Analysis

Biden Outpolls Trump in Swing States

The president’s law-and-order strategy isn’t working.

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Greenville, South Carolina, August 30, 2019 (Biden For President)

Polls puts Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump in the states that decided the outcome of the last presidential election:

Trump is narrowly ahead in the swing states Iowa and Ohio as well as once solidly Republican Georgia and Texas. As recently as 2012, Democrats didn’t even campaign or spend money in those two states.

National polls give Biden an average of 50 percent support against 42-43 percent for Trump.

Although the presidential election will be decided state-by-state, national polls tend to be of higher quality and are still useful. Polling guru Nate Silver points out that Biden would need to win the national popular vote by 3 points or more to have a higher than 50-percent chance of prevailing in the Electoral College.

Balancing act

Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 left two paths for Democrats: win back the white working class in the deindustrializing “Rust Belt” states of Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin, or appeal to middle-income suburbanites in the economically more vibrant “Sun Belt” states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and to a lesser extent also Pennsylvania.

I argued for the latter. I’ve been skeptical that many Obama-to-Trump voters will return to the Democratic Party whereas Romney-to-Clinton voters stuck with Democrats in 2018.

Democrats are the party of college graduates, ethnic minorities and the young. They are comfortable in an America that is becoming more urban and less Christian and white.

But many of Biden’s policies, from raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour to providing a public health insurance option to defining “gig economy” workers as employees instead of contractors to investing $700 billion in manufacturing and technology, would help those Americans who tell pollsters they increasingly feel like “strangers in their own country.”

The fact that Biden outpolls Clinton in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, suggests he can appeal to both demographics.

The trick for Democrats will be not leaning too far in one direction, for example, by condoning riots for a cause they endorse (anti-racism), which might cause them to lose voters on the other side.

Law and order

Biden has condemned both the riots and the police violence that precipitated them. Trump has encouraged police violence, ordered the use of force against peaceful demonstrators and made excuses for right-wing extremists, including a 17 year-old supporter of his, Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin with an assault rifle he wasn’t legally allowed to carry.

Trump is trying to convince Americans he will maintain “law and order” — and in the process shift the national conversation from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 186,000 Americans and caused joblessness of 10 percent.

It’s not working.

51 percent of voters told CNN they trust Biden to keep America “safe from harm.” 45 percent picked Trump.

56 percent of respondents said Biden would “unite the country and not divide it.” Just 36 percent said the same about the president.

Even a poll by the Trump-friendly Fox News finds the incumbent lagging his Democratic challenger on police and criminal-justice issues in Arizona and Wisconsin.

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