Has there ever been a time when intelligent, enlightened adults have allowed their fears and superstitions to overtake rational thought more than now, a week before the election? I don’t think so.
Those of us who have worked in presidential politics are confident of two things these days: a) Biden will win, and b) Trump can’t do anything about it.
Yet, friends and family don’t want to hear our rosy prediction. You were so wrong in 2016! True; I was. There’s so much conflicting data, I don’t know what to believe! I get it. Trump will try to steal the election! Probably so.
For a moment, however, let’s exhale and consider a few facts about what’s going on:
- Biden has led Trump nationally by approximately six to 10 points since January (FiveThirtyEight.com). Biden’s favourable rating has been net positive for months and is 10 points higher than Hillary’s.
- In contrast, Trump’s job approval, a predictor of vote preference, has been underwater since January 2017. It got worse since his convention and since he got Covid.
- Biden’s cracked the magical 50% mark in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, enough to clear 270 electoral votes. He also hovers at 49% in Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. If they fall, Biden wins big.
- Early voting (i.e., overwhelmingly Democrats) is off the charts. Turnout is projected to set records like in the 2018 midterms when voters took revenge against Trump for the first time.
- Biden’s coalition is bigger than President Obama’s. He’s winning with young people by more than Obama; with suburban woman by a record margin; and with seniors, a reliably Republican group. Biden’s losing non-college whites but by a much smaller margin than Hillary. And to the surprise of many, Biden made peace (for now) with the Progressives, bringing much of their thinking into his platform.
This race’s stability is one of its most important characteristics. Nothing has changed voters’ minds, and in 2020, that’s saying something: not Covid; not the economic collapse nor the inequities it exposed; not George Floyd’s murder nor the reckoning with systemic racism; not the fires in the West and floods in the Gulf; not Trump getting Covid; not RBG’s death; not Trump’s first debate meltdown; not his refusal to condemn white supremacists or to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Barring a calamity with one week to go, this race is locked.
At each turn, Trump reinforced who he is. He was a hypothetical in 2016. We now know the reality: Trump offends, scares, and kills, making this race a referendum on his apocalypse. Trump has no consistent message as he did in 2016 (drain the swamp, build the wall, MAGA) because Covid and his list of grievances dominate. He can’t build beyond his base because the reality of Trump alienates independents, seniors, suburban women, African Americans, and young people. Maybe most telling, a few prominent Republicans are finally seeking distance.
The fact is, Biden has run a great campaign. He’s stayed on message from Day One. He said then and he says now that he wants to restore the soul of the nation, unify the country, and bring dignity, competence, and decency back to the White House.
Biden countered Trump on critical strategic issues. On the economy, Trump’s strongest card, Biden developed a comprehensive, specific plan and sold it aggressively. And he parried Trump’s attempt to paint him as soft on crime by declaring, “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting …. Do I look to you like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters?”
Biden has also been innovative. Playing rope-a-dope in the basement now seems safe and strategic. He’s raised an unheard-of amount of money, almost all of it virtually, fueling record advertising, a sophisticated GOTV operation, and thousands of lawyers already working to protect the vote.
And remember when no one knew how to combat Trump’s maniacally effective method of controlling the agenda? Biden seems to have cracked the code: one, play your game, stay true to who you are and why you’re running. Two, draw a sharp contrast with Trump in everything you do: you follow science, he doesn’t. You connect with Americans’ pain, he doesn’t. You have a plan, he doesn’t. You are empathetic, and he isn’t and never can be.
In August, we created two pieces for the Democratic National convention where the former Democratic primary candidates shared insights about Biden. What was most revealing was that they came to believe Joe Biden was actually the best choice the Democrats could’ve made. They believed he, uniquely, could pull the country together at a time of unspeakable crises and existential angst. For former rivals to say that — each talented and each with an abundant belief in those talents — is remarkable.
It seems that before many of us, they saw Biden for the decent, serious, anxiety-reducing, sometimes perplexing but always authentic public servant who has met the moment. Yeah, he’s Mister Rogers. So what? That’s as far from Trump as one can get, and that’s why he’ll likely be our next president.
Rob Shepardson is co-founder of SS+K, the youth marketing agency for the 2008 and 2012 Obama-Biden campaigns