Happy Scribe Logo


Proofread by 0 readers

Hey, everybody, it's David Plouffe, welcome to Campaign HQ. Well, a lot going on in the presidential race, Donald Trump. But for those of you that live in the suburbs, I guess take a look around and enjoy the last view you'll have, because he's trying to suggest that Joe Biden will eliminate the suburbs. So I always think in politics and in business or any endeavor sports, it's always a mistake to underestimate your opponent. Sometimes you can reflexively just assume what they're doing is or is not going to work.


And you have to take a minute and say, well, why do they think it's smart what they're doing? But in this case, I just don't understand it. It is such a wild assertion. I'm not sure that would have worked in 1968.


Even Richard Nixon was more subtle, but it shows that Trump knows they're hemorrhaging in the suburbs is real. It's not fake polls and it's kind of his clumsy and ham handed attempt, I guess, to suggest he wants to fight back. But I think that that bears watching. I mean, maybe I'm wrong and it will be effective and are starting to run ads and, you know, Trump sending troops into cities. I don't think because he's worried about protecting citizens, it's because he wants a storyline.


So it'll be a bear close watching. But I'm dubious that it'll work. I think, you know, I talked about this last week. Joe Biden continues to fill in the picture about what he's going to do as president and, you know, starting to do that with, you know, he's got 60 second advertisements in the core battleground states, gave a really important, I think, speech and laid out a plan today around the home health care industry and workers and really rewarding that work more importantly.


So, you know, I think it's not just the build back better and by America. And I think that was really strong. And I think that will be a part of his message going forward. But things like home health care, I think we're going to see more of that going forward. And that's really important because there's still a lot to fill in as it relates to who Joe Biden is from a biographical and value standpoint. But I think even more importantly, from a policy standpoint and who he's going to fight for and what he's going to fight for if he's elected president, you continue to see Donald Trump malign vote by mail.


You know, I've talked about this on the podcast with various is yes, it is abhorrent that he's doing it. And there's no doubt, you know, he is trying to, you know, make it harder for people to vote. He's got allies and states doing that. But I think we're starting to see in polls an interesting thing, which is his quarter core base less likely to vote by mail.


So I think he's doing real damage because he is going to need, you know, the majority of his vote to vote by mail as well. And I do think it's interesting you don't see many other Republicans following his lead on this because they know that they need these people to vote by mail. And so I think that's going to bear close watching as well, because if there's a huge delta between, you know, potential Biden voters and Trump voters in terms of, you know, how they plan to vote, I think that could really hurt Donald Trump.


But, you know, that remains my largest concern. I do think we're in the race right now is Joe Biden is doing about as well with swing voters as you could have ever hoped. Maybe there's a little bit more room to grow, but it's really now about trying to maintain the enviable position he's now in with seniors and suburban voters and college educated voters across the board. But we know that's going to be more complicated, you know, come late September.


And it is important to mention that six weeks from now, you know, voters in some battleground states like Pennsylvania and Michigan can start voting by mail. You know, you'll begin to see, you know, in eight weeks from now, many more states. So, you know, we've got about a little less than 15 weeks until the election. But that's the wrong way to look at it. You know, people are going to start voting in the end of September all the way through November 3rd.


And so that's important organizationally. All of you who are thinking about volunteering just don't wait until the end of the election. We want to be talking to people as they're making their decisions to vote and in many cases, voting. And it's really important for the campaigns because you don't have until November 2nd or even till the last debate to perfect your message, both on your behalf and against your opponent. You really need to have that largely done by late September.


So as people are voting, you think you've given them the best case. So I'm eager to dive into all of these numbers.


With our guest today, we're going to talk to John Anzalone, a longtime Democratic pollster, partner and Anzalone analyst research. He lives in Montgomery, Alabama. I've worked closely with John through the years. He's serving as Joe Biden's chief pollster. He was involved in Hillary's race, is deeply involved in the Obama races where he polled Florida and many other states for us. And I really want to talk to John about what he's seeing in the electorate with swing voters, with base voters, some of the attitudes towards Joe Biden that they need to strengthen, you know, whether Donald Trump has an ability to repair some of the damage, some of the complications they might be seeing in their research around voting by mail and just the execution of voting.


So I'm really excited for all of you to get kind of a bird's eye view of a lot of you, I'm sure, like our friend Jon Favreau. Follow the roller coaster and look at polls day to day. But John and his team and the Biden campaign are obviously having a window into the American electorate and particularly battleground state voters every day. So it's an opportunity for you to to really understand what the Biden campaign is seeing and where they see this race heading here as we get into the stretch drive.


So I think you'll love this conversation with John Anzalone, who in addition to, you know, just being a great pollster, also his firm's based in the South and he's always done a lot of research work in the South, in the plain states.


So he has, I think, a really good sense two of, you know, places where we used to do better than we are today as a party. And we have to do better going forward, not just in 20, 20, but throughout the next decade, so that we're more competitive in state legislative chambers and governor's races in US Senate races. So we've got a higher ceiling and we don't have regions of the country that we've just written off for decades, because that's no way for us to to head into this next decade and kind of build the progressive power we need to build.


So I hope you enjoy this conversation with John Anzalone.


John Anzalone, welcome to Campaign HQ.


David Plouffe, always good to hear your voice. Yeah, you you and I met first back in Iowa back in the 80s, not to date ourselves, but to Anzu. So let me start with this. Let's talk about swing voters for a minute. Obviously, Joe Biden is doing incredibly well in public polls. I'd assume he's also doing well in your own polling, correct?


Yeah, I think that it's fair to say that we're seeing a lot of what the public polls are showing that, you know, this is in some ways I mean, you've seen you've been through a lot of presidential campaigns. And as you said, we've been in this together for over 30 years or so. We've seen a lot of historical data. And quite frankly, what we're seeing right in the public polls and internal is pretty historic. Right.


