Biden benefits from an enthusiasm gap, not the other way around

Biden benefits from an enthusiasm gap, not the other way around
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Now that Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore HuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Jill Biden says she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady MORE holds a commanding lead in dozens of polls, the Trump campaign is relying on the argument that Biden voters aren’t enthusiastic about their candidate to self-soothe. To some degree, they’re right. The latest USA Today/Suffolk poll finds that half of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE’s voters are very enthusiastic about their candidate, while only 27 percent of Biden supporters feel the same way.

There is also the argument that Biden is leading because of his supporters’ aversion to Trump. Data from a New York Times/Sienna poll of battleground states found that 60 percent of Democrats in Florida and Arizona will vote against Donald Trump, and the same is true of 78 percent of independents in Florida, for example.   

But I think Biden is leading because of much more than Trump-hating. We are seeing, as we did in 2018, a complete repudiation of the GOP platform and the Democratic Party running campaigns on policies that are widely popular and in sync with American values. 

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The Democrats’ platform is built on the importance of civility, consensus, equality and favoring the collective over the individual — a particularly important message at this moment. 

A group supporting the embodiment of a set of principles is less likely to foster a cult of personality. Whereas Biden represents a range of things, on the GOP side, there is only Trump — and he is therefore indispensable. Biden is important, but the Democratic platform is paramount. That’s why he was able to beat Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who was personally more popular during the primaries. 

This election is truly about the collective over the individual. A perusal of the critical issues on the ballot come November makes my case. 

Health care will be the top issue, as it was in the midterms. ObamaCare still enjoys a high approval rating — RealClearPolitics average shows that 48 percent support the law. The GOP remains hellbent on repealing ObamaCare, but has no viable replacement — a supremely stupid move, politically speaking. It comes as no surprise that Biden leads 53 percent to 38 percent on which candidate is better suited to handle health care.

And then there’s the “elephant in the room”: COVID-19. Trump is getting dismal grades on his handling of the virus that has taken more than 130,000 American lives. Ipsos/Reuters finds that 57 percent disapprove of how Trump has handled the pandemic. This comes as 89 percent of Americans are wearing masks in public, 56 percent think the economy is reopening too quickly, and 76 percent say they are concerned about getting infected. This has led to a big lead for Biden in who could better manage the outbreak.

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Though President Trump never expected racial tensions and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement would be an election issue, a third of voters say race relations will play a major role in determining their vote. Two-thirds of Americans say they support BLM, and 74 percent back the protesters. Nearly 70 percent report they talk about racial tensions at home and with friends. Sixty percent think Trump has delivered the wrong message about protests sweeping the country, and nearly half believe he makes racial tensions worse. In contrast, Biden is trusted by 52 percent to handle race relations.

As Trump tries to position himself as the law-and-order candidate, we see support for the Democratic approach to handling police violence. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 55 percent trust Biden to handle police violence over Trump’s 36 percent. Most respondents support widespread police reforms, including transparency measures and new training and recruitment protocol. A majority want to ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants.  

And when it comes to immigration — Trump’s signature issue in 2016 — Democrats are favored once again. Seventy percent of those surveyed believe that immigration should be kept at its current level or increased, and three-quarters of Americans support legal status for DACA beneficiaries. What’s more, 75 percent agree that undocumented immigrants take jobs that Americans don’t want — a finding that flies in the face of what Trump and the GOP claim.

When it comes to the economy, Trump is consistently favored, but his lead has shrunk. While he used to have a more than 10-point edge on Biden, he now leads by just 4 points in the latest Kaiser Family Foundation survey, at 49 percent to 45 percent. Trump also led Hillary Clinton on the economy, but what’s different now is that in 2016, at this point in the race, he also was ahead on who was better suited to deal with terrorism, get things done, be honest and straightforward, and change business as usual in Washington. Today, he doesn’t lead in any category but the economy. And Democratic economic policies such as raising the federal minimum wage, funding for child care and paid maternity leave enjoy majority support.

Taken together, it’s no surprise that in the latest AP-NORC poll, 74 percent of Americans — including 63 percent of Republicans — say that the country is heading in the wrong direction. This puts Trump in a similar position to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford when they sought reelection — and we all know how that turned out.  

These polls reflect real enthusiasm for Biden’s platform and serious trouble for Trump’s reelection chances. Furthermore, Reuters reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is considering telling GOP Senate candidates to distance themselves from Trump. Sounds like McConnell knows what’s up.

Four months is a lifetime in politics, but it’s critical to push back against the narrative that Biden’s campaign suffers from lack of enthusiasm. He’s running on a popular platform that animates voters — and that’s the way people win elections.

Trump’s signature slogan of “Make American Great Again” may backfire this time. It appears Americans finally can cite a time when America was great: the Obama years. 

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.