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Is Biden or Trump the bigger drag on his party?


If there’s one consistent pattern developing this spring in political polls, both nationally and in hotly contested states, it’s how differently voters are treating the presidential race and down-ballot races, at least for now.

Clearly, this pattern likely will not continue on Election Day and we will see voters linking their presidential votes to their congressional votes. After all, it has become very rare recently for a Republican Senate candidate to win a blue state or a Democratic Senate candidate to win a red state in a presidential year. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has been the only exception since 2012.

However, this week’s results from New York Times polls of presidential battlegrounds suggest that Democrats currently have more of a Biden problem than a party brand problem.

In every state where new polls tested Biden’s performance, there was at least one Democrat doing better. Across the board, Democrats were ahead or tied in every Senate race tested.

There are other possible explanations for this, including the power of incumbency, because three of the crucial Senate races (Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania) feature Democratic senators.

But also think about how Democratic governors are getting better results than Biden in battleground states. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s job rating was 19 points better than Biden’s in a Times poll of the state.

Meanwhile, there’s Donald Trump and the fact that he’s doing better than any Republican Senate candidate on the battlefield. In other words, Biden is less popular than the Democratic brand, while Trump is more popular than the Republican brand.

So what’s going on here? Does this mean that Democratic candidates in battleground states run and govern as moderates? People like Shapiro and Sen. Bob Casey, his fellow Pennsylvanian, have spent a lot of money over the years in the middle of the ideological spectrum, and those efforts have paid off. Conversely, the GOP has spent a lot of time and effort trying to rebrand Biden as a Democrat who can’t say no to the left, rather than a moderate, an image that has begun to stick with some voters.

Political campaigns, as I constantly like to remind people, are binary choices. There’s rarely a perfect candidate to support, so many voters have to choose based on the available options — although this year, voting for a third party or skipping a vote for president are also viable “options.”

So let’s sum this up: The Democratic Party has a problem with Biden. This has arguably been a concern since Biden was sworn in in 2021. Six months ago, the concern was among Democrats who were concerned about Biden’s viability because of his age — but that was a proxy for a larger issue in his struggles. Realizing weakness.

As I explained on my podcast this week, this perception of weakness is unique to Biden — not the brand of the Democratic Party as a whole — at the moment. And while the State of the Union performance was enough to put to rest arguments about age, Biden did not improve on some of the more subtle “strong versus weak” arguments. They include what may be his biggest problem with voters: the idea that he either isn’t interested in changing the status quo or is too weak to make changes to the status quo.

Whatever one thinks of Trump, voters clearly believe he will deliver on his promise to continue changing the status quo in Washington. As long as you have an electorate that wants change — especially among undecided voters — that is a powerful advantage for Trump.

Can the Biden campaign fix this image problem? Given the short attention span in our information ecosystem, one can always assume that there is time to change perception, but it is becoming difficult.

The most obvious way to try to improve the perception of Biden’s weakness is to deploy Biden more often and in more places where he is not as heavily controlled. Although he has come out a lot, he is still limited in his unscripted public appearances. The Biden campaign publicly likes to blame the legacy media for some of Biden’s perception problems — which the New York Times’ coverage hurt him in some way. But as the latest national NBC News poll shows, Biden’s image with voters who consume a high level of legacy media is very good. Biden’s image problems lie with the rest of America, the 40% to 60% of the country that consumes information via other ecosystems — places Biden rarely travels.

Participating on Howard Stern’s radio show was a start, but Biden needs to expand his opening further. It’s always been strange to me that so few presidential candidates not named Trump have tried to borrow Trump’s “all of the above” media strategy from 2016. So far, Trump is more likely to appear on a liberal platform than Biden is in the election. Presidential. Display wallets. Of course, if the campaign and the White House had confidence in their manager, Biden might have appeared in unusual places in the media ecosystem. But for now, it seems they are still using it with caution.

In my view, this caution translates into weakness on the part of voters, and that is not a good place to be for any presidential candidate.

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama succeeded in returning as president, at least in part because of their strength of character, not in spite of it. If Biden ends up winning the race for re-election, it will likely be because of tactics, not his character. Biden is not in a position where he has to figure out how to win despite his inability to speak to every segment of the electorate.

This presents the Biden campaign with a major dilemma. Is he trying to fix his problems or just use scorched earth on his opponent? The problem with being more negative about Trump is: How much more information do voters need about him?

Abortion is perhaps the only area where voters can move with more information about Trump’s role in changing the makeup of the Supreme Court before it overturns Roe v. Wade and gives states freedom to set abortion policy.

(As an aside, if you need further evidence that we live in a fragmented media climate, check out the number of voters, anywhere from 15% to 20% in the polls I’ve seen, who believe Biden was somehow responsible because Dobbs is president The Supreme Court decision occurred while he was president.)