So let's start with what we might consider the swing voters side of the ledger, and then we'll talk about some of the turnout and registration targets. So, you know, you and I have been part of campaigns where we lost white seniors by 20 points. We were static. Right. You guys right now, you know, with white seniors are tied, which means the seniors overall you're ahead. Talk about that. Like, why is that? How much of that do you think could be maintained over the next 15 weeks?


Yeah, I think that there's a couple of things. You know, we take a look at swing voters. There's actually like four really important groups that, you know, everyone wants to compare how Biden's doing in public polling with Hillary. But what's really interesting about key groups that have moved from 16 is that Biden's not only doing much better and leading in most polling with voters over 65, but he's leading with suburbanites, he's leading with independents and he's leading with white college voters.


And so those are like four really important groups that not only did Trump win, but, you know, Romney won. Right. And so, listen, every one of these presidential candidates has a different coalition. I mean, people like to talk about the Obama coalition, and it's important. But Biden's coalition is going to look different. And clearly, part of this started in twenty eighteen where we saw suburban women, suburban white women, college educated women, but also college educated men really move.


I mean, take a look at Gretchen Whitmer, who is a client of ours in places like Oakland County. Right. She also won Macomb County, Reagan Democrats, which is interesting, which also Biden won in the primary. So we're seeing these swing voters, these groups that Biden is bringing around, that is different than the coalitions that we've seen in the past, while at the same time narrowing margins within the Republican base with white voters and also rural voters and keeping on par with our Democratic base.


Right. With young voters and women. And so, you know, when you of course, you know, 2008, you saw this. I mean, when you are moving and you have a moment, or if you sustain that moment, you tend to do well almost everywhere, meaning that even in the Republican base vote of rural voters and things like that, you tend to narrow the margins and narrow the margins in tough places is just as important as doing well in some of these other swing areas.


Now, just specifically on seniors, I think, listen, you know, we see Trump's job rating just getting worse and worse on handling the coronavirus epidemic pandemic. Clearly, seniors are the most vulnerable, they're the most at risk. And I think that they're reacting directly to that risk in terms of feeling like he didn't take it serious enough, he didn't listen to medical experts, he didn't have a plan. And now with the kind of the surge, feel like he's put his head in the.


And I think it's just cost him dearly with that largest age bracket, those voters 65 and over, the last Democratic presidential candidate to win 65 and over is Al Gore. So that kind of gives you an idea of how important this is.


Yeah, and a reminder that every election is its unique beast. So on whether it's seniors, suburban voters, you mentioned both college educated women and men. Joe Biden right now doing extremely well. Two questions for you, John.


Do you think he's close to his ceiling there? And the job really for your campaign is to maintain those numbers. Do you think there's room to grow? And secondly, just how durable do you think it is? Do you think that some of these voters are already locked in and it's going to be really hard for Trump to dislodge them?


You get a feeling that where we are today is very difficult for Trump. And listen, first of all, we should all say we all have a collective PTSD right from 2016. And so none of us are getting over our skis. But at the same time, you know, you have to acknowledge the good polls because, you know, there's a couple of things that are different from where Joe Biden is from past Democratic nominees, including Barack Obama and eight and 12 in that he's also at 50 percent right at this point in time, whatever it was, one hundred and four days in, you know, there's been no Democrat or Republican candidate.


You go all the way back to 2000 who's reached that threshold. And so, you know, that's really important. The other part is, is that Joe Biden isn't scary to voters. I mean, that's one reason he's leading with independents. And if you take a look at I don't know, the NBC poll, I think is a good example or one of the most recent ones where I think it's the Fox poll where Biden is actually above water on popularity.


Naturally, Trump is underwater, but Trump's very unfavorable is at 47 percent. And Biden's, I think, is at thirty one. There's been one thing that I think when they write about Joe Biden in the primary and the general election is the stability of this vote. Right? It really hasn't moved that much. I mean, Trump has moved down during the primary. I mean, where Biden kind of started at the beginning, the end at the end, it was very stable.


Other people moved all around. But Joe Biden was incredibly stable. And I think that we're going to see that same dynamic here. And we have really in the last several months that Joe Biden's vote has been incredibly stable. It's inched up a couple of points to the 50 percent mark Trump has moved down. Right. And that is that is a good thing. But the stability is important for Joe Biden. One is how voters view him and to how voters view Trump.


You know, there was the I think it was the NBC poll that showed 50 percent of voters said there was no chance at all that they would vote for Trump. And so your question is, you know, will Biden's numbers remain stable? And there just seems to be a universe of voter that is completely cut off from Trump, and it's because of how people view him prior. Let's think about this. Let's dissect this. Prior to the pandemic, people, you know, we always heard the same thing in focus groups, whether it was for Biden or for U.S. Senate race or for a congressional race is that people disliked his behavior, his tweeting, his bullying.


He was a jerk. They basically just didn't like him as a human being. But, hey, you know, it's not like some of his agenda and his policies. They like how he took on the media and shook things up in Washington, D.C. Now, their problem with him is not only behavior, how he reacted to the protests and things like that is doubling down of racism. But their main problem is, is that they feel that he failed the leadership test on the three crises, whether it was the health pandemic crisis, whether it was the police brutality protest crisis, and now the economic crisis, which is hurting his economic numbers.


And so they're now viewing him. His biggest problem isn't just his behavior, which they haven't forgotten, it's his lack of leadership or his mishandling of these crises. So three and a half years in, they're judging him as president. They're not judging him as a personality. That is his biggest problem right now. And, you know, I don't think that, you know, that's going to change. I think that we have a couple more crises potentially coming very soon.


College kids and K through 12 kids start going to school in mid-August. And, you know, it's going to be it's going to be really. A really tense time, I think it's going to be a problem for a lot of communities, a lot of states, a lot of households, and that is a problem they're going to squarely put on Trump because he didn't take this series at the beginning. He didn't listen to medical experts. He didn't have a plan.


And that's a problem. I mean, we have more crises coming, quite frankly. Yeah.


Now, that's that's a great point. And your point about his very unfavorable. I mean, if he's sailing into voting time in late September and October with 47 percent unfavorable then battlegrounds, he's really up against a wall there.


