Ouch! Joe Biden gets scorched in Quinnipiac poll

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

If I were Joe Biden’s chief handler or even one of his hangers-on, I would be in talks with MSNBC about getting a gig as a political analyst.

Why?

The latest poll numbers look pretty scary for Joe Biden, begging the question of whether even the Democrats could scrape together enough ballots through nefarious means to carry him across the finish line.

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Don’t get me wrong; Joe Biden could still win. But if Americans thought just a bit more highly of him he would be in far better shape. Looking at some of the answers to Quinnipiac’s questions shows Biden is in serious trouble. Which is why it is not shocking that there are whispers about replacing Biden on the ballot.

Everybody is going to focus on the top-line numbers, which are far less meaningful than the internals of the poll. In a head-to-head matchup, Biden and Trump are essentially tied, because voters think Trump is guilty of something. There is a sort of “if there’s smoke, there’s fire” element to this. After 7 years of constant bashing, Trump’s reputation is in tatters with a large fraction of the population.

Yet Trump’s internals actually look pretty good compared to Biden’s, meaning that a lot of people who think Trump is a criminal of some kind and a (vague) threat to our Constitutional order still think he might be better at the job than Biden.

In other words, for the voters who will decide the election, it will likely be a choice between two evils, and deciding which is the lesser of the two.

Two questions in particular pop out to me, which are far more important to any early horse race questions:

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Voters see Biden as too old and don’t see the same problems with Trump. There is absolutely zero chance that voters will change their minds on this question, at least regarding Joe Biden. Biden isn’t going to become more mentally alert or more physically vital, and voters are set in their opinions that Biden is not truly fit to be president.

This opinion is reflected in the answers to the second question, about who could better respond to a national crisis. There are a lot of people who say they won’t vote for Donald Trump who freely admit that he is better equipped to handle a national crisis.

This answer is driven, I would expect, partly by the perception of age and decrepitude that attaches to Biden, but also due to Biden’s objectively poor performance as president.

That, too, is not an opinion that is likely to change.

A decision–such as filling out a ballot for somebody–can change. A perception–that somebody is too old and too bad at his job to be president–is unlikely to. These are just fundamentally different in kind. A decision between two choices depends on how one weighs other factors. An opinion about the character of somebody you have come to know well just doesn’t evolve much without a dramatic event or a long chain of contradictory information.

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You develop an impression and it is unlikely to change. What could possibly change the perception that Joe Biden is too old and too incompetent? It is hard to imagine what possibly could. Strongly negative impressions are sticky.

Of course, lots of people have strongly negative impressions of Trump, which keeps Biden in the game. But they also see him as strong and good in a crisis. That will win some votes even from people who dislike him.

Now for the tricky part: Will it win him enough votes in the right places? Swing states decide the election.

Complicating things is that in recent years Democrats have won by harvesting votes from low-propensity voters who really don’t care that much. In elections prior to, say, 2008 or 2012, these poll numbers would signal likely disaster. Independents would almost certainly break Trump’s way.

But millions of votes are cast by people who genuinely don’t care, and those votes go to Democrats because of their vote-harvesting prowess. Assuming the 2020 election wasn’t decided by shenanigans, you can still confidently say it was decided by people who would not have voted at all without Democrat vote harvesting. Trump would have won without those voters being prodded by Democrat operatives at their doors.

If Biden is the nominee and wins, it will be because of a combination of two factors: people who decide not to vote because they hate both candidates, even though they suspect Trump would be a better president; and 2) an effective vote harvesting effort by the Democrats, getting voters who think Biden is a bad president but don’t care enough to vote against him and just let others vote their ballots.

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In other words, it will be people who are alienated from politics and don’t want to or care to choose between the candidates who will likely decide who the next president is.

How depressing.

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David Strom 4:30 PM | May 28, 2024
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