Why is Biden going to ... Iowa?

Why is Biden going to ... Iowa?

I can’t figure out the strategy here.

Initially I couldn’t figure out the strategy of him going to Georgia either but upon reflection it made sense. Just because the polls in a given state are tight doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth a visit. The question is whether you have a reasonable chance of winning *and* whether winning that state would move you appreciably towards 270. Georgia would. As strange as it is to imagine a Democrat losing Florida but winning Georgia, the combination of a large black electorate in the latter state, support for Biden among suburbanites nationally, and two strong turnout operations built by Dems like Stacey Abrams and Jon Ossoff in place means Biden has a fair shot at an upset. And if he pulls it off, his path to the White House gets vastly easier. All he would need to do is hold Hillary’s 2016 states and flip Michigan and Wisconsin, two Rust Belt states where he’s favored. You could give Trump every other battleground — Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, even Pennsylvania — and Biden still wins.

Georgia has 16 electoral votes, a tempting prize. Iowa has … six. How does that justify a visit?

“I’m going to be going to Iowa, be going to Wisconsin, I’m going to Georgia, I’m going to Florida and maybe other places as well,” Mr. Biden said during a stop at a voter center in Chester, Pa.

And in a remarkably bold pronouncement for a Democratic presidential candidate, Mr. Biden declared that he would win Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, three critical battleground states that might be his key to victory. He also said he thought he had a “fighting chance” in Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and Iowa, states that were once thought to be a reach for Democrats but that recent polls indicate are now up for grabs…

“That blue wall has to be re-established,” he added, referring to the Northern battleground states, which are traditionally Democratic.

Broadway Joe guaranteed victory in Michigan and Wisconsin, did he? We’ll revisit this post eight days from now.

Back to Iowa, though. Are the polls there close? Indeed. Biden actually leads in the average by less than a point, a deeply ominous sign for Trump considering that he won the state by nearly 10 in 2016. Superficially it makes sense that the Democrat would show up there. But given how little time is left in the campaign, it’s hard to grasp why he’d take a day competing for electoral votes in Iowa when he could turn south and make a cameo in Texas instead. Trump leads there by 3.2 points in the RCP average but Quinnipiac’s latest had the state tied and a poll a few days ago from the Dallas Morning News had Biden up by three. Texas has 38 electoral votes, a number so large that he would win the presidency even if TX were the only one of America’s 50 states to flip from 2016.

(Which it wouldn’t be, of course. A scenario in which Sleepy Joe turns Texas blue is a national bloodbath for the GOP.)

Chart me a path to 270 involving Iowa, though. Let’s spot Biden Wisconsin and Michigan, since he seems so confident about those two. That’s 258 electoral votes, including all of Hillary’s 2016 states. Then he wins Iowa. That’s another six, bringing him to 264. Let’s give him Maine’s Second District and Nebraska’s Second District too, each of which is worth a single EV. That gets him to 266, pretty close! And then … what? Which small state is left on the board for him to pick off, nudging him past 270? Most of the other battlegrounds have fairly substantial electoral-vote hauls, from Ohio (18) to North Carolina (15) to Pennsylvania (20) to Florida (29). That means Biden doesn’t actually need Iowa. All he needs is Michigan, Wisconsin, and one of those other states.

There’s one scenario where Iowa matters. If Biden flips Wisconsin, Michigan, *and Arizona,* which is worth 11 electoral votes, that gets him to (gulp) a 269-269 tie. Adding either Maine’s or Nebraska’s Second District would put him over the top, but no one wants a 270-268 election. The winner needs a little breathing room. Iowa could be that for Biden. A 276-262 outcome is a bit more convincing than 270-268.

But that would be a strange coalition. He loses the two biggest Rust Belt states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but hangs on in Michigan and Wisconsin, and then somehow manages to swing a plains state *and* a southwestern state? One of which went big for Republicans four years ago and the other of which has been a GOP stronghold for decades? Weird, weird, weird.

There’s another possibility for why Biden would target Iowa. Maybe it’s not about him. Maybe it’s about helping out Democrat Theresa Greenfield in her Senate race against Joni Ernst. Greenfield led Ernst in polling through September and deep into October, but the last two surveys there have Ernst inching ahead by a point. A visit from the Democratic nominee to the state to signal that he and the party believe it’s in play could boost turnout enough to help Greenfield over the finish line. But if that’s the game here, it raises the question of how Biden can afford to take time out of his own campaign schedule to help downballot candidates. Is Team Joe so confident that they have 270 in the bag that they’re going to just blow an afternoon on a Senate race? Their time wouldn’t be better spent in Pennsylvania, say?

Is it really possible that Biden has a lock, or near-lock, on the election? Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has been looking at district-level polls and sounds especially bullish on Biden over the last few days:

I’m highly skeptical of a “Biden landslide” scenario, especially after that USC info yesterday. But…

By the way, via Nate Silver, there’s one more reason why Biden might consider visiting Iowa a better use of his time than visiting Texas. As strange as it may sound, swing states with higher white populations may be a surer thing for the Democrat this year than states with large Latino minorities. Trump is overperforming with Latinos but underperforming with whites; a state like Iowa that’s demographically similar to, say, Wisconsin may be more likely to flip than Texas would.

Although I’m also wondering if keeping Biden out of Texas might not be part of a “let sleeping dogs lie” strategy for that state. Turnout among both parties is likely to be very high (early voting turnout in TX is creeping up towards matching *total* turnout from 2016) but it’s easy after the last few decades of Republican dominance to take for granted that Texas will stay red, however narrowly. A visit from Biden might inadvertently sound the alarm among Trump-weary Republican voters that the threat of the state flipping is real this time, which could goose GOP turnout next Tuesday. To the extent that irregular Republican voters believe Texas is sure to stay in Trump’s column and end up not voting, that’s an asset to Biden. They’re sending Kamala Harris to the state instead, which may be their version of a compromise — a cameo appearance to encourage Dem voters but not quite the bombshell cameo of a Biden visit that would risk encouraging Republicans.

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Jazz Shaw 4:01 PM on December 03, 2023