So, John, I think one of the mistakes sometimes you can make and whether it's politics or business is your opponent, your competition does something, puts out an ad or a new strategy. And, you know, you're like, well, that's dumb. And of course, I've learned, like, you better take a minute and think through why they think it's smart. Right. But on this suburban thing, what strikes me, it's almost like Trump got a briefing saying you're hemorrhaging in the suburbs.


And he's like, oh, I know what I'll say. I'm going to say Joe Biden's going to destroy the suburbs. So, like, do you see any evidence that that that, you know, tactic, which seems to be front and center for Trump in his campaign now has any chance of succeeding? Yeah.


I mean, listen, I think that you and I have been through a lot of campaigns. And when you're in a campaign where you're behind and you're behind by eight or 10 points, what do you do? You just kind of start throwing things at the wall and he tends to throw things at the wall. I mean, you know, in one week he's hitting us on China. I mean, all pay TV. The next week he's hitting us on NAFTA.


Now he's hitting us on defunding the police. And so they try a lot of different things out. Right. But the fact is, is that Trump was up on TV in the battleground states for a couple of months prior. Gosh, I mean, I'm not sure what the number is, but I think it's close to 50 million dollars. We never saw the numbers move. I mean, you see that in the public polling, right? I mean, our numbers actually got better.


His numbers got worse even though he was on TV by himself at very high levels as well as with his allies. And so, you know, now we're on TV, so now we're in a position to have our own message, have our own voice, have voters, see what Biden's about, what's his agenda and his vision. And again, we don't see any deterioration. In matter of fact, if the last 10 days are any indication and again, we don't you know, we don't get over our skis on this, but the number of polls that have showed this in double digits is a good place to be.


It doesn't mean that we're not going to work hard, doesn't mean we don't take anything for granted. We know that we just got to fight for every vote and we know that it's going to get closer because that's what this is the natural physics of presidential races. But I think that, again, it goes to the opponent, meaning Joe Biden clearly isn't Hillary Clinton. You were talking about very unfavorable in 2016. Trump's very unfavorable was 47 percent and Hillary's was 45 percent.


So there was a lesser of two evils dynamic going on. You always see this kind of analysis of what they call double hater's people who dislike both candidate. Well, you can't call them double haters this time because they are they hate Trump, but they just kind of dislike Joe Biden or they dislike his politics. Right. So his very unfavorable with that group is, you know, literally I think it's a quarter of Trump's and he wins that group by 40 plus points, depending on the poll that you see.


And that's actually really important. Again, they don't see Joe Biden as scary. They see him as a compassionate, relatable guy. You know, they like the fact that he's Lunchpail Joe and he's a guy who's going to look out for working families. And he is, you know, someone that when the Trump and their allies throw punches, you know, they're not sticking like they are sticking in past presidential campaigns.


Right. So I want to talk about filling in the blanks on Joe Biden, which you guys have started to do. But I went on, I want to talk about battlegrounds for a minute. So you made an important point, which is, you know, when you got momentum in a campaign, particularly national campaign, you you you see progress everywhere.


It's just not in a particular state or region. So a couple of questions. One, are you seeing with swing voters in particular, are you seeing the same strength for Joe Biden in the South, in the Midwest, in the West? And I guess secondly, you know, I would have thought, let's say 90 days ago, an hour and 20 days ago, you know, Trump's flaws and flaw in battlegrounds, you know, maybe forty six.


It looks like it may be lower. So what do you think his flaws I mean, I agree with you that, you know, when you see a poll right now that shows Biden 50 40, you know, the other 10 percents got to go somewhere and, you know, probably more of that comes home to Trump than it goes to you guys because you're bumping up against a. Pretty, pretty good and healthy sailing, but I'm curious kind of where you see both.


Is there uniformity in terms of the movement across the country? And secondly, kind of where do you see Trump's floor now?


Yeah, well, I do think that there's again, you know, you can talk about Joe Biden's ceiling, but really, when you look at it historically all the way back to 2000, it's just presidential candidates ceilings. Right? I mean, there's not a lot of presidential candidates who've gotten over 50 percent who won. Right.


And so the fact that we're in this divided country and there are third party candidates who siphon off a universe, hopefully it won't be as much as 2016. And we don't think that it will be. But the ceiling is just is almost as close to 50 or a little above for almost everyone. Right. I mean, that just kind of historically has how it's happened in the battleground states, like you say. I mean, whether it's Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona.


I mean, he's having trouble getting to the mid 40s, right? I mean, he in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin and the real clear politics of the 538 average of polls, he's sitting at forty one and forty two percent. Now, Florida and Arizona and North Carolina are kind of going to act like Florida and North Carolina and Arizona. They're always going to be tighter, right? I mean, like Scott Arceneaux always says, Florida tight.


And that's true. Now, we haven't you know, we have a lead that's above the margin of error. That hasn't happened very often. I think that you and I have done enough Florida politics and polling to know that that is a state that tends to tighten up again. I think that we have an advantage there because of how we're doing with seniors and we're competing. David, I mean, you know, it's like this campaign is going to look a lot like you to you like 2008 because of where we're competing.


You know, they they announced expansion in the media markets in Florida. Well, where do you want to see? I mean, I remember 2008 like it was yesterday. We were we were up on TV at high levels competing with McCain. Where? Panama City, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville. We were fighting the fight in the panhandle. Right. And, you know, I mean, protect every you know, protect ifour and all that type of stuff.


You got to do well, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, et cetera. But when you see a campaign competing against the Republican in the Republican areas, that's what you got to do to win a place like Florida. And a lot of campaigns often have to make the cost benefit analysis or make the bad decisions in this campaign because it's been under great leadership. And the raising a lot of money gives you the ability to run the race. You need to run to win.




So I want to just ask you quickly, that third party, because you mentioned and you lived through this horror in 2016 where Trump could win states like Wisconsin with forty seven point two percent of the vote because the third party vote share was higher than historical averages. Right now, in your research, and it seems to be true in public research, you're seeing that those numbers may revert more to the two percent or less that we've gotten used to. Right.


