Biden's campaign announced the launch of a $15-million, five-week advertising effort in swing states across radio, television, digital, and print.  The blitz will be anchored by three TV ads that portray Joe as a champion of the middle class and a unifying figure.  The spending may seem substantial, but according to the New York Times, it's still a long way from Trump's own recent ad campaign, which began this spring.  Citing data from media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics, they report that Trump has already spent nearly $22.7 million, including a hefty budget for attack ads.  Thus, in the field of the election ads, Biden may be considered more vulnerable.  And, certainly, no ads can substitute a groundwork and grassroots campaign.

By contrast, Trump and the Republican National Committee have been staffing up in key states for months.  The joint operation between the campaign and the RNC has state directors in 17 states and more than 1,100 staff in the field — versus Biden's 600, if you trust Biden's campaign manager, Jen O'Marley Dillon.  Bloomberg also mentions that Clinton's campaign had already had senior staff on the ground in early spring, even before she robbed Bernie of the nomination.

One may suggest that polls showing Biden's lead despite his poor ground game is a good sign, but they're not.  Hillary took Michigan and Wisconsin for granted and lost them.  Now, when the degree of political tensions is that high, a presidential wannabe cannot just dwell in his mansion, waiting 'til it's safe to poke his nose outside.

There's another unfavorable for Biden factor to consider: Trump's "silent majority" electorate — the ordinary Americans whose opinions don't make it to the fancy polls.  These are the Americans who, for many reasons, prefer to keep their political sympathies private.  As Michael Moore warned, Democrats should not take Trump for granted, as his voters — whom Moore describes as "[t]wo-thirds of white men ... feel that their grip on power is quickly fading," which makes them "angry."  But it's certainly not that — it's the pictures of looting and burning and kneeling and statue-dismantling, and socialist proclamations, and a deep — both conscious and unconscious — sense of horror before the Democrats' decisiveness to hurt people and undermine the economy, even to bring a country to the brink of civil war, to get rid of Trump.

Newton's Third Law states that for every action (force) in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If you don't see it just yet it's because that force still respects the rule of law, and the lives of others do matter for it.  It may still put all the "guru predictors" to shame, as it did in 2016, but with even greater magnitude.

Follow Veronika Kyrylenko, Ph.D. on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Image: Kelly Kline via Flickr.

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