Is Biden 2024 Like Obama 2012?
Jim Messina, who ran Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, has a magazine cover from Nov. 3, 2011
in his office.
It shows polling-analysis guru Nate Silver declaring that Obama had a 17% chance of being reelected and was basically
toast. Go get the jam.
As you may recall, on Nov. 7, 2012, magazines and newspapers were running a different story.
Silver's prediction gave Messina a major headache. Not because he believed the polls a year out, but because
media outlets, donors, elected officials, and his mom were freaking out. People wouldn't go to rallies because
it was all over but the shoutin' (and countin'). People wanted him fired.
Messina says we are now officially in the bedwetting part of the cycle.
His message (from someone who's been there): Don't panic. Here's why:
- Early polls are unreliable:
The percentage of people who are willing to be polled is low, something like 5-10% and the earlier in the cycle
it is, the worse it gets. Also, there is a differential effect. People who are very engaged, typically die-hard partisans,
try to make a point. Swing voters are typically not paying attention a year in advance. But they are the ones
who will determine the election outcome. Silver is not stupid. Far from it. But the polls he looked at didn't reflect the
actual electorate a year later.
- The unknown unknowns:
Stuff happens. Every year. In 2008, the subprime bubble popped.
Two weeks before the 2012 election, Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record then, hit.
Obama showed his empathy and managerial skill and handled the aftermath brilliantly.
In 2016, "But her emails" dominated the news. Nobody foresaw that in 2015. In 2020, we had a pandemic
nobody was expecting. News happens. All the time. We have some known unknowns, like Donald Trump's trials,
but we don't know how they will turn out or the reaction to the results. But there are always unknown unknowns.
Some are really big.
Presidential elections are not like the Ohio referendum on abortion.
There voters were asked to vote "yes" or "no."
On Nov. 5, 2024, voters will not be asked: "Do you want to keep Joe Biden, yes or no?"
They will probably be asked: "Who is better, Joe Biden or Donald Trump?"
That is a different question.
For a lot of voters, Biden is bad but Trump is worse. Polls about Biden's approval rating don't reflect that.
You can be bad and win simply by being less bad than the other guy. Suppose Trump is a convicted criminal
in a year? What if he has already been sentenced to prison?
- The economy:
One of the known unknowns is the economy. How will it be in a year?
What will the price of gas be?
How will voters perceive the economy after a year of Biden hammering on his many achievements?
Messina notes that a year before the 2012 election, approval of Obama's handling of the economy was 35%, the
same as Biden's now.
On Election Day it was 48%. There is plenty of time for opinions to change. Biden needs to work at it, but
Obama did it and there is no reason to think Biden can't.
- Battleground states:
Only about a half a dozen states are on the table. In all the others, we can predict the results with 95% accuracy
right now. If Biden can hold the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, he wins.
The Sun Belt states of Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina are the icing on the cake and all of them are in play.
Georgia and North Carolina are still reddish-purple states but Arizona is changing.
Biden won it last time and the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state are all Democrats.
Both senators were elected as Democrats and a Democrat (Ruben Gallego) is leading in the 2024 Senate polls.
It is becoming a bluish-purple state.
- Biden has already beaten Trump:
We have one data point on who wins a Biden-Trump matchup: 2020. Of course stuff has changed.
Young voters seem to be drifting towards the Republicans. There could be a recession.
But abortion could dominate everything.
Trump could be in prison. There are many unknowns, but what we do know is that Biden is capable
of beating Trump. He did it once. Sorry, Hillary, Gavin, and Gretchen, but no other Democrat can claim that.
The election will probably be close. They all are these days because 45% of the country will never vote for
a Democrat and 45% will never vote for a Republican. Biden has been counted out before (like: February 2020)
but he has proved pundits and pollsters wrong before. Sometimes the turtle (no, not that Turtle) beats the hair.
This item appeared on www.electoral-vote.com. Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news,
Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.
All Senate candidates