And that's huge because your ceiling is higher than Trump's, I would guess, at this point.


Right. And so I think that I think that this is how I look at that. And, you know, I mean, when you poll when you add third party candidates to polling, they always get more in the poll than they actually do on Election Day. Right. I mean, that's just kind of the dynamic. And so, you know, you have to you have to test things a bunch of different ways. But I think that there's one thing that we all kind of instinctively know that in 2016, there were a lot of voters, Bernie voters, et cetera, who stayed at home, who voted for Gary Johnson, voted for Jill Stein.


And ninety nine percent of them who vote did one of those three things. We're ninety nine percent sure that Hillary Clinton was going to be president. And so they were doing a protest vote. Those voters now know what's at stake and their you know, their their enthusiasm, if you will, to get vote or get Trump out of office is incredibly hot, incredibly intense. And so I think that that dynamic and quite frankly, how Bernie Sanders and his campaign and the Joe Biden and his campaign have worked together on a plethora of issues will make the dynamics here much different.


So we don't see that bleed. And internally we see that. I mean, we see that Joe Biden just does. Or with Bernie voters that Hillary Clinton did in twenty sixteen? Well, if this does tighten up, that's going to be such an important dynamic, right? Yeah.


So you know, you mentioned, you know, the Biden campaign has a very expansive electoral map. Again, something we might not have expected four months ago. And, you know, those are pretty weighty decisions. And you're involved in those decisions with General O'Malley, Dillon and McDonnell and other leadership in the campaign.


But, you know, John, when you think about the places that look now plausible, you know, he may not win them. But, you know, Georgia in other poll out in Texas today, publicly, had Biden won Ohio, Iowa, those are likely not going to be, in my view, you know, is 270 electoral votes. But do you think there's a scenario where you could get a surprise, where maybe you don't win in North Carolina and you win in Georgia?


Or is there really a stack ranking on these states?


Well, as you know, there's always a stack ranking. And you were at the, you know, Genesis in 2012 of analytics. Right. And so there's there's a lot of simulations, things that you and I didn't learn about growing up in this business. And there's and there's tipping points, states and things like that. I think that at the end of the day, again, the leadership of this campaign is incredibly focused and disciplined. And you can see where we're buying TV.


It's public and it's always, you know, reported on. And, you know, we're very focused on the six battleground states. And, you know, until, you know, they move on to another state, we will be focused on those six states in a very disciplined way because that is the ballgame. I think that what's difficult for Trump is that he's not only communicating in those six states, he is playing defense right now in Ohio and Iowa.


So he is spending a lot of money in Ohio, in Iowa, just protecting himself. He's also up in Nevada. Right. Which I don't understand but know.


Right. And so he is the one that is actually expending a lot of money in and I can't say is in an undisciplined what he is in trouble. And so he has to expand his he has to protect and he has to expand. But right now, the Joe Biden campaign is very disciplined and very focused. And, you know, will there be expansion states? You know, there's a big map on the wall, just like there is, you know, in 2008 and 12 and 16.


But you've got to be careful and you have to be very analytical about doing that.


So let's talk about the other side of the equation here, which is voters that we still need to register or we're worried won't turn out.


That's all complicated because of the pandemic or have a lot of people who've never voted by mail before. You know, I'm sure you took great interest in some of the June primary numbers were seven, eight percent of ballots in some states were spoiled. So and your insight in this, obviously, you know, you've got your own polling. You've got folks on your analytics and data team, you've got your field organizers. But what are you seeing there? I mean, it does seem that the enthusiasm levels for Biden are rising.


You obviously want to continue to see that happen. But is there anything that that worries you in terms of a part of the electorate where they're still going to be, you know, important work to do to shore up, you know, both their intention to vote, but also making sure they're able to do it accurately so their vote gets counted?


Yeah, I mean, listen, I think that the the things that keep you up at night, as in every campaign, is who shows up right and who shows up. Question is so much more complicated now because of the pandemic and whether people will feel comfortable going to polling places in person, whether or not they'll be able to navigate, quite frankly, some really difficult state laws to vote by by mail and whether some of the states will actually change their laws.


Right. And allow it. Alabama is the perfect example. They stepped up. They have you know, you can't you have to have an excuse to vote by mail and they changed it. Now you can just check the box and anyone can vote by mail. That's really important. That's not a battleground state in a place like North Carolina. When the Republicans took control of the legislature, they did everything to decimate and make voting harder, both by limiting the early voting places, by limiting the number of days and hours you could vote early, but also making it really difficult to vote by absentee witness.


And, you know, all of these type of things do witnesses, I think. And so the again, it's the WHO shows up the combination of Republicans systematically trying to make it more difficult for populations to vote, but also the pandemic. And so this is a campaign that is laser focused on this. Right. And there are there are programs with great intensity to make sure that not only our people get out to vote if it's in person, but that they have the alternative to vote in mail, which can often, again, be difficult to do, to do.


And there's also, you know, parts of our coalition and rightfully so, African-Americans being number one and young people who worry about mail and votes of whether their vote will actually be counted. Like you said, the number of spoiled votes. The one thing that I think that we all, you know, feel good about in a tough situation is when you take a look at the number of people who voted in Kentucky, the number of people who voted in the Georgia primary, the two and three hours that they were willing to stand in line to vote is, you know, would make John Lewis proud, quite frankly, you know.


And so I think that the the the way we like to say enthusiasm, I hate that word in terms of voting. But the intensity or, you know, what what people believe is at stake to drive them to make sure they vote is going to be at historic levels and it's going to be a historic levels for Democrats. We saw it in twenty eighteen. We saw it in our primary in 2020 and we're seeing in some of these state primaries as well.


So I think that there's a lot there's a lot of signals, there are a lot of signs there that something is going on even in a very difficult environment to vote that is going to that is going to benefit us.


