President Donald Trump has been mocking former Vice President Joe Biden for running a campaign while “hiding in his basement.”
Now a New York Times/Siena College Poll shows Biden’s subdued schedule may be the superior tactic in six battleground states, including Pennsylvania, where Biden has posted a 10-point lead.
Trump has been eagerly escaping the White House and sparking controversy with what he says about the coronavirus crisis and nationwide protests and a public reckoning about racism. And the president’s support is slumping. Biden, with small coronavirus-correct events, benefits from Trump’s troubles.
Biden also had doubt-digit leads in surveys of Michigan and Wisconsin in the Times/Siena polling.
In Pennsylvania, Biden led Trump 50% to 40% in the survey of 651 registered voters conducted from June 8 to 16, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2%. The same pollster found just a three-point spread in the state in October.
But Biden’s strength is really Trump’s weakness. Among Trump supporters, 76% said their vote was about the president. Among Biden supporters, 54% said their vote was in opposition to Trump.
“That stands out to me in each state,” said Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, which also polled in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina. “A significant portion of the Biden vote is not really for him. It’s against the president.”
Rick Gorka, a spokesperson for Trump Victory, the joint effort between the campaign and the Republican National Committee, sees that as good news for the president.
“Voters have to vote for something,” he said. “Anger isn’t a winning issue.”
Gorka touted the poll’s finding that a majority of voters in Pennsylvania trust Trump to do a better job on the economy and in dealing with China. Biden wins support for dealing with the coronavirus and health care, protests, race relations, unifying the country, and immigration.
Levy wondered what issue will be front and center in October when persuadable voters are tuning in to the election.
Biden also benefits by comparison on personal likability. But that doesn’t mean the former vice president, born in Scranton, is overwhelmingly popular in the state.
Trump was viewed unfavorably by 56% of those polled and favorably by 42%. Biden’s numbers were split — 50% favorable and 48% unfavorable.
Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania in 2016 by just 0.7%, in an election where both candidates had strong unfavorable ratings. Levy noted that 13% of the voters in his poll stayed home on Election Day four years ago. Of that group, 63% would go for Biden and 32% for Trump.
That could be a deciding factor if Pennsylvania has another squeaker Nov. 3, he said, provided those voters go the polls this time.
The poll came out Thursday, as Biden spoke about the Affordable Care Act in Lancaster, his fourth trip to the state in June. Outside a Lancaster City recreation center, about a dozen Trump fans waved signs reading, “PA Is Trump Country.” Across the street, a group of people chanted, “This is what democracy looks like,” and flashed Black Lives Matter signs. Trump won Lancaster County by 20 points in 2016, though the city has had something of a progressive boom in recent years.
Inside, Biden excoriated Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to a small group. “He called testing a double-edged sword,” Biden said, quoting Trump. “Let’s be crystal clear about what he means by that. ... He thinks finding out that more Americans are sick will make him look bad.”
Bob Asher, a 22-year veteran of the Republican National Committee, dropped his bid this week for another term amid acrimony and infighting within the Pennsylvania GOP leadership over a plan to ease him out of the post.
In an email to state committee members, Asher disputed claims from Pennsylvania Republican Party Chair Lawrence Tabas about an evolving “unity resolution” that would have had him share a new four-year RNC term with state party secretary Andy Reilly.
Asher, of Montgomery County, told the committee members the process had become “destructive,” so he was dropping out “for the sake of party unity and the reelection of Donald Trump as president.”
Tabas, of Philadelphia, has not publicly endorsed Reilly, a former chair of the Delaware County Republican Party. But his efforts in the negotiations were in support of Reilly’s candidacy.
Clout hears Asher was open to splitting the term with Reilly, but his email said he rejected the mechanism Tabas proposed to make that happen.
The first version Tabas pitched on May 27 would have had both Asher and Reilly elected to a single seat, with Asher serving until February, when Reilly would step in. The RNC last week said that violates party rules. The second version, proposed by Tabas last week, would have Reilly elected to a four-year term but then sign an “irrevocable proxy” allowing Asher to hold the seat for five more months.
“This is something I would not agree to as this would create too much confusion and too many questions about the process,” Asher wrote.
Reilly on Monday said he knew “for a fact” that Asher had agreed to the terms. Reilly said that if he wins, he will still offer the seat to Asher until February. He now expects Asher to decline.