Calls grow for Biden to expand election map in final sprint
Some Democrats are urging Joe Biden to go big in the final weeks before the election by pressing into states President Trump won easily in 2016, such as Ohio and Iowa.
Georgia and Texas are also on the radar for many Democrats, although the traditionally red states would be a much heavier lift for the Democratic nominee.
The Biden campaign has so far played it safe.
Biden has traveled to Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and the bulk of his ad spending has been in those core battleground states, along with Arizona and North Carolina. On Friday, Biden visited Minnesota, a state he is expected to win.
However, the Biden campaign is likely to have a significant cash advantage heading into the stretch run, giving hope to Democrats that Biden will look to expand the map in the final days before Nov. 3.
Polls show Biden running strong across the Midwest, and Democrats in Ohio and Iowa say their states could be won if Biden visits or invests in television advertising.
Ohio, which Trump carried by 8 points in 2016, is increasingly viewed as a tantalizing possibility for Democrats.
“They should go for broke in Ohio,” the state’s Democratic Party chairman, David Pepper, told The Hill.
Trump is playing defense in Ohio.
The president will return to the Buckeye State for two events on Monday and his campaign plans to spend about $5 million on the television airwaves this month, according to data from Ad Analytics.
Biden has not announced any plans to visit Ohio and his campaign has less than $1 million in ad buys committed to the state in September. Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC supporting Biden’s election, has said it will not spend in Ohio, instead choosing to focus on the core battleground states.
Biden leads by 2.4 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls in Ohio, which was not considered a battleground entering the cycle even though it went for President Obama in 2012.
Pepper was careful to note that he was not criticizing the Biden campaign’s strategy or team in Ohio.
But Pepper made the case that Biden has effectively caught Trump in Ohio despite not campaigning there or committing significant resources to the state so far.
“Biden hasn’t spent big here in comparison to Trump and despite that, we’re still tied, so that tells you Ohio is ready to go blue,” Pepper said. “A good, hard closing pitch here, with visits and television ads all over the state could clinch Ohio for Biden.”
Many Democrats are satisfied with Biden’s cautious approach, believing his likeliest path to the White House runs through the former “Blue Wall” states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Trump turned red for the first time in decades in 2016.
If the 2016 map stays the same but Biden wins those three states back, he’ll win the White House.
Biden leads by 4 points or more in the RealClearPolitics average in all three states at the moment. He also has a healthy lead in Arizona and is running neck and neck with Trump in Florida.
“You have to keep your foot on the pedal in those three midwestern states, they’re so important,” said Mark Longabaugh, a veteran Democratic operative who ran Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in Ohio. “Florida is a great opportunity and they’re in good position in Arizona. After that, if you have the resources and ability, then you go into Ohio and Iowa.”
Iowa presents another potential opportunity for Democrats to win back a state that went for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016.
Trump won the state by 9 points in 2016, but his campaign will spend about $1 million on the airwaves there this month. The Biden campaign is not on the airwaves in Iowa at the moment.
“Having someone from his campaign – the candidates, their spouses, someone – just appear would be fantastic and would energize folks here,” said Marjie Foster, the chairwoman of the Decatur County Democrats.
“We need to hear messages — TV, social media, wherever — that tell us he and Harris are with us, even if they cannot be here in person at this stage of the campaign,” she added.
Democratic strategists say the Biden campaign has a strong team on the ground in both Iowa and Ohio, and that the campaign is smart to hold off until the final weeks before pushing in.
The Biden campaign has $4 million in reservations in Ohio in October and $2 million in Iowa, if they decide to make a late move.
“They’re being smart to put a team together, to do the organizing on the ground and to have those pieces in place so that if there’s an opportunity to move the race with ad money closer to the end, they’ll be ready,” said Sam Roecker, the former communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party.
Biden this week told Senate Democrats he intends to spend significant money in Senate battlegrounds in the coming weeks in an effort to flip the upper chamber.
Democrats are looking to oust Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in Iowa. Biden’s remarks will also raise questions about whether his campaign will spend big down the stretch in the traditionally red states of Texas, where Sen. John Cornyn (R) is up for reelection, and Georgia, where there are two competitive Senate races this year.
Polls are close in both Texas and Georgia, although Texas is still viewed as a long shot for Democrats.
In Georgia, Democrats say they’re positioned to make big gains up and down the ballot whether the Biden campaign spends there or not.
“We’re expecting tremendous gains across the board whether or not it’s presidential battleground,” said Howard Franklin, a veteran Democratic campaigns operative based out of Atlanta. “We hope it is a presidential battleground, but even without the investments that pundits in Washington talk about, we’re ready to go.”
Franklin said the Biden campaign has a top-notch team in Georgia and has been working closely with the state party on outreach and turnout.
The Biden campaign has $4 million in ad reservations in Georgia in October and more than $5 million in Texas, if it decides to make a late play in those states.
“It’s an interesting question, whether you play it safe or try to stretch your money in the final weeks,” Franklin said. “The fact that Biden has caught up financially is a positive sign and an indicator that he may decide to play stretch ball in the final weeks. Maybe they’ll take some three-pointers.”