Joe Biden's Pitch to the Doubters

www.newyorker.com
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Eric Lach writes about Joe Biden's latest positive polling results, his gaffe-free recent appearances, his campaign strategy, and the lingering doubts that Democrats have about his suitability as a candidate.
Has a Presidential front-runner ever come in for more doubt than Joe Biden? All through 2019, even as national and state polls showed him ahead in the Democratic primary race, his opponents and the press dismissed him. His leads were illusory, they said. He was out of touch, his campaign operation too ramshackle, his support too tepid. During the primary debates, he often found himself on the butt end of viral sound bites. Afterward, in the spin rooms, his surrogates would stare down gangs of reporters who were all basically asking veiled versions of the same question: "How long can this go on?" Even Biden occasionally seemed to hesitate. At his campaign stops in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses—where you could often feel and occasionally even see audience members' attention drifting—the candidate would sometimes cede the stage to prominent supporters, letting them serve as closers, making the pitch to voters. It was a situation so strange that, in early February, one of those prominent supporters, former Secretary of State John Kerry, was overheard in a Des Moines hotel lobby discussing the ins and outs of making a late jump into the Presidential race.

In the months since the Democratic primary effectively ended, in early March, Biden has never come close to trailing Donald Trump in the polling averages. The map of the so-called battleground states, too, has consistently favored him. Polls have found that Biden attracts strong support from seniors—a crucial voting demographic that Democrats had until recently thought was lost for good to Republicans—and that voters, over all, hold Biden in higher esteem than Trump on issues ranging from the coronavirus response to racism to trustworthiness. FiveThirtyEight's election model currently gives Trump about a one in four chance of winning the election. It gives slightly higher odds that Biden will win the national popular vote by more than ten percentage points—a feat not seen since Ronald Reagan trounced Walter…
Eric Lach
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