Throughout this election cycle, Joe Biden has dominated the polling for the Democratic nomination for one reason — electability. But just how much does a potential Biden nomination fire up voters? The Philadelphia Inquirer checked out the response to Team Biden debate parties, and found out that there wasn’t any at all:
He was hosting a presidential debate-watching party for Joe Biden supporters just blocks from the former vice president’s national campaign headquarters. He didn’t expect a big crowd, but in the end only one other person showed up.
The two men watched in silence and both left before the three-hour debate ended. A reporter turned off the TV on her way out. Bradford’s was one of three watch parties within a 20-mile radius of Center City registered with the campaign. None drew more than seven people.
Elsewhere in Philadelphia, fans of Sen. Elizabeth Warren pinned on buttons and wore “Philly for Warren” T-shirts. They gathered in six different locations from South Philadelphia to Wynnefield cheering at Warren’s responses and jeering when her opponents took shots. Local supporters of Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have also had well-attended watch parties here.
It makes for quite a contrast. But does it matter?
In Philadelphia? In the state where Biden claims his heritage as a working-class stiff? Yeah, it matters.
After humiliating losses in the “blue wall” states, voters want someone who can credibly campaign in Wisconsin, Michigan, and especially Pennsylvania. Biden’s continuous name-checking of Scranton in his bio and his claim to connect on a personal level with working-class voters outside of the party’s urban-academic bubble are the factors that so far have outweighed Biden’s downsides. Those are not insignificant, and include his age, his nearly fifty years in Washington, and his habit of telling tall tales and outright lies on the campaign trail. And that’s apart from his plagiarism of Neil Kinnock’s speeches in 1987, too.
The data coming out of Pennsylvania is sparse, but it’s not looking good for Biden. He only has a 7.5-point lead in RCP’s aggregation, but his numbers have tanked of late in the state. In early May, Quinnipiac had Biden up 39/13 over Bernie Sanders and Biden led 28/21 over Warren in early August in a Franklin & Marshall poll. A Susquehanna poll two weeks ago only gave Biden 17% of the vote, with 52% undecided and Warren coming in second at 9%. That trend is running in the wrong direction, which makes the debate-party turnout look more indicative of Biden’s slippage in the Keystone State.
Biden’s supporters argue that enthusiasm is overrated:
Enthusiasm is a tricky thing to define and measure. Polls are more rigorous, and, while he’s dropped, Biden still leads in many. That’s a sign that “an enthusiasm gap — if it exists — will not make a difference in the primary,” said G. Terry Madonna, a pollster at Franklin & Marshall College.
In the end, an unenthusiastic vote counts the same as an enthusiastic one, said Chris Borick, a pollster at Muhlenberg College. “You don’t get bonus points for excitement.”
True, but you also don’t get volunteers and neighborhood coordinators without it. It takes lots of ground organization to win primaries, a lesson one would have thought Biden would have learned from his former boss Barack Obama. One would have thought Democrats would have learned it as well, and yet they backed Hillary Clinton three years ago as their default electability candidate too. How did that work out — especially in Pennsylvania?
Salena Zito warns that it’s about to happen again:
Which leads us back to what we have seen on the debate stage for the past few months from the Democratic presidential candidates: They — with the exception of Amy Klobuchar and sometimes Pete Buttigieg — have clearly not learned why Clinton lost.
Certainly, Elizabeth Warren hasn’t. The national press see her as a safe front-runner, largely because they find her a familiar character. They know someone in their personal or professional lives who is just like her: She is their neighbor, their relative, or they were taught by someone like her in college. Warren’s viewpoints are also familiar in the newsroom, to put it gently.
It’s not the same out here. …
There are a healthy amount of middle-class suburban voters who are looking for an alternative to their options currently. It appears only two on that stage understood the lessons of 2016 and 2018: the mayor of a Midwest city and the senator from a Midwest state.
The rest seem to be repeating the mistakes of the former senator from New York.
And it doesn’t look like Biden’s going to save them from that fate, either.