The Democratic Party’s leadership and the Biden presidential campaign have once again underestimated the President and his reelection team. They assumed that, deprived of his trademark stadium rallies by coronavirus concerns, Trump would be unable to connect with the electorate and consequently fail to overcome the former Vice President’s purported lead. But a Republican National Convention whose tone was so much more positive and technically professional than its querulous and clumsy DNC counterpart, combined with Trump’s eminently presidential acceptance speech, is already eroding Biden’s poll numbers. Several major surveys released after the GOP convention show the President closing the gap as his campaign adapts to political realities imposed by the pandemic.
Neither Biden nor anyone else has provided a shred of evidence that Trump’s rallies spread the disease, of course. In fact, the attendees of the New Hampshire event were required to have their temperatures taken before entering and to wear masks.
A new Morning Consult poll indicates that Biden’s lead among likely voters shrank from 52-42 just before the GOP convention to 50-44 immediately following the event. The poll also found that Biden’s favorability rating weakened and that Trump made inroads among suburbanites, reducing Biden’s lead among those crucial voters from 54-40 to 50-42. This constitutes a stark difference to the “dead cat bounce” Biden received from the Democratic National Convention which failed to move the needle in any of the major polls. Likewise, a new Yahoo/YouGov poll shows Biden’s lead among registered voters has decreased from 49-40 to 47-41. Even more ominously for the Biden campaign is his rapidly shrinking lead in the RealClearPolitics average of key battleground states. As of this writing, that gap has closed to a mere 2.7 points and Trump clearly has the momentum.
All of this, mind you, is before the President plays his … well … Trump card. Unlike Biden, he has nothing to fear from live appearances. In fact, Trump is famously energized by them. Consequently, he is embarking on a 21st century adaptation of the “whistle stop tour.” As the Hill reports, these events will more closely resemble his recent speech in New Hampshire, where he stepped off Air Force One onto a nearby stage and a cheering crowd of supporters waving signs that read “This is a Peaceful Protest” to highlight the hypocrisy of Democrats who criticize Trump rallies based on the claim that they spread COVID-19 yet refuse to apply the same standard to mass protests ostensibly prompted by racial injustice. Biden has made the following claim: “Look what happened with his events. People die, people get together, they don’t wear masks, they end up getting COVID.”
Neither Biden nor anyone else has provided a shred of evidence that Trump’s rallies spread the disease, of course. In fact, the attendees of the New Hampshire event were required to have their temperatures taken before entering and to wear masks. Moreover, everyone who accompanies the President anywhere is routinely screened. It could hardly be more obvious that the actual reason the Biden campaign objects to Trump’s rallies is that they generate the kind of excitement that remains so conspicuously absent from the former Vice President’s campaign. Indeed, this dearth of enthusiasm is worrying some Democrats. Yet Biden, according to various news reports, doesn’t plan to begin in-person campaigning in crucial battleground states until after Labor Day, insisting that it is irresponsible to do so any earlier pursuant to the danger presented by coronavirus:
One of the things we’re thinking about is I’m going to be going up into Wisconsin, and Minnesota, spending time in Pennsylvania, out in Arizona. But we’re going to do it in a way that is totally consistent with being responsible, unlike what this guy’s doing.… I’m a tactile politician. I really miss being able to, you know, grab hands, shake hands, you can’t do that now. But I can in fact appear beyond virtually, in person, in many of these places.
Biden’s pompous suggestion that hiding in his basement until Labor Day is somehow more statesmanlike than “what this guy is doing” is obviously a reference to Trump’s refusal to heed pseudoscientific fear mongering. It is, however, less insulting to the President than to the voters. Biden wants to be President of the United States yet is afraid to leave his comfortable bunker and move among the voters he expects to support him. However, as Trump pollster Jim McLaughlin recently put it, “The Biden basement strategy is clearly catching up to him.… The American people — they want to see you, they want to touch you, they want to feel you — all that other kind of good stuff.” Biden’s refusal do so and the Trump campaign’s vigorous outreach to traditional Democratic constituents during the GOP convention is definitely having an effect. As the Hill reports:
President Trump’s support among black voters rose 9 percentage points amid the Republican National Convention, a new Hill-HarrisX poll finds.… Twenty-four percent of registered black voters in the Aug. 22-25 survey, which included the first two days of the convention, said they approve of the job Trump is doing … up 9 points from the previous survey conducted Aug. 8-11, where the President received 15 percent support among this group.
If black Americans vote for Trump in numbers exceeding 20 percent, Biden hasn’t a prayer of winning. Trump’s 2016 victory was due in no small measure to Clinton’s tepid support among these same voters and Biden appears to be underperforming even her dismal showing. He can’t win without a robust turnout by black voters — and at least 90 percent of their votes — in the battleground states of Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Yet he remains in his basement while the President aggressively courts these very voters — in person. Trump and Vice President Pence are out there reminding these voters of Biden’s opposition to desegregation, cozy relationship with white supremacists and his penchant for remarks like, “If you don’t vote for me you ain’t black.”
In other words, “working class Joe” remains aloof from actual working class voters — regardless of ethnicity — though he does emerge from his basement to coddle billionaires at Democratic fundraisers. Meanwhile, Trump has embarked on a 21st century adaptation of the venerable Whistle Stop Tour to explain why he deserves a second term and describe the dystopian future that awaits us if Biden and his masters get their tentacles on the presidency.