The US presidential election is in its deceptive summer phase. Joe Biden has a commanding lead over Donald Trump in the polls but it is an advantage that is unlikely to last as the campaign is fully joined by both sides. Traditionally the contest starts with the nominating conventions in late August but interest and coverage are already high. American politics have not been so emotional or volatile in a generation and the contest is sure to bring plentiful surprises. Can Trump close the polling gap? Can Biden convince voters he represents a moderate party? Join FXStreet’s senior analysts Yohay Elam and Joseph Trevisani for an early summer election disquisition.
Joseph Trevisani: Polls look especially grim for President Trump right now. If unchanged they would seem to assure a Biden victory. Should we put much credence in them at this point?
Yohay Elam: Today is July 3 and the elections are on November 3, so there is undoubtedly room for caution. However, with President Trump hitting the physical campaign trail, his starting point is as the underdog. Biden’s polling advantage is substantial. I personally think it is an uphill battle for the incumbent, or in other words, I see a high probability of Trump losing. I would put it at 85% Biden wins. Perhaps that is bold/brave/stupid. Do you have an estimate about the chances of each candidate winning?. As mentioned earlier, there is plenty of time for everything to change several times
Joseph Trevisani: Just from a technical point most polls now use either registered voters or adults as the sample.
Yohay Elam: Polls of likely voters carry more weight in my opinion and present a more moderate picture.
Joseph Trevisani: Closer to the elections they switch to likely voters which normally closes the gap.
Yohay Elam: Polls of adults. How Popular Is Donald Trump. Polls of registered or likely voters. How Popular Is Donald Trump. Those who vote are somewhat more favorable of Trump. So I certainly agree with your point. But I doubt the gap will be closed. Trump doesn’t need to close the gap though, just narrow it.
Joseph Trevisani: Several other points probably the most salient is that the campaign has not started. Mr. Trump’s press coverage has been, as it normally is, unremittingly negative.
Yohay Elam: Here I disagree.
Joseph Trevisani: How so?
Yohay Elam: Campaigning in the US is neverending. And Trump has already hit the campaign trail with rallies moreover, he gets tons of hours of free coverage the problem is his behavior, which Republicans are worried about not endorsing face masks turning into culture wars should have been an easy win leading and not dismissing the story “It will just disappear” he said that about coronavirus to Fox News which is very supportive of him.
Joseph Trevisani: True, but the difference is that Biden says as many silly or questionable things but they never become endlessly repeated memes.
Yohay Elam: Biden is uncharismatically made a lot of mistakes gaffes, touches ladies in a questionable way to be kind with him clearly not an impressive candidate like his boss Obama.
Joseph Trevisani: Fox is one outlet, the rest of the media is relentlessly anti-Trump. But that has been true since he declared for President five years ago. So there is really nothing new here.
Yohay Elam: He has OAN and is sticking to his 2016 strategy of appealing to his base. Will it be enough now?
Joseph Trevisani: An interesting question is will Obama campaign for Biden? My guess is he will.
Yohay Elam: He campaigned for Clinton and it wasn’t enough to push her over the line.
Joseph Trevisani: True, but the situation is far more volatile this year.
Yohay Elam: Because of the fast-moving coronavirus-related events, or something else? (responding to more volatile this year).
Joseph Trevisani: There are several other factors at play, the economy, the virus, and the destruction of the riots and the continuing monument protests.
Yohay Elam: Voter backlash against the Black Lives Matters movement?
Joseph Trevisani: How might these affect the elections? I think we can assume that most Americans do not agree with erasing US history or the local permissiveness that enabled the riots and looting. Leaving aside the emotions of the events, the cities that were looted are all Democratic-controlled, and most have been for a generation. This will certainly be used by the Trump campaign. The videos will make very effective ads.
Yohay Elam: Videos of looting and vandalism will certainly make goods ads for Trump. But most protests are peaceful. And the rights of blacks are gaining support. Black Lives Matter is popular more than ever. How Public Opinion Has Moved on Black Lives Matter.
Joseph Trevisani: The two are not the same. Is that an NYT poll?
Yohay Elam: The Trump campaign may try to stick riots to Biden. So far, Trump’s law and order message failed miserably.
Joseph Trevisani: Not specifically Biden but the Democrats in general and the charge will stick.
Yohay Elam: Tear-gassing peaceful protesters for him just created a backlash against him. It may raise black voter turnout.
Joseph Trevisani: Because it is factual. The cities that were looted are all Democratic-controlled.
Yohay Elam: Clinton received less support from blacks than Obama. Factual. Most protests are peaceful, most Americans support Black Lives Matter.
Joseph Trevisani: Yes that is true, and Biden has many statements from his past that can be used in Republican ads.
Yohay Elam: Biden has a rich history, but people are voting on the incumbent.
Joseph Trevisani: BLM are not the rioters in most cases so the separation is already made in voters’ minds.
Yohay Elam: Did Trump make America great?. He passed the tax cuts.
Joseph Trevisani: Certainly Trump appeared to be coasting to reelection. So I think the question is, once the emotions are passed, will the Biden and the Democrats win votes with their message?. I doubt it will be enough to be against Trump. he has had very high negatives all is a political career.
Yohay Elam: Biden’s message is currently too easy – not being Trump
Joseph Trevisani: Exactly. And once that is past..the Democratic message is what?
Yohay Elam: Sure, Biden, and Dems will have to lay out an agenda, not just be a big anti-Trump tent. I think they will return to the 2018 campaign.