Right. But it is it is, you know, every campaign, you know, even in the most ideal circumstances, you know, it's one thing to have professed support. It's even, you know, one thing to have people who say, I'm registered, I'm going to vote, but then can you materialize that vote? And now there's just an added complication right to your point. You're going to have to do quite a bit of just raw education, right?


If you're in this state, you need a stamp. And if you're in this state, you've got to sign the envelope on the ballot. So and it is complex.


So I'm curious when you look at Trump, so here's someone who's shown zero interest in growing his support. Traditionally, you know, normally someone gets into the White House with forty six point one percent of the vote, you'd say, the first thing I want to do is get the support of more people who didn't vote for me.


So they clearly think they can base their way to the election. It would seem to me, though, John, that, you know, the registration and turnout they want to do and there are a lot of people who look just like Trump's base in battleground states who aren't registered or not habitual voters.


But his approval ratings have to hurt there, too, right?


The the motivation for someone who's not are not, you know, going to vote for Joe Biden, but the question is, are they going to register? Are they going to turn out for Trump? It's not just hurting them with swing voters.


That's got to hurt a little bit. And all it takes is for it to hurt a little bit because I'm sure he's trying to what he got one point one million, 400000 votes in Wisconsin.


I'm sure they think they could win if they got a million six hundred fifty thousand, you know, kind of the Bush 04 playbook in Ohio. But but but this has got to hurt him in terms of his base play as well, it would seem to me. Are you seeing any evidence of that?


You know, I guess I think that we all believe that there's going to be historic turnout. The question is, is that does he have any more to get out right now? And we don't know knows. I mean, no one knows the answer to this, quite frankly. But if 2008 is any indication of the number of people who have never voted in a midterm election or just new voters in general that brought back the House, that got us Democratic governors replacing Republican governors in places like Michigan and Nevada, etc.


, and again, kind of the historic level of turnout in the Democratic presidential primary. I will bet on us this time. I will bet on our operation getting new voters out versus his operation. And there was a lot of money. And again, not necessarily fighting for president or money, but there's a lot of organizational money. I mean, listen, the reason George is in play is partially because Stacey Abrams, you know, got created a infrastructure in the state of Georgia.


Right. And that infrastructure is still there and it will benefit Joe Biden. And you can kind of do that all over the place. The other thing I would say is, is that, you know, the broader the the universe in polling, meaning if you have likely voters and then you have, you know, registered voters, then you just have all voters. Biden does better. The bigger you get, Biden does better. Right. And so I think a big turnout, again, benefits Biden in this political environment where people have written off Donald Trump because of what they've seen in lack of presidential leadership in the handling of these three crises in the last four months.


All right.


So let's talk about some of the work you guys are doing to fill in the Biden side of the ledger. I think it always surprises people who follow politics closely that people who they know intimately well, you know, the voters that determine general elections don't write. I mean, you remember back in 08 when we came out of the primary with Hillary Clinton and we turned our attention to polling and surveying general election voters, they didn't really know much about Obama than who's black and who's running for president.


And then we had to run a lot of biography. So Joe Biden, you know, to your point, you know, they know something about it because they're comfortable with it and they know who VP. But it seems like there is an opportunity right now in terms of his biography, you know, his plans for the future probably more important than his his his past record to really fill that in, particularly because Trump has not been able to settle on any message against Biden to trying to find a much less an effective one.


So what's your guys thought and strategy there?


Well, listen, I think that you're seeing it right. I mean, it's you know, Joe Biden for for a better America. And you've seen this, I think, brilliant rollout by the campaign about, you know, building back better on the economy. I mean, we are we are competing on the economy. If you take a look again at the Fox poll, the morning council just came out today. The biggest problem that Trump has right now is that his advantage is oxygen on the economy has evaporated.


And so in both of those polls, the who do you trust in the economy is now dead even. And so we're competing on a really important part of what is his strength. So in some ways, we're taking a playbook or a page out of his playbook. They're naturally you're also seeing, you know, just again, in in our communications, you know, that he's going to be Joe Biden is going to be a better leader on handling the pandemic.


And that that is important as well. But I think that you're right. I think that there's things that people don't know about Joe Biden. They're going to find out. I think they mostly, like you said, want to know about his agenda and his vision and what he's going to do. And I think that we're doing a really good job at the beginning here of laying that out. And there's a there's so much more there's so much more to go.


The other thing I think that is really important is that people get a sense that Joe Biden is a good guy, like he is a relatable, compassionate guy. Some people certainly know about the tragedies that he has gone through. Some people know kind of about the Scranton upbringing. And so there is a sense that, you know, these voters have lived. That he's lived their lives and I think that you're going to see some about some of that as well, but you're also going to see again on the economic front, which you remember in 2012, you know, you had to remind people where, you know, how bad it was that when Obama came in and, you know, there were literally ads on charts and graphs and unemployment and things like that.


And so I think that there's going to be you know, there's going to be a reminder here that Joe Biden's done this before, that he was in charge of the Recovery Act, that President Obama put him in charge of it. You see that in ads right now and then laying out what he's going to do. And so voters want to know what you're going to do. And so I think you're going to see a lot of Joe Biden. You're going to see a lot of his vision, a lot of his agenda, but also get the feel of who this guy is, that he's the right guy, you know, to unite and heal the nation as well.


Right. I'm curious, John, you've obviously throughout your career because the economy is always central to politics, have become an expert on how voters view the economy. I think one of Joe Biden's strengths is he just intuitively understands the economy in a way the average person does. Right. And you remember back in 2012 when we were running for re-election in a tough economy, the fact that the stock market had increased was not a reason to vote for Barack Obama.




And and Trump, you know you know, he sees it through the stock market. He sees it through big business. You know, he talks about giving tax breaks for people to do big restaurant meals, which is not how anybody who's going to decide this election really thinks about the economy. But it might be interesting for listeners like and it's more complicated now because we're in a pandemic and we've got recession level unemployment.


