Biden campaign says it can compete in Texas, Georgia, Arizona
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s senior advisers sounded a confident note in a campaign update on Friday, saying they believe their candidate is positioned to compete or even win a number of traditionally red states taken by President Trump in 2016.
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said the campaign views Arizona, Texas and Georgia as battleground states they intend to contest and win. The campaign says Arizona is at the top of their list of red states that could turn blue for the first time in decades this November.
“This is something we are very, very focused on,” O’Malley Dillon told reporters at a digital briefing. “We believe there will be an expanded map in 2020. We believe there will be battleground states that have never been battleground states before.”
Arizona hasn’t gone for a Democratic candidate in a presidential race since former President Clinton won in 1996, when Independent candidate Ross Perot ran a strong campaign.
President Carter is the last Democratic candidate to win Texas and Georgia. He won the two states in 1976, a completely different political era.
Polls show a tight race between Trump and Biden in Texas and Georgia, while some surveys of Arizona have shown Biden in the lead.
There are competitive Senate races in all three states. In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly has opened up a healthy lead over Sen. Martha McSally (R). The Biden campaign says it’s working closely with Kelly on Democratic turnout in the state.
The Biden campaign has identified Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida as states then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 that they believe they can win back in 2020.
President Obama won all of these states in 2008 and all but North Carolina in 2016.
“We don’t have to win all of these states, but these are core states to our path to victory and represent the bulk of our focus and attention as we think about battleground states,” O’Malley Dillon said.
Trump turned Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin red for the first time in decades in 2016. If Democrats win back those three states in 2020 and the rest of the map remains the same, Biden would have the 270 Electoral College votes he’d need to win the White House.
O’Malley Dillon pointed to polling showing Biden ahead right now in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, which would give him somewhere in the neighborhood of 318 Electoral College votes if he holds on.
“We feel like we’re uniquely positioned to do well in these states and we’re polling ahead to take us to a much larger Electoral College victory than we would even need to capture the presidency,” she said.
A third bucket of states the Biden campaign has circled include Minnesota, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and New Hampshire, all of which Clinton won in 2016.
The Biden campaign says it’s confident these states will remain in their column in 2020 but that they’re organizing to defend them as if they’re battlegrounds.
The race between Trump and Biden is still close. Biden only leads Trump by about 4.5 points nationally in the RealClearPolitics average, and many of the battleground state polls that show Biden ahead are within the margin of error or close to it.
The Trump campaign fired back, saying Biden’s support for past trade deals will be a surefire loser for him in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and “anywhere else people care about good jobs.” The Trump campaign said Biden’s pledge to reverse the president’s sanctions on Cuba will cost him in Florida.
“Americans know that President Trump has been lading the nation in fighting the coronavirus and they also know that Joe Biden has been nothing but a political crank, lobbing counterproductive criticism from his basement bunker,” said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. “President Trump is building a winning coalition even stronger than 2016 and is increasing his support among black and Latino voters, which will help him expand his map and post a bigger victory than the first time.”
The Biden campaign argued that the race has been remarkably steady, finding Biden in the lead everywhere that he needs to be for months now.
And the Biden campaign says Trump’s growing weakness with old people, women and suburban voters may represent an insurmountable deficit for him.
The Biden campaign noted that Democrats won in the Virginia and North Carolina suburbs by double-digit margins in 2018. They argued that Trump has “core problems, substantively and stylistically” with women.
“These shifts and trends … really give us a very strong playing field and a broader playing field for 2020,” said O’Malley Dillon.
The Biden campaign pointed to surveys showing Biden running 15 points better with older voters than Clinton did, which could play a major role in determining the outcome of the race in Florida. And they said Biden has cut significantly into Trump’s lead among white voters without a college education.
“These numbers are at a time of national crisis when you’d think the person leading the country would get a big bump, but it didn’t happen,” said Mike Donilon, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign. “The vice president has a lead. He’s had one for a long time. It’s been consistent with older voters, independents and suburban women. I think we’re strong and getting strong, and this presents big problems for Trump.”
Biden’s advisers said their core message will be that their candidate is a uniter who can deliver the “competent, steady and capable leadership” the nation craves at a time of crisis.
They intend to cast Trump as divisive, erratic, lacking empathy and more concerned about catering to big businesses and the wealthy than the working class.
Some Democrats have raised concerns about polls that show a lack of enthusiasm for Biden.
The Biden campaign argued that those concerns ignore the fact that Democrats turned out in record numbers for him in key battleground states during the primary, helping him to clinch the nomination at a far earlier stage than anyone expected.
And they believe that negative views of Trump will work in their favor to drive voters to the polls.
Other Democrats have worried about Trump’s behemoth campaign, which has dwarfed Biden’s in fundraising, staff and digital operations.
The Biden campaign says it has doubled the size of its email fundraising list since Super Tuesday.
There are “significant” announcements about hiring coming in the near future, O’Malley Dillon said, as well as a 600 person staff in the battleground states that will be up and running by June.
On the digital front, O’Malley Dillon said they’ve outspent the Trump campaign on Facebook and Google over the past two months. A new website and streaming platform are in the works.
“We feel very comfortable we will have the resources and organization we need to win,” O’Malley Dillon said.