Sitting less than six months away from the general election, the race between Biden and Trump looks close.
After the Super Tuesday results more or less made Biden the Democratic nominee, Trump looked like he was in the driver’s seat. Despite Biden’s surprising victory, he didn’t look like a candidate capable of lasting until November.
In March, Trump’s approval steadily increased as he plastered himself over mainstream media with his press conferences. Nobody knew where Biden was at the time. It seemed as if Trump was alone in the race and Biden wasn’t even in the running.
So why is the race close now?
As better commentators have said earlier, Trump’s biggest enemy is Trump himself.
Biden doesn’t like the heavy underdog in the race against Trump anymore. The president’s historic mismanagement of the pandemic is helping Biden take the lead.
Why Was Biden Falling Behind Trump in March?
In March, Biden looked like a weak candidate to stand against Trump in a general election. This is despite Biden beating Sanders with relative ease.
It is important to first get some context here.
Biden managed to beat Bernie Sanders despite the Vermont Senator outspending him at every turn.
How did the former vice president do this?
Obama’s political manoeuvring to bring together the moderates, Bloomberg’s negative Bernie ads and Sanders’ very own obstinate reasoning for not attacking Biden, together helped the presumptive nominee rise to the Democratic candidacy.
Joe Biden didn’t become the candidate because of a great grassroots movement behind him. Unlike Obama, Biden doesn’t have a strong message about real change.
Like Clinton in 2016, Biden was the default choice of the Establishment from the beginning. He didn’t need a good message to become the candidate because he had the Democratic machinery behind him.
However. the same machinery fell flat when it came to taking on Trump. The president’s ability to command media presence pushed Biden into the background. Without even attacking Biden a lot, Trump became the favourite of the race simply because he was in front of the cameras all the time. Biden’s campaign couldn’t find a way to tackle Trump’s media savviness.
Why is Biden Inching Ahead of Trump in the Race Now?
Looking solely at Joe Biden between March and May and realizing he actually gained ground on Trump during this time sounds unreal. Joe Biden’s campaign has not yet shown any sign of electoral mastery.
The campaign is firefighting accusations of sexual assault made against their candidate by a former aide. Democratic operatives like David Axelrod and David Plouffe are urging Biden to think beyond live streaming from his basement. Progressives are calling him to drop out of the race due to the gravity of the sexual assault allegations. Stories about Biden being supplanted by Clinton at the convention are also attracting eyeballs.
On all fronts, Biden’s campaign looks like a wreck. His latest attempt to win progressive voters was an NYMag piece where he wants everyone to believe that he wants to have an FDR-like presidency.
Why is Biden ahead in the national polls then if his campaign is so poor?
A CNN poll has him five points ahead of Trump nationally. Earlier polls showed Biden gaining ground on Trump in key battleground states.
Again, how is the former vice president gaining ground without doing anything politically clever or advantageous?
The answer is Trump. People forget Biden is in the race with Trump. While the president is popular with his loyal base, those outside his bubble are not very happy with him.
Trump won in 2016 partly because people hated the Establishment favourite Hillary more than him. However, his reckless management of the pandemic is driving people into Biden’s arms. The economy’s performance was going to be a major part of Trump’s 2020 message. He no longer has that and the race is getting more balanced as a result.
Trump Still Holds the Cards
The Biden campaign’s strategy to let ‘Trump be Trump’ and win the race is not bad in itself. Trump is already showing he is capable of extreme obtuseness and incompetence.
However, Trump is still a much more dangerous candidate than Biden. Unlike Biden, Trump will change his policy positions irrespective of his ideology to gain votes and win the race.
The White House played a crucial role in adding the $1200 relief check provision in the CARES package in March. Democrats in the Senate and the House were happy to hand over corporate bailouts without any relief checks to the American public. It was Trump who foresaw the anger the public would have against DC and him if there was nothing in the package for them.
Now Democrats are pushing for a new $3T package that is again helping lobbyists and corporatists in little provisions here and there. The bill also provides another round of $1200 relief checks. It is expected to die in the Senate.
In order to win back positive coverage, Trump could let the $3T package die and tell Republicans to draft new legislation giving away $2000 relief checks.
Trump could do this. He’s never shown any sign of fiscal conservatism. How would the Democratic party look then? Could they survive the embarrassment of looking less progressive than Donald Trump?
Unlike Trump, Joe Biden will most likely not take any popular policy positions to win the race. His campaign recently announced the formation of different task forces, an action most likely taken to show and build party unity.
The race is still close. Biden will hope Trump carries on with his reckless agenda. However, counting the president out would be a mistake and one Biden is less likely to make, especially after 2016.
(Image Credit – Andrea Widburg and Wikipedia)