Nervous Democrats don’t see 2016 nightmare repeating itself

Democrats are feeling confident that 2020 will not be a repeat of 2016 and that polls showing Joe Biden with a comfortable lead over President Trump will not result in another nightmare for the party. 

Trump’s 2016 upset of Hillary Clinton after polls showed the Democrats with a slender lead on Election Day lingers fresh in the minds of many Democrats. 

But their overwhelming sentiment on the eve of this election is that it won’t happen again.

“If someone said to me, ‘Would you rather be Biden or Trump right now with 24 hours left,’ I’d rather be Biden,” said Robert Wolf, the Democratic mega donor and former chairman and CEO of UBS Americas. “The differences are so stark. I think Biden is going to win, period.”

“This is very different than 2016 as Trump is now the incumbent and the experiment failed,” Wolf added. 

Democrats are typically nervous about their Election Day prospects, but nerves are at an all-time high this year. 

Still, there were also reasons to believe 2020 would produce a different outcome. On Monday in more than a dozen interviews, Democratic strategists, Biden allies, and officials told The Hill they felt good about the consistency of the polling in the final month of the campaign along with the early voter turnout in battleground states that went Trump’s way in 2016. They also said they felt Trump had done little to help his prospects in the closing days as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc on much of the country.

“People like me are loath to give prognostications but the analytics and overall mood of the electorate would suggest a comfortable Biden victory,” Democratic strategist Joel Payne said. 

“There are states like Florida, Georgia and North Carolina which will provide a lot of clarity early on about what kind of night it will be,” Payne added. “But overall, Democrats feel good but cautious as we like to be.” 

“Of course we’re nervous,” added Christy Setzer, who echoed Payne’s sentiment: “The consequences of losing are huge, incalculable, and we still don’t understand how it’s even a 10-point race.”

Still, she said, “I’m a lot less nervous than I would have been had 100 million people not voted early, had we not seen record youth turnout, and there were tens of millions of new voters, all of whom lean Democrat.”

“The early vote process is like a rolling, month-long election night — and it’s going really, really well,” Setzer continued. “So no champagne is popping, but all signs look good.”

Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also acknowledged the anxiety Democrats are feeling. 

“I’m thinking of doing an auto response to the barrage of emails I’m getting: ‘Keep Calm,’ ” Israel said. “I think if it wasn’t for the flashbacks to 2016, there would be less anxiety.” 

Israel added that most elected Democrats he’s spoken to “are concerned about the lengths the Republicans are going to throw out legitimate ballots and how it plays out.” 

In the lead-up to Election Day, polls show Biden leading in most key battleground states including Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and even Arizona, a traditionally red state. A New York Times-Siena College poll over the weekend showed that Biden’s lead was due in large part to voters who did not cast ballots in the 2016 election but prefer Biden this time around. 

On Monday, Biden made campaign stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania, making a final pitch in two states he hopes to bring back to the Democratic column after losses in 2016. His closing argument to voters centered around COVID-19 and Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic and his inability to listen to the nation’s top experts including Anthony Fauci. 

Biden is pouncing on the Sunday night chant at a Trump rally about firing Fauci, which Trump embraced.

“Last night Trump said he was going to fire Dr. Fauci. Isn’t that wonderful?” Biden said Monday at a stop in Cleveland. “I’ve got a better idea: Elect me and I’m going to hire Dr. Fauci. And we’re going to fire Donald Trump.”

Before his second stop of the day, in Western Pennsylvania — a drive-in event at a community college parking lot —Cher’s “Believe” played on the campaign’s loudspeakers.

Meanwhile, Biden’s top advisers sought to assure Democrats that they would fight any efforts by Trump to declare himself the winner before votes are counted. A number of states are expected to see their counts go beyond Tuesday night. 

“Under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared a victor on election night,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said on a campaign conference call on Zoom on Monday. 

There are some doubts among Democrats that Biden will prevail in Florida and North Carolina. But Biden has a number of paths to 270 electoral votes that also run through such states as Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania, and Biden allies said they were optimistic about their chances. 

“I’m feeling really good about the campaign,” said one longtime Biden ally. “I’ve been worried about complacency and turnout but I’m not feeling much of that at all. 

“We’re all feeling pretty good,” the ally said. “This is not the 2016 race, that’s for sure.” 

Tags Anthony Fauci Coronavirus Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden presidential election Steve Israel

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