Confident Democrats can’t help second-guessing Biden choices
Democrats are largely confident about Joe Biden’s chances of winning the White House but are second-guessing some decisions the Democratic nominee’s campaign made with his late travel schedule.
The backseat driving includes criticism of the campaign’s decision to send Biden to red-state Georgia on Tuesday instead of focusing on a must-win state like Michigan or Wisconsin. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), is also headed to Texas on Friday, where she will make three stops across the state.
“It’s definitely a little off-putting,” said one Democratic strategist. “I think the Biden folks are putting themselves at a big risk for being second-guessed. It feels like even if it’s only perception, perception is super important at this point in the race … [it’s as] important as much as stoking enthusiasm and confidence.”
“I really don’t understand it,” a second strategist added. “You say you don’t want to travel much because of the virus, so make the travel you actually do count. Why are we even trying in Texas?”
The first strategist said that President Trump is using more of an Upper Midwest strategy, straight out of his 2016 playbook. Back then, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign tried to expand the map and spent time in red states like Arizona. Clinton didn’t travel to Wisconsin, and Democrats say she also neglected Michigan.
This cycle looks quite a bit different.
Biden has maintained a large lead in Wisconsin, visited the state before the Democratic convention and is set to return on Friday. An ABC News-Washington Post poll out on Wednesday showed Biden with a 17-point lead — 57 percent to 40 percent — over Trump. Few think the final result will look like that poll, but most see the Democratic nominee as holding a big edge.
In Michigan, Biden leads Trump by 8 points — 49-41 percent — according to a New York Times-Siena College poll out this week, a number that remained unchanged from a survey two weeks earlier.
The Biden campaign has sought to calm worries even as it also has shown signs of confidence.
The campaign is sending Biden on Friday to Minnesota, a state Clinton narrowly won in 2016 but where Trump thinks he can pull an upset this year.
Biden is also headed to Wisconsin and to Iowa, a state Trump won more comfortably in 2016. It’s Biden’s first three-state swing during the general election.
The former vice president and his team have made the coronavirus pandemic a central part of their messaging and throughout the general election have limited the former vice president’s appearances largely to one main event a day — if that.
On Wednesday, Biden remained in Delaware, where he delivered remarks on health care. Last week, Biden also remained largely off the campaign trail as he prepared for the final presidential debate against Trump.
While the lack of movement has invited some criticism, the Biden team is signaling confidence.
And some Democrats want Biden to be more aggressive, both to win more states and to help down-ballot Democrats in places like Georgia and Texas.
“We feel pretty good about where we are,” one Biden ally said. “There’s no harm in trying to expand the map.”
If Biden does win in a landslide and Democrats can win the Senate, as some observers predict, it will give Biden a mandate as he enters office with the added support of a Congress controlled by his party.
Asked if Biden should be traveling to seal up Democratic strongholds, Democratic strategist Eddie Vale replied, “If this was a normal year, yes.”
“In this year, with the pandemic going and Trump self-immolating himself every day, I’m cool with it,” Vale said.
Democratic strategist Christy Setzer acknowledged that “it’s a balancing act, and it’s hard.”
“You don’t want to leave any votes on the table, and there are clear benefits to in-state visits from the candidate, including local media attention,” Setzer said. “You also can’t let any state become the next ‘Hillary didn’t visit Wisconsin.’”
At the same time, she said the campaign has to “balance that impulse with protecting the public health of supporters and the candidate and providing an optics contrast with Trump’s campaign and the candidate.”
Florida has been a vital part of Biden’s general election strategy. A win there would make it all but impossible for Trump to tally the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
Biden visited the state on Thursday, following two stops from former President Obama in recent days.
In addition to visiting the trio of Midwestern states on Friday, he is also expected to appear alongside Obama in Michigan this weekend, where allies expect voters will get a jolt of last-minute energy.
“They’ll get to see what they’ve been missing these past four years,” the Biden ally said.
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