2016 all over again

30 August 2020

4:02 AM

30 August 2020

4:02 AM

I’m not an election prognosticator. I have no magic insight telling me what will happen on November 3, 2020. Frankly, I have zero idea. But what I do have is a great memory and some polling data that suggests Joe Biden’s media-assisted campaign is headed for an eerily similar crash landing to the one that happened in 2016. The media has once again sealed itself in a suffocating bubble, within which the impossible Trump victory can’t happen. The Democrats find themselves strapped to a low-energy candidate who is a bystander as social upheaval scorches battleground states. It has the look and feel of fall 2016. Democrats, start panicking now.

First, Joe Biden’s poll numbers are starting to tighten. Biden has enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout both the primary polling against Trump, and post nomination. But there are concerning trends for Biden that mirror those of Hillary Clinton’s position in August 2016. In fact, Biden is doing worse in the polls than Hillary was at this time — but you wouldn’t know this based on media coverage of course.

Pollster Frank Luntz breaks it down. On August 25, 2016, Hillary held a +9.2 advantage over Trump in the RealClearPolitics average for Pennsylvania, a state she lost. Currently Joe Biden holds a +5.7 average lead. In Michigan, Hillary held a +9 advantage in polling, a state she also lost. Biden is at +6.7. In Wisconsin, the state Hillary lost and infamously did not visit once for the duration of the general election, Hillary held a lead of +11.5. Biden sits at +6.5. The only state of the crucial swing stats where Biden’s polling outperforms Hillary’s is Florida, where Biden holds a +4.8 average lead. Hillary’s lead was +2.9. She of course lost Florida as well, all but sealing the presidency for Trump and the unthinkable for the media. Biden still holds about an +8.5 lead nationally, but for a candidate who is perceived to have less professional baggage and considered more likable than Hillary, these numbers should be putting the Biden campaign on alert.

Biden also received no post-convention bump, as most candidates do when more voters start paying attention to the election. Biden was of course at a historical disadvantage with COVID-19 canceling out the possibility of a large-scale convention, but the trappings were all there: video presentations, major endorsements, candidate speeches. Yet still nothing.

Then consider the fact that Trump’s base support has not eroded. Trump’s popularity with voters, as measured by FiveThirtyEight, shows his support has more or less remained between 40-44 percent throughout his presidency. While he currently trails Biden in the crucial swing states, Trump enjoys a rock of support, even after three years of Russiagate, Robert Mueller, sustained negative media and entertainment coverage, sports team boycotts, impeachment and of course the pandemic. Roughly 40 percent of the country, we can assume, has simply tuned out the media.

There are other curious similarities between the Biden and Clinton campaigns. A Politico piece by Alex Thompson titled ‘Trump’s campaign knocks on a million doors a week. Biden’s knock on zero’ should startle any Democratic strategist. ‘Biden and the Democratic National Committee aren’t sending volunteers or staffers to talk with voters at home, and don’t anticipate doing anything more than dropping off literature unless the crisis abates,’ Thompson writes. ‘The campaign and the Democratic National Committee think they can compensate for the lack of in-person canvassing with phone calls, texts, new forms of digital organizing, and virtual meet-ups with voters.’

There’s one major problem with that approach: the Trump campaign is outpacing Biden in digital targeting as well. Trump is outspending Biden on Facebook with a total of $44 million to Biden’s $23 million. In the final months of the 2016 campaign, Trump was outpacing state visits at a rate of almost three-to-one and he doesn’t show much signs of letting up, even in the middle of a pandemic.

On top of polling, the country has experienced three sustained months of protests and riots following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and now the shooting of Jacob Blake and the subsequent riots and destruction in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The county, and the state of Wisconsin, experienced an almost identical situation in August 2016, just up I-94 in Milwaukee. Riots broke out when police fatally shot a 23-year-old African American, Sylville Smith. The officer who fatally shot Smith was Dominique Heaggan-Brown, who was criminally charged but later acquitted at trial.

The Biden campaign’s criticisms of criminal activity throughout the summer have failed to make waves, perhaps because they always come with a side-serving of solidarity with the protesters who are ‘peaceful’. The riots have played out primarily in Democrat-run cities with Democratic mayors, such as Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Kenosha, DC and New York. Presumably Biden hopes voters will ultimately hold Trump responsible for the chaos, which will of course all but stop after his defeat in November. But that isn’t happening. Kenosha residents and business owners spoke to the New York Times and Politico and described feeling abandoned by their local government. What followed were pleas from several media outlets, including the Atlantic, the Washington Post and the Bulwark, calling on Biden for a more unequivocal condemnation of the violence.

The Biden strategy of simply hiding out and hoping Donald Trump simply says enough crazy things to blow the election should be all too familiar, as this was largely the same approach Hillary Clinton employed. Hillary presumed that the media, Saturday Night Live and the cast of Hamilton would haul her old bones across the finish line, while voters would dismiss scandals such as leaking of classified emails for Trump’s more sensational episodes like the Billy Bush tape.

But what we learned is a silent majority of voters are tired of the leftist base destroying their livelihoods, blocking highways and roadways from getting home to their families and the failed mantra of ‘Hope and Change’. Those voters are also sick of a media they see as complicit in glorifying riots that burn down their businesses in the name of something called racial justice. That silent majority exacts its revenge on Election Day.

The very states that are now experiencing the same kind of social disturbances as they did in 2016 may not be swayed by the Democrats argument that this is Trump’s America, as riots in Ferguson and Baltimore preceded his presidency as well.

If those voters believe that Joe Biden will not stand up to mayors and governors in their state and of his party, or if they believe he lacks the mental acuity or physical stamina to do so, they will once again enter a voting booth and cast a disgruntled protest vote for Donald Trump.Then, once again, the media will spend another four years of standing around wondering how and why it all happened, when the signs were staring them right in the face the entire time.

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