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Biden will win big on his own merit, not on failings of Trump

30th Oct 2020
Biden will win big on his own merit, not on failings of Trump

(Credit: Patrick Semansky/NDLA CC)

Ibrahim Suavi

In mid-August 2020, a survey by the Pew Research Center found that 56% of likely Biden voters cited the former Vice-President ‘not being Trump’ as the top reason driving their voting intention. Expectedly, some commentators took this to signal that the forthcoming election was a referendum on the Trump himself and as such, there was little if anything uniquely differentiating to notice about Biden.

For instance, an op-ed in The Atlantic described the Democratic nominee as a ‘minimalist’ candidate whose occupation of the White House would inaugurate a non-consuming model for the Presidency. It would, in practice, the piece argued, see a departure from the fireside chats of FDR, the calculated rhetorical addresses of Reagan, the masterful Obama Oval Office publicity and the copious vanity of Trump.

What would emerge would be an administration where Biden would be an advised leader and where younger, fresher Democrat appointees, most notably Kamala Harris, would be delegated the more pressing issue of governing the US.

The issue with this analysis, as well as those of a similar argument, is that Biden throughout his campaign has further built and consolidated his lead over Trump by virtue of more than the effects of a failing presidency and his position as the only likely choice of liberation from the incumbent President. He is not a well-known name on a ballot to front a new, delegated administration, but rather has crafted a careful, vote-winning narrative in his messaging centred on his qualities that is tearing into the coalition of voters that guided Trump via the electoral college to the White House four years ago.

What is startling to notice is that the profile of switchers from Trump to Biden are overwhelmingly white, non-college-educated and male, the exact three characteristics that would have been most likely to send the former reality television star and property developer to the White House in 2016. Data from trusted polling in several swing states indicate that the pandemic, as well as its effects on health and the economy, has focused Trump defectors to consider their choice on November 3.

The Trump administration’s mishandling of the pandemic has re-prioritised the importance of issues among traditionally conservative-leaning male voters, and as such, has raised the salience of healthcare and the economy above that of constitutional rights and the composition of the supreme court. However, it is untrue to suggest that Tump’s failings over the coronavirus pandemic are immediately leading to an increase in votes for Biden.

Even among likely Republican voters, Trump does not lead Biden over who would be best placed to deal with the pandemic. However, the substantive falls in Trump’s ratings are in areas where Biden has commensurately strengthened his favourability.

On the economy, Trump had a comfortable lead over the former Vice President in early 2019. Less than two weeks from the election, Biden leads within the margin of error. Whereas on healthcare, he has extended his advantage, partly through leveraging his experience in passing the Affordable Care Act amid continued uncertainty over personal wellbeing.

Biden and his campaign have calculated their messaging effectively to take advantage of Trump’s sliding ratings. Most notably, the series of basement centred speeches and addresses from Biden were more attune with the American public – given their confinement to their own homes – than Trump’s continued insistence on holding MAGA rallies at airports and stadiums.

It made Biden appear more empathetic, aware of the concerns of most Americans and an evidently contributed to clear value differentiator, far greater than what could be observed among swing state undecideds in 2016 where Clinton’s establishment continuity was not seen as any different to a bulldozing Trumpian alternative.

The advent of Lincoln Project type groups or Republicans for Biden has also helped cement an America vs. Trump choice among less radical Republicans the family of the late Senator McCain indicating their overt endorsement of the Democrat nominee and former GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s confirmation that he will not vote for Trump.

Biden’s campaign has been cautious, calculated and avoided the complacency that plagued Hillary Clinton’s characteristically poor bid for the White House. However, things could have been different for Trump had he emphasised voters’ concerns about the Biden-Harris ticket.

Biden would be the oldest President to enter the Oval Office and concerns about his age as well as the growing progressive nature of the Democrat base could when framed in the right way, have proved an effective campaign message.

In arguing the vulnerability of Biden would lead to a Harris presidency beholden to Bernie Sanders and ‘The Squad’ comprising of Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, Trump may have been able to cast doubt over his base defectors, while concurrently, raising the salience of economic prosperity among undecideds. In other words, Trump should not have made his opponent Joe Biden, rather the changing face of the Democrat Party.

Nevertheless, the Trump has elected to reheat the largely ineffective lines that took him to the White House in 2016, playing heavily to the composition of the Supreme Court, unproven Democrat corruption and apparent appeals to White supremacist conspiracies.

All things considered; Trump will lose heavily on November 3. Notwithstanding turnout expected to be its highest ever for a presidential election since the 1930s – a favourable prospect for the Democrats – Biden has sustained leads in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Without these states, Trump has no route to the Oval Office. Even if Florida tips red, the fact that Texas is now a majority-minority state has put the second-largest Electoral College state on a knife-edge. A Biden win in Texas; a feat not achieved for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter’s surprise victory in 1976, would almost certainly see the Senate in firm Democrat control.

Indeed, a large Biden win of over 400 Electoral College votes could be terminal for the GOP’s prospects should the Trumpian character of its base remains. Nevertheless, the result on November 3 will be Biden’s on his terms, not on the rejection of Trump.

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