Tuesday, September 8, 2020

State 'O The Race: The Two Front War After Labor Day

So: where are we? Jonathan Last at The Bulwark summarizes some of the basics:

" * On September 8, 2016, Hillary Clinton was +3.3
* Today, Biden is +7.5, so his lead is more than double what Clinton's was at this point.
* Relative to 2020, the 2016 race was more volatile. There were moments when Clinton and Trump were tied; moments when Trump was in the lead; moments when Clinton's lead was large (+8), and moments when Clinton's lead was within the margin of error.
* To date, Trump has never been closer than -3.4 against Biden.
* On September 10, Biden will have been over the 50 percent mark for a full month. Clinton was never over 50 percent, or even very close to it."

But it's more complicated than that once we get down to the state level where Biden is fighting a two front war. Ron Brownstein has a good analysis of this with a lot of useful supporting data.

"Exactly eight weeks before Election Day, Biden has strong opportunities to recapture states that President Donald Trump won in 2016 both in the Rust Belt and the Sun Belt. But public and private polls consistently show that Biden is running slightly better in the former group of battlegrounds -- centered on Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- than the latter, which include North Carolina, Florida and Arizona....

As on many fronts, Biden's electoral strategy may not define the Democrats' long-term direction, but he may revive just enough of the party's past to sustain it until that future comes more clearly into focus. "You don't want to be in a position of having to make the Sun Belt work [this year]," says Ruy Teixeira, a veteran Democratic electoral analyst who's a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. "You want to be in a position of having a lot more degrees of freedom than that. That's the beauty of Biden in this election."...

The nonpartisan States of Change project, which Teixeira helps to direct, projects that since 2016 minorities have increased much more as a share of eligible voters in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Georgia and North Carolina than in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. By the project's forecast, Trump's best group, which is Whites without college degrees, will remain a majority of the eligible voters in all of the big Rust Belt battlegrounds (except Pennsylvania, where they will fall just below half) but make up no more than 41% of the eligible population in any of the most contested Sun Belt states -- or, for that matter, Virginia and Colorado.

Yet the Rust Belt states may still prove somewhat easier for Biden because considerably more White voters -- both with and without college degrees -- appear willing to vote for him there. Recent public polls by CBS News and Fox News in Wisconsin; Quinnipiac University and Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania; and Monmouth University in Iowa earlier this summer all showed Biden winning at least 40% of Whites without college degrees in those states and holding his deficit with Trump among that group there to about 10-15 percentage points.

By contrast, recent Monmouth polls in North Carolina and earlier this summer in Georgia; summer Quinnipiac surveys in Texas and South Carolina; and a new Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler survey in Texas each showed Biden attracting no more than 28% of Whites without college degrees in those states and trailing Trump by margins that stretched as high as 50 percentage points. (A Fox poll in North Carolina put Biden at 31% with those voters there.) Only in Florida (Quinnipiac) and Arizona (Fox) did Biden approach the 40% mark in the recent public polls with those blue-collar Whites, which he routinely reached in the Rust Belt.

Political experts offer several explanations for these huge disparities: More non-college Whites in the South are evangelical Christians, fewer have experience with labor unions and more may be receptive to Trump's overt appeals to racial resentment. But whatever the cause, Trump's towering margins among Southern non-college Whites, even if potentially slightly diminished from his 2016 levels, remain a huge obstacle for Democrats hoping to flip North Carolina, much less Georgia and Texas or, at some future point, South Carolina.

"In Texas and Georgia, North Carolina, the White non-college margins are like a mountain," says Teixeira. "That's something you always have to take into account."

So there you have it: the tension and promise of a two front war for the Presidency. So far, the two front strategy, while tricky at times, has yielded promising results, keeping adequate numbers of white noncollege voters in the fold and giving his campaign a lot of ways to win. Let's hope he can keep it up 'til election day.

Joe Biden has described himself as a "bridge" between the Democrats' current and future generations of leaders. But he may also be a bridge between its present and future on the electoral map.

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