But apart from Trump’s role in the abortion issue, what new information can Biden provide about him that would move the voter’s feelings? Ultimately, he must convince the remaining winnable voters of three things:

First, he is trying to change things, and he plans to make more changes in a second term.

second, As I wrote last weekHe also needs to accept some blame from voters for where the country is now, and credibly promise a course correction.

Third, he can convince voters that he is not a traditional Democrat. One of Trump’s strengths during this moment of bipartisan unpopularity is that he is as critical of Republicans as he is of Democrats. His rhetoric gives him credibility with voters who say, “I don’t like any politician.”

Ironically, I think one reason why so many Democrats in battleground states are ahead of Biden in the polls is because they are all seen as more willing to push back against their party than Biden. They certainly display anytime they are having a party. In this current environment, with voters still unattainable, I think I would rather be the candidate who is seen as critical of both political parties.

The biggest reason I’m not sure more negative attacks on Trump will succeed is that the voters Biden needs most right now are voters who have been inundated with Trump’s attacks for eight years. Even if you think these voters don’t know all the negatives they should know about Trump, they certainly think they have all the information they need.

Can Biden still win this election? I think so, because Trump sure knows how to lose elections. But can Biden win the campaign and change the conversation voters have in October? I’m starting to think this might be too steep a hill for him now.

Hot picks that deserve more discussion

One of the most popular “Saturday Night Live” skits of my late youth and early adulthood was Mike Myers’ “Coffee Talk.” With his character Linda Richman, a parody of daytime talk shows. I’ve gotten into the habit of using Myers’ silly antics during his “honest” moments as ways to lead discussions during staff meetings over the years. For example: “Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island, discuss that.”

It is with this in mind, and in this spirit, that I empty my critical notebook this week with two topics: the impeachment of Trump and the worm of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Starting with the trial, let’s be honest: This trial has helped reduce Trump’s legal challenges, because Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg chose to become the first district attorney to charge him, and now he’s running the only show in town, which means he’s acting as the opening act in all… Trump’s other legal issues.

Trump appears to have used this trial exactly as many sober voices in Washington (who advised Bragg not to bring charges) predicted: turning it into a political dispute (and even a border circus). We can debate the merits of whether anyone is above the law, but we can also question why Trump is being tried on a criminal charge that no one else would have faced.

Many say this trial is considered politically safe enough for Republican elected officials — even those from swing states (like Sen. Rick Scott of Florida) — to show up and be Trump’s voice to criticize the process. That’s how polarizing the trial is to the public.

Why doesn’t this specific trial and this specific story, about paying a porn actor to cover up an affair, attract voters? One possible answer: Voters have already processed this part of Trump’s personality.

The Access Hollywood tape was released in October 2016. Trump’s beliefs and outspoken behavior were on display for all to see and hear. Trump won despite doubts about his character. This is similar to why Republicans got little political attention by using Monica Lewinsky to win back Clinton in the late 1990s.

Clinton’s presence with women was not new information to voters, but it was information that was repeatedly used against Clinton during his first campaign. Voters knew who they were going to vote for when he won.

The only time such political prosecutions or legal attacks might succeed is if they provide new information, or more specifically, new character flaws that voters did not know the first time around.

There was only one serious crime for which Trump could be targeted, and that was his actions after the 2020 election, leading up to and including January 6. Everything else was and remains a sideshow to voters, like it or not. I’m not sure any conviction in the New York case would affect anything. What should worry those who believe Trump should be held accountable for his actions on January 6 is that the current trial has already politically colored other legal proceedings, diminishing the impact of the far more important trial — assuming it goes to trial on this calendar. year.

The worm turns into RFK Jr.

I’m not going to lie: I couldn’t get enough of Stranger Things The story of the brain-eating worm told by Kennedy during the deposition 12 years ago during his divorce. As much as the story is fictional (mention “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan“Memes,” there is one thing that bothers me about it. We only have Kennedy’s version of the story in last week’s New York Times report.

The fact that he claimed to suffer from brain fog or forgetfulness during important divorce proceedings seems entirely relevant to the story itself. Apparently, according to the Times story, the issue of having memory problems was important for Kennedy to prove that his earning capacity, for alimony purposes, had diminished.

But given Kennedy’s history of credibility problems on many science-based issues, how seriously should his health claims be taken without some independent medical review? For something as strange and unique as this health disease, full disclosure seems the most appropriate course of action if Kennedy wants to be taken seriously. In fact, full disclosure supporting his health claims may change the narrative around his candor.

If Kennedy really wanted to make Trump and Biden’s health the focus, he would do what John McCain did in 2008: release more than 2,000 pages of his medical records, flooding the media and his opponents with transparency. Let’s see if the Kennedy campaign can back up this story with some supporting evidence; More importantly, let’s see if she thinks transparency is a good idea.



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