But how does the average person view the economy when it's going well, when it's not kind of what are the cues? Because it does seem to be this is a natural advantage for your campaign. And Joe Biden, just because he's so naturally talks about the economy in a way that's accessible to people?


Well, I think the big thing right now is that voters did not think that they were going to be where they are at the end of July when this all started kind of happening at the beginning of April. And so we're seeing a lot of stress, right? I mean, there is economic anxiety and stress and it's a huge just, again, kind of national collective problem, almost a psychological problem with people. And so this is one of the reasons his numbers on the economy have vanished.


Right. I mean, nearly 60 percent of the voters feel that his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic has made the economy worse. They also know and you've seen this in public polling, that about 60 percent of people think that he looks out for big corporations and the wealthy and people like them. And so at the end of the day, a lot of times these campaigns in these races comes down to whose side is drawn. And voters believe at a pretty high rate that Joe Biden is looking out for working families and that Donald Trump is looking out for big corporations and the wealthy.


And, you know, you're going to see that being driven. I mean, that is an important whether it's implicit or explicit contrast and it's not one that you have to contrive is one that people believe. And so you just need to reinforce it. And you're already seeing that in how we communicate. Right.


And so you mentioned that Trump has lost his lead on the economy. You know, he's trailing badly on measures you just mentioned. Whose side are you on? Joe Biden's got a big lead. Who's better on health care? Joe Biden's got a good lead. Who's a better person? You know, Joe Biden's got a good lead. Who's who would be better able to handle the pandemic.


So if you head into the election or let's say election head into late September or early October, when people start voting in these battlegrounds and the numbers are as they are now, which is you're tied on the economy, it would seem to me, given your measure, your strength on those other measures, you're in pretty good shape.


If you're able to take a lead, though, on the economy, let's say five, eight points, I'm not sure you could go. That would seem to be almost checkmate for Trump.


Yeah. Listen, I think, you know, when I take a look at certain things you mentioned early on in this podcast where we are with seniors, Trump won by seven points. OK, we're dead even or we're winning. I'm just think about how this extrapolates out. If we if Trump only wins by three. Right. I mean, that is a huge difference. Right. And so if at one point, I think in the foxhole they showed in February, Trump's job rating on the economy was fifty four percent and now it's like forty seven.


Again, we're not looking to get greedy, but if you're holding Donald Trump, who people think is you know, he's a business guy and you did great on the economy, et cetera, et cetera, if you can keep him dead, even if you can compete on the economy, which we are doing, and we're already on TV doing that, and we can make that contrast about who's looking out. You and your family. That is a really difficult and bad day for Donald Trump, right.


And would you say, John, at this point in the race, it seems that enough voters have made the decision that they're not really excited about rehiring Donald Trump. Right.


So to kind of close the deal here, is it just to intensify that or do you think it's to increase the number of people who affirmatively say, I'm actually pretty excited to hire Joe Biden as president?


Yeah, I mean, it's always a little bit of both. Clearly, there's allies out there who, you know, beat up Donald Trump every day and kind of reinforce to keep the reinforcement of of how people feel about him. But listen, it's incumbent upon this campaign and Joe Biden. Right, to fill in the blanks, like you said earlier. And that's going to happen. That's an important part of any presidential campaign. You talked about it in 2008.


They know he was V.P. and they instinctively like him and they know a few data points. But, you know, this is a campaign that has 14 more weeks to communicate. And you may have noticed, like we're running 60 second commercials and, you know, you can tell a story in 60 seconds. And that's really important. And I think people are seeing a full story from Joe Biden and they're seeing Joe Biden in these ads as well, which is really important.


So, you know, we've got 14 more weeks to communicate, to reinforce, to lock down those soft voters, which is always your most important job when you're ahead. Right. Is to make sure, you know, those don't those voters don't leave you. But, you know, Trump has some soft voters as well. And there's some independents. And as you said early on, you don't want people moving to a third party candidate and you don't want to get too confident.


And this is not this is a campaign that is never going to get to too confident because, again, the entire collective community out there has PTSD from 2016. So we're just never going to let up. I mean, we're just you know, you hear it a lot. You know, Pippo, you run like you're behind. Well, if you went through 2016, you know, you run like you're behind. And, you know, until they call it, you're going to sit there and be fighting.


And I think that, you know, Democrats are just in a different kind of space right now. We're going to fight for everything and we're going to compete for everything. And, you know, the stakes just haven't been this high. And, you know, we just got to we got we got one and four days. That's a long time and it's a short time, but it mostly feels like a long time. If you're me and you and you're doing a campaign.


Right. And you get the sense not, you know, activist Democrats, but swing voters or maybe some folks who are turnout targets who, you know, don't follow politics that carefully, do they get the stakes or is that another thing that you guys will need to really work on over the next 15 weeks is making sure they understand the stakes, or is that sort of come to folks? Naturally? It is.


And that is where you get an assist by the current president. I mean, he provides almost daily, sometimes multiple times a day and certainly weekly what's at stake. I mean, he he has created you know, he's just created an environment here where, again, it's not just about his personal behavior. It is about his lack of leadership. And people are judging him in a much different way than they were in February. And that's that's trouble for him and that's good for us.


And by the way, you know, it doesn't hurt that Joe Biden was vice president of the United States for eight years and U.S. senator. And the main trait that people like about him is what experience? I mean, that's the word cloud, right? I mean, they think that he has the experience and he's like the right guy to lead the country right now. And so, you know, this isn't all about Donald Trump. He creates the environment for Joe Biden to take advantage of.


But the fact that Joe Biden is a guy who is experienced in their mind is really important and they think he can make government government work. And guess what? That wasn't a really good trait 10 years ago. But it's a good trait now when they've seen it, they've seen a candidate like a president like Donald Trump who just can't make government work. Right.


So, John, you know, you've become an expert, a PhD, really, on voters in every state in the country. But you have particular expertise in the South.


So let's just do a quick let's just give me your top lines. Let's do the two battlegrounds, North Carolina, Florida, maybe let's throw in Georgia, kind of an outlier, but but looks close. Kind of like where is the race now?


