Now that Bernie Sanders has bowed out of the race, we can turn our attention to the general election — quaratine-style, of course. Joe Biden’s locked in his basement, and Donald Trump is tethered to the White House, which means it might be a while before we see much deflection from the current status quo. What exactly is that status quo, especially in the states that will make the difference? Pew Research’s latest survey puts Biden slightly ahead of Trump overall, 47/45, but Trump reverses that in Pew’s battleground states:
With about seven months until the general election, similar shares of registered voters say they would vote for Joe Biden (47%) or Donald Trump (45%) if the election were held today; 8% of voters say they wouldn’t vote for either or would vote for someone else. …
Republican and Democratic voters overwhelmingly favor their party’s candidate. Trump holds an early advantage in Republican-leaning states, while Biden has an even wider lead in Democratic-leaning states. In battleground states, neither candidate has an advantage (47% prefer Trump, while 45% favor Biden).
That split doesn’t look promising for Biden. The difference between Biden’s blue state margin (16 points) and Trump’s red state margin (11 points) isn’t all that wide. That might give Biden a popular-vote win, just as Hillary Clinton got in 2016, but maybe not by the same number of votes. Trump’s edge in battleground states is close enough to call a virtual tie, but then so is Biden’s lead in the overall poll — and Trump won those states in 2016.
This also looks like a replay of 2016 in most of the demos. Biden does better with college graduates and post-grads; Trump does better with high-school graduates and those with “some college.” Trump gets 83% of white evangelical Protestants and 62% of non-evangelicals, while Biden carries 82% of black Protestants and 62% of “unaffiliated.” Worth noting, however — Trump is still carrying Catholics by double digits, 52/42, in what usually is a bellwether in national elections.
Here are some other eye-raising demos:
Slightly more than half of white voters say they would vote for Trump (55%), while black and Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly likely to say they would vote for Biden if the election were held today (76% and 63%, respectively).
Ahem. Getting 76% of the African-American vote is not “overwhelming” for a Democratic presidential candidate — it’s disastrous. Biden will need 90% or more of that vote to beat Trump, and he will need an enthusiastic turnout to boot. If Seven Months In The Future Guy (apologies to Gary Cole) showed up tomorrow and told Trump and Brad Parscale that Joe Biden would win 76% of the black vote and 63% of the Hispanic vote, they’d start measuring the Oval Office drapes for Trump’s second term now.
Those numbers won’t stay static, of course. Trump gets 8% and 23% in those demos now, but most of the rest in the gap will likely go back to Biden — if he can excite them to turn out at all. On that score, both Pew and Biden’s own performances suggest that he will struggle to close the sale.
Biden’s fortunes will likely rest on whether he can woo the Bernie Bros to his fold. Sanders’ withdrawal from the Democratic primary happened only ten days ago, and Sanders’ endorsement of Biden took place only five days ago. It takes time for warring factions to find at least an uncomfortable truce, if not an enthusiastic alliance, and this Pew survey took place in the six days before Sanders made his appearance on that awkward Uncle Joe Podcast to throw in with the party nominee. There’s still plenty of time until the convention.
With that said, though, Sanders’ bid had been all but dead in the water for a month, too, after Biden’s Super Tuesday sweep. Even with that, a third of all Democrats sound pretty pessimistic about party unity now that Biden’s the nominee, and the younger respondents are, the more down they appear about it:
Biden draws somewhat less support among Democratic voters who, in a January survey, named Bernie Sanders as their first choice for the nomination (83%) than among those who originally preferred Biden (94%) or other Democratic candidates (92%). Nearly all of those who supported Sanders in the earlier survey and don’t currently back Biden in the general election currently say they don’t support either of the two major party candidates (just 1% of Sanders’ January supporters say they’ll vote for Trump).
With Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, a majority of Democrats expect the party to rally behind him ahead of the general election in November.
About six-in-ten Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters (63%) say they expect the Democratic Party will solidly unite behind Biden in the presidential election. Still, 36% of registered Democratic voters say that differences and disagreements within the party will keep many Democrats from supporting him. In a similar question in March 2016, 64% of Democratic registered voters said they expected that the Democratic Party would unite behind Hillary Clinton if she became the nominee, and roughly the same share said this of Barack Obama in 2008.
It’s true that nominees face these kinds of issues in the days and weeks after the final concessions in primaries. However, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama came out of the gate looking and sounding like this:
The faces on CNN are priceless pic.twitter.com/plnuCAVXYl
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) April 17, 2020
That is not confidence-inspiring leadership in the middle of a crisis. Biden’s public appearances from his home studio have been so poor that they have created a cottage industry of speculation over DNC interventions to replace him on the ticket. Andrew Cuomo gets most of that attention, but so far has flat-out refused to engage on the question, even telling his brother more “Nos” than The Zombies’ hit record from fifty-plus years ago.
Democrats are likely stuck with Biden anyway; a move to replace him with anyone but Bernie Sanders would have the Bernie Bros marching away in droves. But that doesn’t mean Biden’s going to generate enthusiasm for his candidacy, and it certainly won’t create the kind of fundraising he needs to compete with Trump’s media juggernaut for the persuadables. If Biden keeps sounding like this, those demo numbers could turn out to be his high-water mark.