Can Joe Biden build the excitement for his candidacy amid coronavirus?

Can Joe Biden build the excitement for his candidacy amid coronavirus?
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With Bernie Sanders ending his campaign, the path is clear for a general election battle between Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to provide update Monday on US response to omicron variant Restless progressives eye 2024 Emhoff lights first candle in National Menorah-lighting ceremony MORE, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and President Trump. As the race stands, Biden holds a strong statistical advantage over Trump in many recent general election polls.

Biden has an advantage of 6 points over Trump, leading by 49 percent to 43 percent in a general election matchup, according to Real Clear Politics. Biden has an advantage of 8 points over Trump, leading by 49 percent to 41 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Though Biden leads in several critical swing states that went for Trump in 2016, some of these states remain toss ups as the campaign season continues on.

In Florida, a critical swing state that went for Trump in 2016, Biden leads by 6 points at 46 percent to 40 percent, a University of North Florida poll found. The survey also showed a majority of Florida voters at 53 percent disapprove of the way that Trump is handling the coronavirus, while only 46 percent approve. In Michigan, another critical swing state that went for Trump in 2016, Biden leads the president by only 3 points at 48 percent to 45 percent, according to a recent Public Policy Polling survey.

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In Wisconsin, a state that Trump won by less than 1 point, Biden also leads by 3 points at 48 percent to 45 percent, according to a recent Marquette Law School survey. But in Pennsylvania, where Trump won by a razor thin margin in 2016, the president leads by 2 points over Biden at 46 percent to 44 percent, according to a Baldwin Wallace University, Ohio Northern University, Oakland University poll. The same survey showed 9 percent of respondents have yet to choose between the two candidates.

While Biden leads in most general election polls, many of the states that will decide 2020 remain in play, and it is clear that he faces obstacles on his path to the White House. Biden clinched the Democratic nomination by positioning himself as a steady and tested leader with the experience to lead during a national crisis. This contrasted with Sanders, who ran on the promise of revolution and a platform of sweeping federal programs like Medicare for All. While Sanders had been propelled by excitement from voters, Biden still faces a serious deficit of enthusiasm.

As Biden works to build a diverse coalition of voters, he faces the task of building excitement for his candidacy within the party, which will involve appealing to Sanders supporters and the progressive wing. This presents a great obstacle for Biden as a traditional retail politician, given that he is unable to campaign in person. In response to the slowing economy, and in what is an attempt to reach Sanders supporters, Biden proposed lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare, a policy which Sanders supporters are already decrying as not being liberal enough to satisfy them.

However, the most important way that Biden could generate enthusiasm within the party will be with the selection of his running mate. Biden has committed to picking a woman and reportedly told donors that he could name his choice before the Democratic convention in August. Given that Biden would be the oldest American president and is running in the midst of a pandemic, the decision on his running mate is important, and will be a balancing act of choosing someone who can motivate an increasingly diverse party and is ready to become president in an instant.

But given the current crisis, Biden may take a backseat to how Trump is handling the coronavirus. Given the public health emergency, financial crash, and impending depression, Trump now faces one of the greatest challenges of any modern day president that will also make or break his odds for reelection. His approval rating reached 48 percent last month, according to a Washington Post poll, but it has fallen to 43 percent in a new Morning Consult poll. That is likely a result of his uneven response, along with the significant toll of the coronavirus on the public and the economy, and uncertainty over the length of the lockdowns.

The country is in uncharted waters and faces an incredible degree of peril. Americans are concerned and look to their elected officials, particularly in the federal government, for leadership and direction now more than ever. If Trump is ultimately able to navigate this crisis from a communications standpoint while setting the economy back on a noticeable path toward recovery, it is likely that no Democratic candidate, not even a resurgent Biden, would be able to defeat him in the general election.

Douglas Schoen is a consultant who served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton and to the campaign of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His latest book is “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”