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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Edsall: Biden’s Fraying Coalition in Danger

Some excerpts from Thomas B. Edsall’s  “‘This Is Grim,’ One Democratic Pollster Says” at The New York Times:

The predictive power of horse-race polling a year from the presidential election is weak at best. The Biden campaign can take some comfort in that. But what recent surveys do reveal is that the coalition that put Joe Biden in the White House in the first place is nowhere near as strong as it was four years ago.

These danger signs include fraying support among core constituencies, including young voters, Black voters and Hispanic voters, and the decline, if not the erasure, of traditional Democratic advantages in representing the interests of the middle class and speaking for the average voter.

Any of these on their own might not be cause for alarm, but taken together, they present a dangerous situation for Biden.

Edsall notes further, “From Nov. 5 through Nov. 11, Democracy Corps, a Democratic advisory group founded by Stan Greenberg and James Carville, surveyed 2,500 voters in presidential and Senate battleground states as well as competitive House districts….In an email, Greenberg summarized the results: “This is grim.” The study, he said, found that collectively, voters in the Democratic base of “Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, L.G.B.T.Q.+ community, Gen Z, millennials, unmarried and college women give Trump higher approval ratings than Biden.”

Edsall goes on to roll out the discouraging specifics, including:

On 32 subjects ranging from abortion to China, the Democracy Corps survey asked voters to choose which would be better: “Biden and the Democrats” or “Trump and the Republicans.”

Biden and the Democrats led on six: women’s rights (ahead by 17 percentage points), climate change (15 points), addressing racial inequality (10 points), health care (three points), the president will not be an autocrat (two points) and protecting democracy (one point). There was a tie on making democracy more secure.

Donald Trump and the Republicans held leads on the remaining subjects, including being for working people (a seven-point advantage), standing up to elites (eight points), being able to get things done for the American people (12 points), feeling safe (12 points) and keeping wages and salaries up with the cost of living (17 points).

In the case of issues that traditionally favor Republicans, Trump and his allies held commanding leads: patriotism (11 points), crime (17 points), immigration (20 points) and border security (22 points).

As for the causes, Edsall writes, “There is some evidence in both the Democracy Corps survey and in other polls that concerns specific to Biden — including his age and the surge in prices during his presidency — are driving the perception of Democratic weakness rather than discontent with the party itself…..The survey found, for example, that Democratic candidates in House battleground districts are running even with their Republican opponents among all voters and two points ahead among voters who say they are likely to cast ballots on Election Day.”

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Biden’s sagging popularity is weakening Democratic 2024 prospects. As Edsall notes,

Along similar lines, a November 2023 NBC News poll found Trump leading Biden by two points, 46 to 44, but when voters were asked to choose between Trump and an unnamed Democratic candidate, the generic Democrat won 46 to 40.

In a reflection of both Biden’s and Trump’s high unfavorability ratings, NBC reported that when voters were asked to choose between Biden and an unnamed generic Republican, the Republican candidate led Biden 48 to 37.

What makes these numbers and conclusions harder to ignore than other recent polls indicating trouble for Democrats, is the name Stan Greenberg associated with the Democracy Corps poll and related analyses. While James Carville is familiar to many political junkies because of his frequent television appearances, his political partner Stan Greenberg is the Democrats’ platinum standard pollster, poll and election data analyst. Indeed, they have advised successful social democratic candidates all over the world. Greenberg and Carville steered President Bill Clinton’s two victorious election campaigns, and if Hillary Clinton heeded their advice to focus more on winning the support of  working-classs voters in key states, the nation might have been spared the entire Trump disaster, which now threatens the future of America’s democracy.

It is true that nobody knows what is going to happen in the months ahead, and yes, Biden could rally, if the economic picture improves substantially, or if Trump’s legal problems drag him down. In any case, President Biden, or whoever runs against Trump or another GOP nominee, would do well to pay close attention to the insights of Stan Greenberg and James Carville.

To round out your take on Democratic 2024 prospects, do read the rest of Edsall’s column. It provides as thorough and carefully-considered a report as you are going to find.

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