Heading to March, Donald Trump is looking strong: relatively popular; well funded; a number of successes as president; a roaring economy; and he is soaring high after Democrats’ failed impeachment. Trump also has organization and legitimacy that he didn’t have in 2016. On the other hand, he is remains immensely unpopular among Democrats, and has the worst net approval rating of any president running for re-election at -9.5% in the last 80 years except for George HW Bush.
A lot could change by November. And the Covid-19 epidemic could be decisive by November. Trump has downplayed the threat and claims to have it under control. If this is true, he can claim an accomplishment of Trumpian proportion. On the other hand, a botched response will scare Americans and crash the economy.
Biden was once the favored candidate, but he didn’t live up to expectations. The ‘mainstream’ candidate of choice then shifted from Warren, to Pete, to Klobacher, and then to Bloomberg (until his disastrous debate), and so Biden got a second look. He is now the establishment’s horse and it is going all in.
Biden’s argument is that he can beat Trump. This argument is driven largely by red-scare, i.e., that middle America will not support a socialist. Fear of Trump is the main reason Democratic rank and file have reluctantly support Biden.
Is Biden really that strong, or is he going to repeat 2016?
Qualifications. Biden has a good resume – vice president, a senator, and a congressman. On this scale, he is comparable to HRC (first lady, senator, secretary of state). Biden is also closely associated with Obama, which endears him more to Democrats than to independent Americans. However, Biden does not have executive experience, and while Trump previously was only a reality TV star and questionable businessman, he will now be running as leader of the free world.
Legitimacy. Biden’s claim to lead the Democratic party will be weak. He could not win the primary on his own, despite having initial advantages, and his campaign took off only after a very strong endorsement from Jim Clyburn and will essentially rely on Establishment anti-Bernie endorsements – the kind that come only after it looks like Bernie is going to win. Even with these benefits, he will likely require appointment following a brokered convention. Trump, on the other had, will have not only won by overcoming establishment Republicans, but will have since tamed the Republican Party. Trump will look appointed; Trump can claim the title of man of the people.
Charisma. It is not clear that Biden is a particularly likable candidate. To overcome the label of “sleepy Joe,” Biden debated by yelling his responses and appearing angry. He has had a number of awkward run-ins with voters on the campaign trail. The bigger problem may be the senior moments and slurred speech. The goofy things he says are similar to Trump’s “covfefe” and other gaffs. The press has given Biden a pass, but jumps on every misplaced word by Trump; this one-sided reporting on a minor issue will be further evidence of a fake media out to get Trump.
Corruption. Trump is vulnerable on his corrupt administration. Biden, however, has not explained how his unqualified son was appointed to a well-paid board position on a foreign corporation that Biden oversaw as vice president. That’s the end of “No Malarkey.” When the Democrats accuse Trump of abusing power to rig the elections, he will point out that Democrats obstructed investigation into Hunter while pushing an un-democratic impeachment. And if there is a brokered convention, Trump will rightly point out that the Establishment rigged the primary in favor of Biden. It will be hard for Biden to make use of this weakness of Trump.
Platform. Joe doesn’t have a platform other than “not trump.” His campaign is to return us to the day of Obama with modest improvements, that left blue collar Americans out. Hillary ran on the legacy of Obama. In fact, for more than three years, Trump has continued campaigning against Obama while in the White House. He consistently blames Barrack for all the woes and the only person Trump would rather run against would be Hillary.
Joe is running on a message of fear and that things were tone deaf. This message denies Americans of their strength while at the same time demonstrating he is out of touch with the problems working class people are facing.
At minimum, Joe has no goals or direction of his own – except Blue No Matter Who. Trump on the other hand has platform messages such as the Wall, Space Force, and Drain the Swamp. As stupid as these policies are, they work, the same way Medicare for All and Green New Deal and Free College works.
Enthusiasm. Unfortunately, a message of “vote for me because I am not deplorable” does not excite voters. Joe has no platform, so he has no grassroots movement. Primary voters do not need as much motivation to come out to vote, the general election will depend on Get Out the Vote, which will require believers and volunteers. And if there is no GOTV, then the House and Senate may go red.
Trumps’ MAGA had wearing voters will be fired up and ready to go.
Campaign Organization. Biden’s campaign organization is weak. It has failed to raise money, and has does not have a presence in many states. He has had to rely on support from the media and endorsements from Establishment Democrats. Trump will have the full support of all legal and quasi-legal means, a campaign operation that has been running for four years, and is extremely well funded.
Debate. Biden is renown as a strong debater, but we did not see it during the numerous primary debates through March 2020. His best performance came during a battle royale where no candidate could get a clear message out. When Biden goes one-on-one with Bernie or Trump, and doesn’t have Amy and Pete to run interference, there will be more pressure on Biden to put forward a real defense for his positions and vision. Worse, if Biden is struggling with his mental faculties, a one-on-one debate could prove devastating.
Vetting. The Democratic Media has not scrutinized Biden, although after 40 years in Washington, its hard to imagine what else could be out there. Of course, we didn’t see Barisma coming.
Democrats lost 2016 by ignoring the problems of the Obama administration. Those left out and left behind by both parties looked to Trump as an alternative, and for the most part, their day to day life has not gotten worse off (since Trump’s consequences will not be felt for years to come) and they can feel like someone is fighting for them.
Biden is the privileged person who gets through is life because of his connections, while the rest of us have no idea what that is like. Despite being born with every privilege, Trump has managed to portray himself as the one everyone is against.
It’s not impossible for Biden to win, after all Trump is unfit for office and the coronavirus may wreck the economy, but a Biden ticket is sure to miss many advantages to beat Trump.