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  /  News   /  Polling sets off fresh alarm bells for Biden

Polling sets off fresh alarm bells for Biden

A fresh poll from The New York Times brought more bad news for President Biden as he struggles to catch up to former President Trump in the key battleground states that will decide November’s election.

The poll found Trump leading in five out of six swing states, with Wisconsin the lone place where Biden is ahead. More concerning for Biden is that the poll found the president is losing support among young voters and Black and Hispanic voters, all of whom are critical to his coalition to win reelection.

While Republicans took a victory lap, Democrats cautioned it was one poll nearly six months out from Election Day. But Biden allies acknowledged the president has work to do if he is to win reelection in November.

“With the usual stipulations about polls six months out, Biden is behind,” said Jim Kessler, co-founder of the left-leaning think tank Third Way. “They need to be in a better place on the border, crime and inflation to win. They have a story to tell on each and further actions they can take, but they need to get cracking.”

CNN’s Harry Enten, who specializes in polling data, said Monday that The New York Times numbers out of the Sun Belt states of Nevada and Arizona were “an absolute disaster.” 

The numbers out of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were more workable for the Biden campaign, Enten said, signaling that a sweep of the Great Lakes states and the traditional “blue wall” is Biden’s likeliest path to victory.

“It’s advantage Donald Trump, but he’s not over the 270 mark just yet,” Enten said.

Monday’s poll of registered voters in the six key swing states found Trump leading Biden by 3 percentage points in Pennsylvania, 5 points in Michigan, 7 points in Arizona, 10 points in Georgia and 12 points in Nevada.

Biden led Trump by 2 points in Wisconsin.

Biden won all six states in 2020, though his margins in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin were particularly narrow, and all six are expected to be competitive in November. But battleground polling has for months shown Trump leading Biden, despite his numerous legal cases and strong economic data touted by the White House.

“What’s so impressive about this is polls have historically underestimated Trump’s support, not overestimated Trump’s support,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, who noted Trump was at 49 percent or 50 percent support in four of the states where he’s leading.

“And then if you couple this poll with nearly 100,000 people showing up in Arctic blue New Jersey, this is a disaster for Biden,” he added, referring to a rally Trump held in Wildwood, N.J., over the weekend.

The poll, conducted by the Times, Siena College and The Philadelphia Inquirer, found Biden leading Trump among Black voters, 63 percent to 23 percent, which would be a significant decrease from the 87 percent of Black voters who voted for Biden in 2020. The poll also found Trump and Biden are only narrowly separated with Hispanic voters and with voters aged 18-29, both groups Biden won by double digits in 2020.

A dip in enthusiasm among Black voters, which played a consequential role for Biden in flipping Georgia last cycle, could mark a blow to Democratic turnout. Democrats caution that the poll numbers are not reflective of the majority of Black voters, but they add there is still work for the party to do in messaging to the voting block. 

“Certainly there is a segment of the population out there, including in my community who are frustrated, some are angry, some are confused, and some of them don’t know,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist. “We have to make some adjustments in how we communicate, where we communicate, who we use to communicate, and what we communicate.” 

Biden’s struggles largely stem from frustration among voters over the war in Gaza, where tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed as Israeli forces pursue Hamas, and from anxiety about the economy as the cost of gas, groceries and other goods remains high. 

“It’s gas prices, it’s being able to put food on your shelves … being able to go to the store and buy what you want to buy for your family,” said Vince Galko, a Pennsylvania-based GOP strategist. “You can’t do that in a lot of places. It’s hard.”

The war in Gaza could pose a particular problem for Biden because it’s an issue that might cause young voters and Democratic-leaning voters to abandon the president or stay home in November. The White House and Biden campaign have tried to walk a careful line, calling for Israel to do more to protect civilians and get more aid into Gaza while vowing support for Israel is “iron clad” following Hamas’s attacks last October.

Democrats running in competitive Senate races are running ahead of Biden, a silver lining for the party and a sign Biden could have room to grow if he rallies his base. 

In Pennsylvania, incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) leads his GOP opponent Dave McCormick 46 percent support to 41 percent. Out west in Nevada, incumbent Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) leads Republican Sam Brown 40 percent support to 38 percent, while in Arizona, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego leads Republican Kari Lake 45 percent support to 41 percent. 

“The races are hyperlocal,” Seawright said. “What that means is that we’ve got to spend more time in places where the election ultimately has traditionally come down to. Doesn’t mean we neglect other places, but we have to spend more intentional time in those places.”

The president and the Biden campaign have consistently shrugged off polling that shows Trump leading in the race, arguing polls are just a snapshot in time with months to go until Election Day. The Biden campaign has argued it has the money and the infrastructure in major battleground states to win in November, while Trump has burned through campaign cash on legal fees and his operation has been slow to ramp up activity in swing states.

There are also some signs of momentum for Biden outside of the Times poll. 

Biden fares better among likely voters, with the Times poll showing Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all separated by 3 percentage points or less among that group.

The Hill/Decision Desk HQ’s average of national polls showed Biden pulling narrowly ahead of Trump last week for the first time since last year. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week had Biden ahead of Trump in Wisconsin by 6 percentage points.

“The only consistency in recent public polls is inconsistency,” Biden campaign pollster Geoff Garin said in a statement. “These results need to be weighed against the 30-plus polls that show Biden up and gaining — which is exactly why drawing broad conclusions about the race based on results from one poll is a mistake. 

“The reality is that many voters are not paying close attention to the election and have not started making up their minds — a dynamic also reflected in today’s poll,” Garin added. “These voters will decide this election, and only the Biden campaign is doing the work to win them over.”

Seawright echoed this point, noting Democrats’ fundraising prowess and organization this cycle. 

“Forget about the polling for a second,” he said. “I’m confident in the money we put together so far. I’m confident in the organizational structure. I’m certainly confident in the game plan and the candidate that we have.” 

“I think that in the end, those are the things that’s going to make the difference on the margins. Not polls six, seven months out.”