A recent CNBC poll shows that President Donald Trump and the Republican Party are essentially tied in key swing states with former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrats when it comes to handling the coronavirus pandemic.
The poll, which tested top battleground states like Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, shows that Trump leads Biden 46-45 in terms of handling COVID-19, as well as leading the presumptive Democratic nominee 45-43 when it comes to putting the middle class first. Considering the Democrats appear to be shaping up their narrative on the fact that 100,000 Americans died from this virus on Trump’s watch, and that 36 million people are unemployed because of it, it isn’t a good sign.
The battleground poll shows that while Trump is certainly not the most popular guy around, voters in key swing states don’t appear to have much more faith in the Democratic Party. What’s worse for Biden is that, right now, Trump holds an edge over Biden with independents in these states.
Some of the data in the survey is good news for the president.
In a hypothetical match-up, Trump holds a narrow, 48%-46% lead over Biden among all the battleground voters surveyed, including a 41%-32% lead among independents. He also leads Biden 51%-40% in who would do a better job handling the economy. The two are in a statistical tie over who would do a better job handling coronavirus.
Historically, when you have a major crisis, the American people turn to the other party and essentially tell them to do better. In this poll, we’re seeing the opposite: They don’t want Biden to come in because they think he’ll do a worse job.
There are two problems Biden will have to overcome if he wants to try and win back the independents in these states. The first is finding some way to increase his visibility. Because of his mental fatigue in television interviews, Biden’s team is carefully handpicking who interviews him and tightly controls the interviews. Even in the now-infamous “You Ain’t Black” interview from Friday, Biden’s team actually jumped into the interview to correct or clarify.
They risk overprotecting him, though it seems like an impossible choice. Biden is a walking gaffe, and has been for years. The several misspoken lines over the last few months make him look mentally weaker than Trump, and by not having him out and in media spotlights more often, there is simply no way he can overcome the media coverage that Trump gets.
And that media coverage is where everything really comes into play. The media has been very much on the side of exposing Trump and trying to tear him down, but in order to do that, their cameras have to be pointed at him all the time. You can argue whether or not Trump is playing them all like cheap fiddles, but the fact is that it works to his advantage. He is out there, and he is seen as the head of the government response because of how much the media is tying everything to him. That has the potential to backfire in a big way if America’s economic recovery is V-shaped and a second wave is nowhere near as serious as people fear.
The other issue for Biden is that independent voters, ones who remember the Obama economy, are wary about how Biden would handle things in the current climate. Trump is a known quantity in this regard. He corrected a lot of the problems that were exacerbated by Barack Obama’s regulatory policies. Even though many of them might be out of a job now, they understand that it is more because of the coronavirus and not Trump’s policies.
Biden made sure through the primaries to tie himself to Obama in virtually every way. The people who struggled to find work under Obama aren’t quite comfortable to see that time come back. If they trust Trump to get them back to work, and they are able to soon, then Biden has nothing to offer them.
Now, the big caveat to all this is that the election is still five months away, give or take a few days. There is plenty of time for things to go belly-up for either candidate, but as much as the media and Democrats are making this about Trump’s performance, a quick recovery and minor second wave would destroy the narrative and make Trump look like a genius. Independents in key states are already wary of Biden, and this would ensure that his path to the presidency is extraordinarily tough… especially for someone who looks like missing an afternoon nap might ruin him.