Joseph Trevisani: Agree. Biden has already promised to raise taxes on corporations. His base will get a press also. The socialist cadres of AOC and company will be a major problem for the Democrats across most of the country. Almost every major Democratic politician has endorsed her green energy plan. Another problem is, to be delicate, is Biden’s fitness for office?
Yohay Elam: Many in the party moved to what is seen as radical left in the US and centrist here in Europe. We can agree that markets are not fond of the ideas presented by Sanders, Warren, AOC, and co. Biden is playing a delicate game, playing as moderate. But I think the American public is ready to renounce Republicans on their healthcare policies. Trump made Obamacare popular. Ten years of bashing Obamacare and Republicans still have no replacement. Healthcare was the Dems’ main message in 2018. If they repeat a fraction of that success, Trump is out.
Joseph Trevisani: True. Markets and voters in general. At least across the large parts of the country where the election will be won. I don’t think health care will be much of an issue this year.
Yohay Elam: I disagree, with coronavirus, healthcare may reach the top once campaigning begins in earnest.
Joseph Trevisani: It was their message, but they lost. It does not matter much if the Democrats run up totals in New York and California, the election is won or lost in the mid-West. Normally I would agree with you, but I think there is too much other going on this year.
Yohay Elam: Also in the Mid-West, people losing their jobs are losing their healthcare. I can agree that there are many things going on, but healthcare is one of the top topics. And it bothers voters everywhere.
Joseph Trevisani: Do you think Biden will keep his promise for three debates?
Yohay Elam: Ruby Red Oklahoma voted to expand Medicaid. I think Biden will appear, despite his disadvantage over Trump in debates.
Joseph Trevisani: You may be right on healthcare. We will see if either side chooses to highlight healthcare.
Yohay Elam: Boris Johnson skipped some of the debates, and I think that it would be politically wise for Biden to let Trump be Trump. I don’t think he’ll do it.
Joseph Trevisani: The risks are inordinately high for the Biden campaign in the debates.
Yohay Elam: Biden can lose his temper. But please don’t skip the debates, Mr. Biden, we need action…
Joseph Trevisani: No one in the UK though Johnson skipped a debate because of incapacity.
Yohay Elam: He was leading in the polls and preferred to avoid being criticized, but he did appear to some and was able to beat Corbyn.
Joseph Trevisani: I agree. Biden cannot skip debates no matter how great the risk. he also must campaign.
Yohay Elam: I think that voters have doubts about Biden’s age, but they trust him to lean on advisers, something that cannot be said about Trump after three and half years in office.
Joseph Trevisani: Age and ability I would say.
Yohay Elam: Biden just seems like a decent man, willing to listen and admit mistakes.
Joseph Trevisani: The choice of VP is for that reason, important far beyond the usual political calculus.
Yohay Elam: We can certainly agree on that. We only know it will be a woman. Do you have any bets?
Joseph Trevisani: I think Harris is probably in front. But many people picked her for the nominee early in the campaign and she failed rather dramatically. The party depends on the Democrats’ view of their essential base, African-American voters.
Yohay Elam: Increasing base turnout is probably the way to go. But as you mentioned, she failed.
Joseph Trevisani: If they feel that needs shoring, the VP will surely be African-American.
Yohay Elam: Indeed, and Harris seems like the middle-of-the-road candidate. I must admit I know little about her. Senator from California, a former prosecutor.
Joseph Trevisani: Yes. Was quite hard-line anti-criminal attorney general in California which will not play well in the current environment particularly since the VP will be viewed by many as the President-in-waiting. Markets are agnostic at the moment.
Yohay Elam: Perhaps Stacey Abrams?. Former governor candidate from Georgia. African American.
Joseph Trevisani: I doubt it. Her very public campaign for the position seems to have not gone over with the Biden folks, and as someone snarkily said, her main qualification seems to be losing the Georgina governorship and claiming she actually won. He many claims of stolen elections will make for unpleasant campaign ads. Markets seem agnostic. Will that last?
Yohay Elam: Markets will eventually take notice. Perhaps Tammy Duckworth will be chosen. Will markets take note after Labor Day
Joseph Trevisani: Yes again I think that depends on the party’s security with its African American base. That is their sin qua non for national elections.
Yohay Elam: Dems have to find the balance between blacks and the Mid-West. Tough choices. Trump’s base is better-defined and smaller.
Joseph Trevisani: Yes after labor Day is traditional. Agreed. It will be difficult this year with the many anti-American themes running through the Democratic base. The folks tearing down monuments and demanding colleges change their names may not all be Democrats but they are surely not Republicans.
Yohay Elam: Trump could have taken the token step to remove Confederate names from US military bases many corporations made token steps. But he preferred going for the 2016 strategy focusing on his base. I doubt that will work.
Joseph Trevisani: One final topic: will Wall Street, which did not support Trump in 2016, change its mind this year?
Yohay Elam: Wall Street wants tax cuts, deregulation, and globalization. A Republican clean sweep offers tax cuts and deregulation. Trump endangers globalization. So President Pence with full Republican Congress is Wall Street’s dream.
Joseph Trevisani: Yes but two out of three still wins most contests. And Pence is not running for President.
Yohay Elam: I think we can agree that a clean sweep for Dems with their current leaning is Wall Street’s worst nightmare.
Joseph Trevisani: That is true. And I think we have a preview of one of Trump’s campaign there, broadened to include the entire economy.