What do you see that you're liking? And if Joe Biden doesn't win them? Why would that be? Well, I mean, again, places like North Carolina and more and more like Georgia and you know, this is why North Carolina is a battleground state and Ohio has kind of fallen off, is that it is chock full of college educated voters. You know, it's chock full of almost 50 percent of the people now, like the forty three percent of the people that now come from somewhere else weren't born in North Carolina.


Right. So it's not a deep south state, is they? A new south state has a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, who is a client of ours. But, you know, it kind of starts and begins in the suburbs, but also has a really important and good base with African-American voters is the state that has the highest rating increase of Latinos. And, you know, we've always Democrats have always done well in that populous west. Right.


Kind of the Ashville West, which normally because it's kind of Appalachian, would be like really Republican. Right. That's like really Republican area in Ohio or whatever. But it has a really populist tinge to it. And so, you know, listen, there has not been a public poll out that hasn't had Biden up a couple points in North Carolina. A good place to be. There's not a public poll that hasn't had helped him, the US Senate candidate.


And so you have a governor's race with Cooper's re-election. You have a US Senate race, which is probably the number one race in the country, and then you have a battleground for president. And so you feel very confident about the infrastructure that Barack Obama's campaign has built in 2008 and 2009 12 that are continuing to reap benefits there for Democratic candidates. And, you know, you always have to you know, the markets. You've got to you've got to keep a really close eye on Greensborough.


Right. That's the one that kind of gets squirrelly and will get taken away. You know, Dan McCreadie, who lost the special election or actually the election, I played it out afterwards. He may have lost it in the Charlotte suburbs. But if you extrapolate that out to the state, you know, that's why that's why you can see Cal Cunningham, the Democrat, winning. And so, you know, North Carolina is complicated and it's expensive, as you know, because of the media markets, Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro to Greenville.


Wilmington is just really expensive. But we're there to play and we have a great leadership team there as well. You know, Florida, listen, Florida's five or six different states and countries, the I-40 corridor is still in a lot of ways, the swing area. You know, watch Orlando because there is kind of just a new place with, you know, the refugees from Hurricane Maria and the Puerto Rican community increasing there. You have to get that.


You have to get that community to vote at a higher rate. And that's important. And you can't take them for granted in any way. But all of a sudden, Orlando is a little bit more Democratic. Tampa is still the one that you got to fight for every day. And like we said at the beginning of this podcast, you have to fight and narrow the margins in the Panhandle. Then, you know, I mean, if you take a look where Charlie Crist lost, if you take a look, you know, I mean, he lost by 70 thousand votes and Scott won by 70 thousand votes up north.


Right. And you have to be a little bit more concerned nowadays in the exurbs, the Tampa exurbs, et cetera, where Gillham really got clobbered. But Joe Biden's the right type of candidate. You know, again, he attracts moderates, he attracts independents. They look at him differently than national Democrats. And so we're just looking to narrow the margins in those exurban counties that were a real problem in twenty eighteen for them and quite frankly, for Bill Nelson as well.


And in 16 as well. I mean, that's the thing. I mean, you know, and that was the one state where Trump did seem to juice turnout. Yes. Was Florida. And so I'm sure they'll try and build on that. Yeah. Well, it'd be great to have Donald Trump lose his new home state, wouldn't it? It would be. Yeah, it would be.


It would be amazing. And then how about Georgia? Georgia is looking a lot like North Carolina, isn't it?


I mean, again, increasing universe of college educated voters, increasing universe of people who were not born in Georgia. Atlanta's media markets incredibly efficient. All of a sudden, the suburbs of Atlanta in Cobb County are looking like the suburbs and a lot of other states right now. And we picked one up, one seat up last time, will probably pick up George. 7:00 this time, so the suburbs with suburban women higher educate higher educated voters, higher income voters, all of a sudden the Atlanta suburbs are looking a lot like the suburbs and, you know, you name the state, right, even up north.


And again, what Abrams was able to do in terms of building infrastructure, she actually had historic African-American turnout, if you look at the absolute numbers. But again, that's another one of those states, not unlike Florida, where when you were running against an African African-American candidate for governor, there was that countervailing of whites coming out as well. And, you know, that is a dynamic that is, as you know, as old as it can be.


But I think that just what Abrams was able to do there shows you how competitive Georgia is. And there hasn't been a public poll that basically hasn't even either shown it dead even or Biden a little ahead. I mean, even Governor Kemp's own pollster, Glen Bolger, who's a good guy, showed it dead even. So it's going to be a really interesting state to watch. Right. Right.


Well, thanks for that tour around the south. I'm curious, John, just a couple more questions for you. So, you know, your firm is doing work all over the country. You know, we're all very focused on the presidential some of these key Senate races. But one of the things that we saw in 18 was, you know, you saw kind of the bench emerge.


Right. And a lot of people who, you know, were just normal Americans step up, you know, to run. A lot of them want a lot of them out of town. I saw, you know, right next to you, the mayor of Shreveport announced he's running for Senate in Louisiana.


So I'm just curious, like like who are the stars out there that you're working, whether you're aware of that we should all pay attention to? I know that's a tough question because you'll leave somebody out, but it is and I will leave someone out.


But I got to tell you, I got to there's one person that doesn't get enough conversation, and that is Doug Jones, the US senator from Alabama. And may I say, the only Democratic senator in the conference. But he doesn't get enough looks. He's going to be running against the former Auburn coach, Tommy Tuberville. And I think that this one lesson I think one good candidate, Carville, always taught me this. When good candidates stick their neck out in the Deep South, you've got the Democratic community needs to get around.


Right. Adrian Perkins is a perfect example. I mean, people have to go and watch this guy's unless it was terrific.


I watched it today. I a single mom.


It was the president of his class at West Point who did two tours of Afghanistan and then was like the president of his class and Harvard Law School, I mean, and then went home, had a very Barack Obama story, had all these offers to the law firm when he ran for mayor anyway. I mean, it's just important to get behind these guys. Doug Jones did something that was historic, which is he actually moved the math. He moved the math from twenty four percent of the electorate being African-American to twenty nine percent.


