Columnist Byron York

Biden campaign is dead in the water

By Byron York


Posted 5/17/24

On Nov. 5, 2023, the New York Times published a story headlined, “Trump Leads in 5 Critical States as Voters Blast Biden, Times/Siena Poll Finds.” Focusing on the states most likely to …

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Columnist Byron York

Biden campaign is dead in the water


On Nov. 5, 2023, the New York Times published a story headlined, “Trump Leads in 5 Critical States as Voters Blast Biden, Times/Siena Poll Finds.” Focusing on the states most likely to decide the 2024 election, the Times reported, “The results show Mr. Biden is losing to Mr. Trump, his likeliest Republican rival, by margins of four to 10 percentage points among registered voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Mr. Biden is ahead only in Wisconsin, by two percentage points, the poll found.”

The story set off a mass freakout in the Democratic Party. A Biden Justice Department-appointed prosecutor had indicted Trump twice, and Democratic prosecutors in New York and Georgia had indicted Trump two more times — and the former president was still leading Biden in the most important 2024 states? How could that be? The poll led to an unusually intense round of the usual fretting over Biden’s age, the state of the economy, the border and the rest of the president’s liabilities.

Fast-forward six months to May 13, 2024 — Monday. The Times published a story headlined, “Trump Leads in 5 Key States, as Young and Nonwhite Voters Express Discontent With Biden.” A new poll showed Biden trailing in the same states by nearly the same margin as the old poll. Compare this sentence with the one from six months ago: “The surveys ... found that Mr. Trump was ahead of Mr. Biden in five of six key states: Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Mr. Biden led among registered voters in only one battleground state, Wisconsin.”

Think about it. In the past six months, Biden has traveled the country, touting what he believes are his economic accomplishments. He has spent zillions of dollars on advertising, focusing specifically on the key states. And at the same time, Trump was either preparing to go on trial or, since April 15, actually on trial in New York, facing a maximum of 136 years in prison. And Biden is still unable to catch Trump.

Last month, CNN reported that from March 6, the day after Super Tuesday, through April 21, “Biden’s campaign and other Democratic advertisers spent $27.2 million on advertising for the presidential race, while the Trump campaign and GOP advertisers spent about $9.3 million, according to AdImpact data. The Biden campaign’s ad spending has included millions in key battleground states such as Michigan ($4.1 million), Pennsylvania ($3.9 million), Arizona ($2.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.2 million) and Georgia ($2.2 million). The Biden network has used its plentiful airtime to promote the administration’s first-term record and to slam Trump, focusing on key issues such as the cost of living and abortion rights.”

Biden has also built his campaign schedule around trips to the key states. Meanwhile, Trump has had to squeeze in campaign events between time spent in a Manhattan courtroom. Trump has directed lots of contributions that could have financed campaigning into legal expenses instead. And he is obviously distracted; being on trial for a maximum of 136 years in prison will do that. And yet, Trump leads Biden in the states that will determine who wins the presidency.

Look at the Electoral College map. To win, Trump will need to hold all the states he won in 2020, which probably won’t be a problem. Then he will need to win at least some of the states in the Sun Belt, which turn out to be the states in which he has the biggest leads in the latest Times poll: 10 points in Georgia, 7 points in Arizona and 12 points in Nevada. Then, Trump will need to win just one of the upper tier of states — Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin. In the Times poll, Trump is ahead by 3 points in Pennsylvania and 7 points in Michigan. It is only in Wisconsin, as it was last November, that Biden is ahead, by a mere 2 points.

For months, Democrats had hoped that the specter of Trump on trial would cut into the former president’s support. Now we are in week five of the trial, with wall-to-wall media coverage, and it appears to have not affected Trump’s support at all. Obviously, that means Democrats are now praying especially hard that Trump will be convicted. Then they can create ads labeling Trump a “convicted felon” and hope that at least a few Trump voters will abandon the former president.

Maybe that will happen. But Biden’s position is becoming quite serious. As RealClearPolitics analyst Sean Trende wrote recently, “the political science literature is pretty consistent that this is the time when the electorate’s views about the election start to harden, particularly with respect to the economy.” Yes, the Democratic dream that a prosecutor will save Biden is still alive, but the president’s situation looks more difficult every day.