Monday, July 15, 2024

Analysis | Democrats are justified in being freaked out about November

Analysis | Democrats are justified in being freaked out about November

On CNN on Tuesday night, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said what a lot of Democrats seem to be thinking: His party is in deep trouble, less than 120 days before the election.

“This race is on a trajectory that is very worrisome, if you care about the future of this country,” Bennet told CNN host Kaitlan Collins. “Joe Biden was nine points up at this time — the last time he was running. Hillary Clinton was five points up. This is the first time in more than 20 years that a Republican president has been up in this part of the campaign.”

“Donald Trump is on track, I think, to win this election,” Bennet continued, “and maybe win it by a landslide, and take with him the Senate and the House.”

The Biden campaign has — publicly, at least — been sanguine about his position. In an interview Monday, Biden pointed out that he had been behind in the polls before, referring to the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. In 2020, his campaign famously shrugged at the fretting of his supporters, insisting that it would all work out in the end. And it did, if only thanks to relatively narrow victories in a handful of swing states.

Bennet is correct, though, that things are much more dire now than they were then. The Biden campaign’s presentation relies on the idea that voters will swing back toward him as Election Day nears and the prospect of Donald Trump’s return to the White House becomes more real. But that swing would have to be very big, given where the polls sit now.

The polling averages from 538 indicate that the last time a Democrat was faring as poorly in national polling at this point in a race was 2000, when George W. Bush had a large lead over Al Gore. At every other equivalent point from 2004 to 2016, the Democrat was leading, by one to six percentage points. In 2020, Biden was up nearly 10 points on Trump. Now, he trails by two points.

At the state level, things don’t get much better. The relative paucity of state polling means that the averages compiled by 538 are derived to some extent from national polls. But across swing states — and even including Minnesota, which Biden won easily in 2020 — the race is tied, or (more often) Biden trails.

Biden had an average lead of seven points in these states at this point in 2020. He now trails by about three points on average.

It’s also worth noting that in nearly every state, the polling average shifted toward Trump as the race progressed. The final result in each state was even more favorable to the former president.

In the national poll and across these seven states, the polling margins are now an average of 10 points worse for Biden than they were at this point in 2020.

This is the sort of position that would normally prompt a campaign to engage in some dramatic change. That could be in the cards for Biden’s campaign, certainly — including the unusual possibility that Biden ultimately isn’t his party’s nominee. But there has been no obvious shift since last month’s debate, a clear trigger for Trump’s improved position in national polling and for questions about whether Biden will even be on the ballot in November.

“The White House, in the time since that disastrous debate, I think, has done nothing to really demonstrate that they have a plan to win this election,” Bennet said Tuesday. “That they have a convincing plan to win in the battleground states, where we have to win, in order to win this election. And they need to do that.”

The public position of the Biden campaign has been to act as though the polls are dubious or reflecting a blip — that concerns about Trump will, ultimately, overtake concerns about Biden. Perhaps they will; in an unusual election, unusual things might happen.

But it is not hard to see why Bennet — and many others in his party — are concerned.

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