Biden’s message is unity, coronavirus in homestretch

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Joe Biden is expected to deliver a two-pronged closing argument in the final days of the campaign, holding President Trump accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic while calling for unity and telling voters that he can help bring the nation together during a tumultuous time. 

Allies to Biden say he will seek to cast himself as a leader who can help to heal a deeply divided country, while going on the attack by asking voters if they want another four years of Trump, pointing specifically to the president’s mismanagement of the pandemic. 

“He’ll pose the question, ‘Do you want another four years of this?’ ” one ally close to the campaign said. “He’ll continue to draw a contrast of how the presidency should be and what this presidency has been.”

“It will also be very much about bringing people together and bringing down the noise and the tension the country has faced in the past few years,” the ally added. “He’ll make the case for why he is a unifier and why that approach contrasts with Donald Trump.”

In his answer to the final question at Thursday night’s debate, Biden gave a preview of what he’ll say in the remaining days of the campaign.

Asked what he will say in an inaugural address to the people who did not support him, the former vice president replied: “I will say, ‘I’m the American president. I represent all of you whether you voted for me or against me. And I’m going to make sure that you’re represented.” 

The message echoes a Biden ad that ran during the World Series this week that focused on unifying the country.

In the ad, the actor Sam Elliot narrates the words “there is only one America. No Democratic rivers. No Republican mountains. 

“Joe Biden doesn’t need everyone in this country to always agree,” the ad states. “Just to agree we all love this country and go from there. 

The unity message hasn’t always appealed to progressives, who particularly aren’t keen on hearing Biden say anything nice about GOP leaders in Congress. They’re not that interested in hearing Biden talk about how he can negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other Republicans.

Instead of courting independents and Republicans who are tired of Trump’s antics, they say Biden should firm up the Democratic base. 

“This is where the party is,” said one progressive activist, who noted that Biden needs the left to come out for him. “Biden wants to say he’s the Democratic Party but in reality he needs progressives to support him down the road.” 

Yet Biden’s approach has been working, and the progressive activist acknowledged that much of the country is looking for a leader who represents a sharp break from Trump — and one who can reach out to independents and even Republicans disenchanted with Trump.

“He’s tapped into that desire for normalcy and a pathway out of this mess and it’s been effective,” the activist said. 

Neil Sroka, a strategist for the progressive group Democracy for America, said progressives back Biden’s tone. “I know progressives are very much included in the majority of Americans who want a president committed to working to bring the country together rather than driving us apart, fanning the flames of deep hatreds and feigning ignorance about difficult truths about our history because it might work to his short term benefit.”

During a campaign speech in Wilmington on Friday, Biden focused his remarks on the pandemic and the economy, bluntly asking, “If this is a success, what does a failure look like?”

He also emphasized how Americans were getting through the pandemic together. 

“There’s no challenge, there’s no challenge we cannot meet. No enemy we’re unable to face. No threat we can’t conquer. We stand together united, bound by a common resolve, determination and values,” Biden said. “Folks, together we can harness the unlimited potential of the American people. Not just to get back where we were before this virus but to get back better. I promise you, and you know in your heart, we can do this, we must do this and we will do it together.” 

Ending the campaign on a positive note is the opposite strategy employed by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. During that cycle, aides felt they were forced to go negative even as they had hoped to end on a more optimistic message.

A CNN analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG showed that out of nearly 70,000 ads in the last days of the 2016 cycle, 3 percent of Clinton’s were positive. Just 5 percent of Trump’s at the end of that cycle were positive. 

Political observers say Biden can afford to end his campaign as he sees fit.

Biden has consistently led Trump in national polls and he maintains sizable leads in many key battleground states including Pennsylvania and Michigan. More than 52 million people have already cast votes in the election, which the campaign sees as a positive sign.

“With strong poll numbers nationally and in the battleground states, Biden has the luxury and the cash on hand to take the high road in the closing days of the campaign,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a communications professor at Boston University who worked as a political media consultant. 

Berkovitz said the message speaks specifically to voters — no matter their political stripes — who are tired of the status quo during the Trump administration. 

“A positive note from the Biden camp positions Joe as the calmer voice for voters who are exhausted,” he said. “A unity message reassures the suburban moms and other swing voters that they are making the right decision pulling the lever for Biden.”



Tags coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Mitch McConnell

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