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Is the Biden Campaign Running on False Hope?

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Is the Biden Campaign Running on False Hope?

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President Joe Biden trails Donald Trump by approximately one point in national polls, according to FiveThirtyEight. The gap is larger in most of the so-called swing states, including Pennsylvania (2.1 per cent), Arizona (4.3 per cent), Georgia (6.1 per cent), and Nevada (seven per cent). Moreover, in both 2016 and 2020, most polls ended up understating Trump’s support. This year, the head-to-head polls and Biden’s unpopularity have made many Democrats anxious about the coming election, but that feeling does not appear to have pervaded the White House. Axios reported last week that, “in public and private, Biden has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s gaining ground—and is probably up—on Donald Trump in their rematch from 2020.” (The Axios story says this sense of optimism is also shared by his “team.”)

One of the most prominent Democrats who seems to share Biden’s sense of optimism is Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Party strategist who runs the Substack Hopium Chronicles, and who is known to share good polls and good vibes with his audience on Twitter. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed Trump’s polling numbers, whether the polls were really wrong in the 2022 midterms, and whether it is concerning that the White House is not more concerned.

A lot of Democrats and liberals are worried about the state of the Presidential race. You seem to have a different take. What do you think people are missing?

I think there has been a tendency in recent years among commentators to overestimate the strength of Republicans and to underestimate our strength. And we saw that play out in 2022. The fundamental dynamic of our politics, since the spring of 2022, has been consistent Democratic over-performance and consistent Republican underperformance. We saw it across the country in 2023. We’ve seen the same manifestation in 2024, with Trump struggling, and bleeding some of his votes, and underperforming polls in the primaries. And so, I think there’s just generally a view that, as people get closer to voting and have to go through that process of deciding who they’re going to get behind, Republicans lose ground and Democrats gain ground. And this has been particularly true after Dobbs. The whole political landscape in America changed fundamentally with Dobbs. And so any comparisons to 2016 and 2020, for example, I think are not valid because I think everything changed in 2022.

You’re definitely right that various commentators were wrong about 2022. But, broadly speaking, the polls were pretty accurate. There were—

No, that’s not true. That’s not true. I mean, we have to stop. People have to stop saying that. The RealClearPolitics final map for the Senate was fifty-four seats for the Republicans based on averages. [The actual projection was fifty-three seats.]

This is from FiveThirtyEight: “Despite a loud chorus of naysayers”—

They’re not correct.

Hold on, let me finish reading. “Despite a loud chorus of naysayers claiming that the polls were either underestimating Democratic support or biased yet again against Republicans, the polls were more accurate in 2022 than in any cycle since at least 1998, with almost no bias toward either party.”

They’re wrong about that. I mean, they’re just wrong. They’re wrong. I mean, I’m presenting you with facts. How in the world could polling averages be correct if they ended up with fifty-four seats in the Senate? And I have an explanation.

Some of the Senate races were perceived to be close. Democrats won those races when some people thought Republicans were going to narrowly win them.

No, but what FiveThirtyEight wrote is not true. And I have a clear, definitive proof that what they wrote in that is not true. In 2022, there was an effort—and this has been documented again and again—by Republicans to flood the polling averages with bad polling, to push the polling averages to the right, which was then successful.

The entire political commentary in the final month before the election settled on the red wave. Shane Goldmacher wrote one in the New York Times. I was mocked and attacked by Nate Silver, by Dave Wasserman, and by all these other folks. Part of the reason I got the election right when almost nobody else did was that I separated out the Republican-heavy polling from the independent polling. And what we saw consistently is that, in the independent polling and independent-media polling, the election looked close and competitive. So, if you wanted to see a close and competitive election, there was a lot of data backing that up.

As FiveThirtyEight makes clear in their piece, “While the polls in a few closely watched races—like Arizona’s governorship and Pennsylvania’s Senate seat—were biased toward Republicans, the polls overall still had a bit of a bias toward Democrats. That’s because generic-ballot polls, the most common type of poll last cycle, had a weighted-average bias of D+1.9, and polls of several less closely watched races, like the governorships in Ohio and Florida, also skewed toward Democrats.”

I’m ending the interview. I’m ending the interview because what you’re doing is ridiculous.

Wait, wait—why?

Because I have definitive proof that what you’re saying is not true. And I don’t care. I know what FiveThirtyEight wrote. I live this every day. And so, the point is what you’re saying is wrong. I am on record saying that what FiveThirtyEight has written is incorrect, and I’ve given you definitive proof otherwise. So if you want to keep coming back at this, do it. But this has become one of the most ridiculous interviews that I’ve ever done my entire professional career.

Oh, O.K. Sorry.

So, the point I’m making is the polls couldn’t have been correct in 2022 if RealClearPolitics ended up at fifty-four seats in the Senate. I mean I just . . . it’s not possible, right?

Totally fair. Can I ask you a different question?

Yes.

I saw you said, “Trump to me, is a much weaker candidate than he was in 2016 and 2020.” Can you talk more about that?

Much weaker.

Tell us more.

So, I think, first of all, his performance on the stump is far more degraded. He’s clearly diminished. He’s far more erratic. He’s making a lot of mistakes that are hurting the campaign when he speaks. Second, his agenda is far more extreme, more dangerous, and will be far easier to exploit by the Democrats.

According to a CNN poll in April, fifty-five per cent of Americans say that they think Trump’s Presidency was a success, compare that with 2020, when his job approval was around forty-four per cent on Election Day. In November, 2016, his favorability rating was thirty-four per cent in Gallup. Now his favorability rating is in the low forties.

Right. So, the assumption with everything I’m telling you is that it is what I believe is going to happen as the campaigns are prosecuted over the next five and a half months. There are six things now that are true about him that were not true in 2020, that all voters are going to come to know in the following months—they are that he raped E. Jean Carroll in a department-store dressing room [Trump, who has denied the allegations, was found liable for sexual assault in a civil case.]; that he oversaw one of the largest financial frauds in American history, and has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for that; that he stole American secrets, he lied to the F.B.I., he shared those secrets with other people, it’s the greatest betrayal of our national security by a former President in all of American history; he led an insurrection against the United States, he led an armed attack on the Capitol, and he’s promised to end American democracy for all time if he’s in the White House in 2025; he and his family have corruptly taken more money from foreign governments than any family in American history; and sixth, and this is really important, is that he’s singularly responsible for ending Roe.

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