And he got just what he needed with white voters to win. And it can be done again. And he is a star and he should absolutely be getting more looks. I mean, listen, there's natural stars like that, like how can you not like Amy McGrath and MJ Hagar? Right. Again, both both veterans, which is just really important. And I think that, again, these are races that people think are really, really difficult and aren't necessarily on.


You know, they're on the radar screen because they're visible and they can raise money. But at the end of the day, when you're doing the head count to get to fifty one in the U.S. Senate, it's not it's not where it is. Right. And but again, I think it's important for the democratic communities, you know, to get behind these type of candidates. The gubernatorial candidate in Missouri is, I think, an incredibly attractive candidate.


And we've kind of just given up on Missouri, right? I mean, you know, we we have that flirtation in 2008 at the presidential level and then it's kind of like all kind of gone away. And she hasn't and she's an incredibly an incredibly attractive candidate. And then, as you and I know, you know, I think some of the most important races that will never get in the attention are going to be the state legislative races. I mean, if we can take the House back in North Carolina and in Michigan, where we have Democratic governors and these GOP legislatures fuck with our Democratic governors every day and take their powers away and sue them for just ridiculous things.


If you can get one chamber, then all of a sudden the Republicans have to come to the table and get really good things done right. Like if if if the North Carolina State House turns Democratic, then all of a sudden maybe you can get Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. And that is really, really impactful stuff. And that's. Things that we have to we have to be aware of because we want to talk about the presidential races and it's super important and it's the stakes couldn't be higher.


But, man, there's there's a lot of work to do in the vineyards as well.


Well, listen, it is interesting. It kind of links back to what you're saying, which is, you know, it is kind of an overused expression. But, you know, you do want to run like your 10 points behind. And I think as it relates to Joe Biden, you know, either this tightens up and we end up winning a closer race and it looks right now or we can put a big whooping on this guy, which, you know, means we might, you know, better.


Joe Biden does. You know, the more likely it is that we can win back the Senate, the more likely it is we can win back some of these chambers, because you never know what the next election cycle will look like. 20, 22 could be hard.


And you just got to maximize, you know, the old Midwestern states to make hay when the sun shining.


So, John, last question, survey research, the science of it and even the art of it's changed so much during your career. I'm just curious when when you're undertaking surveys or doing qualitative work right now, doing in the midst of a pandemic, are there unique challenges? Maybe. Have there been opportunities? Just what's changed or has nothing changed? I'm just curious about that.


Well, it has. One is change for the better, like during the pandemic are production rates. Like we're getting people on the phone, like I was kidding the other day, saying things like polling now is like polling in the 80s. Everyone is like an older senior woman from Iowa, you know, Iowa picking up the phone.


I mean, it really feels that way. Right? And so we're getting I think in some ways like better data. Right. Because our production rates are up because people are willing to answer the phone. Now, on the flip side of it, the qualitative is very difficult. Right. And all of a sudden, if you participated in a zoom focus group, it's more like an interrogation, like it's like a one on one because of, you know, you've got to ask a question.


One person can answer where in a focus group you get a kind of a dynamic. And so we're doing more online, qualitative, like, you know, even like what we call call boards, which are three day focused focus groups, not you don't see the person. They just answer questions at their own pace. So the qualitative becomes more difficult. It's like I miss the back of David Binder's head. Right. You know who we just would watch focus group after focus group.


And it's such a rich, important data. I mean, and we are missing a little bit of that. I mean, we don't have the dynamic that we normally would get on a week by week basis hearing what voters have to say, because it is really difficult doing a focus group by. Let me just tell you. Right.


That's a really helpful overview. Well, listen, ANSO, thanks for being with us. Best of luck. Over the next hundred and three days, you're going to be part of the team. Hopefully that removes the threat of Donald Trump from the Oval Office and instills a terrific president and Joe Biden. But I think I certainly learned a lot from a conversation today. So thanks for being with us. Well, thank you.


Hey, listen, thanks for your 30 something years of friendship and thanks for what you and a lot of your organizations do day to day to day as well. It's going to be important to get everyone over the finish line and we'll see in November, brother. All right, man. Take care. Thanks.


So I certainly learned quite a bit from that conversation with John Anzalone. You know, one loved hearing that they're seeing what public polls are also suggesting that the third party vote share this time looks like it's going to be lower, more near historical averages. That's incredibly important because it's much easier for Donald Trump to get to 47 than it is 49. And if he has to get the 49 or 50 to win, that is a harder burden for him right now, given where the race is than Joe Biden.


So it was great to see that.


Great to see, you know, their view of some of these southern battleground states. You know, Florida is going to be close. It's always close, North Carolina as well. But but really, you know, to hear John talk about Georgia as off almost like it is like North Carolina means it should be really, really close and something we should all pay close attention to. And that's great for those of you in Georgia who almost elected a Democratic governor.


And Stacey Abrams, in twenty eighteen, you may have an opportunity to turn Georgia blue on the presidential map and that could not be more exciting. Interesting to hear from, John, that, yeah, there are still more voters out there, even voters who might be right now saying they're going to vote for Biden, who need to learn a lot more about him and his view that the campaign both understands that and has a good plan to execute on that.


And really that, you know, I think his point that, you know, Donald Trump's very unfavorable rating is so high and unlike in 16, where Hillary is also high, you know, Joe Biden's very unfavorable is lower, more more like you might traditionally see for a nominee, where it's mostly just members of the other party who are stating that view. So, you know, that's something that, you know, Donald Trump heads into this election with a very unfavorable.


It's at 47 now nationally could even grow 49 50. And if Biden is able to keep his number, let's say, in the 30s, that's a big advantage. So hopefully you learned a lot about where the electorate is today and how to view this race in a little bit more detail at that level. So thanks for tuning in and look forward to being with you next week on Campaign HQ.