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Opinion: Why Democrats shouldn’t despair over concerning new polls about Biden


By Dean Obeidallah, CNN

(CNN) — Editor’s note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on Threads at The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

There’s no other way to put this: New poll results from The New York Times and Siena College that show President Joe Biden trailing former President Donald Trump in most of six battleground states tested are bad.

In fact, these polls about a hypothetical matchup between the two are alarming and a bit distressing. But they should not cause panic.

Let’s start with the Times/Siena polling that is likely causing many in Biden world to reach for a handful of antacids. It’s not just the top-line finding that the president is trailing in key battleground states including Nevada, Arizona and even Michigan, where Biden is down by 5 percentage points to Trump in a state he won by nearly 3 points in 2020.

According to the Times, the multiracial coalition that powered Biden to victory is “fraying,” with support falling among Black and Hispanic voters. Biden also is seeing a drop in support among voters under 30.

And on the economy — an issue that is often the key metric in determining a president’s reelection prospects — the polling finds “the largest gap of any issue,” with 59% of voters to 37% saying they trust Trump over Biden to handle economic matters.

You might be asking then: Why not panic? There are a few reasons. First, President Barack Obama faced high disapproval ratings the year before the 2012 election (although not as high as Biden’s). And a number of early national polls suggested a close race between Obama and Mitt Romney, who would go on to be the GOP’s presidential nominee. While Obama led in some surveys at the time, a CNN/ORC poll in November 2011 found Romney with a 4-point edge.

Articles at the time suggested possible doom for Obama, including The New York Times analysis “Is Obama Toast?,” PBS’ “Poll Finds Young People Skeptical of Obama’s Re-election Prospects” and the left-leaning Brookings Institution’s “One Year to Go: President Barack Obama’s Uphill Battle for Reelection in 2012.”

There was even a Wall Street Journal op-ed by two well-known Democratic pollsters calling on Obama to step aside to allow Hillary Clinton to become the 2012 Democratic nominee because they believed she was better suited to win.

What happened? Obama won in 2012 by nearly 5 million votes and dominated the Electoral College 332 to 206 votes. And he did so by winning many of the key battleground states that are the focus of The New York Times/Siena College surveys.

We all get that Obama and Biden are not the same candidates. But what is instructive is that Obama won in large part by way of a superior ground game in terms of ensuring that voters who supported him actually did cast a ballot. Biden — who was Obama’s vice president — is obviously well aware of this. And given Biden’s ability so far to outraise Trump in terms of campaign donations, his campaign has more resources to invest robustly in this key part of the campaign.

But there is something else in Biden’s favor. Despite the concerning top-line numbers, the Times/Siena College polls do offer some hope and a road map to Biden’s victory.

For starters, a Times analysis finds, “The poll suggests that it shouldn’t necessarily be difficult for Mr. Biden to reassemble his winning coalition — at least on paper.” To do so, Biden needs “to reinvigorate voters from traditional Democratic constituencies,” who per the Times analysis “remain quite open to Democrats in a matchup against Mr. Trump.”

What issues can inspire those in that coalition? The Times/Siena College polling offers some guidance there as well. Voters trust Biden by 9 percentage points on abortion, an issue that has caused unexpected voter turnout even in red states to defend reproductive freedom. And some experts cited those “abortion first” voters as a big part of why there was no “red wave” in the 2022 midterm elections.

The issue bodes well for Biden in a potential matchup with Trump, given that the former president has bragged, “I was able to terminate Roe v. Wade” and was “honored” to do so. If Trump is the Republican nominee, you can expect to see that Trump quote in ads repeatedly run by the Biden campaign in battleground states next fall, as Democrats blame the former president for women losing their right to reproductive freedom.

The other issue Biden wins more trust than Trump on is the handling of “democracy,” according to the new polls. Biden made democracy a key issue in the closing weeks of the 2022 midterms. In a speech in September 2022, he warned, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” Some viewed Biden’s defense of democracy as one reason why Democrats overperformed in 2022.

The good news is that Biden has already made it clear that protecting our democracy will be a cornerstone of his 2024 campaign. In a September speech in Arizona, he reminded the nation, “There is an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy: the MAGA movement.”

With that said, it’s going to be a challenging reelection campaign for Biden, given how polarized our nation is. For those who want Biden to win in 2024, you can’t ignore the polls but shouldn’t be panicked by them.

The Biden campaign needs to do its part in terms of campaigning on the key issues and building an effective ground game. The rest is up to the voters.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN-Opinion

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