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I was in Australia today and someone just said, hey, Chad, write. And they're like, oh, you look like my friend Chad, I don't think it was demeaning, but like I got mistaken for, like, literally a chad.
How did it make you feel? Attacked.
Hello and welcome to the 538 Politics podcast. I'm Galen Drac. After missing his self-imposed deadlines more than once, it looks like Joe Biden will actually announce his running mate this week. We'll have an emergency podcast for you when that does happen. But today we're going to take a final look at some of the speculation. We're also going to take a deep dive into the polling comparisons between the 2016 election and twenty twenty. Hillary Clinton led President Trump in the average of national polls for nearly all of 2016 and then lost the election.
Biden has been consistently leading as well, but his lead, at least so far, looks pretty different from Clinton's. We'll discuss how and what the implications might be. And here with me to do that, our editor in chief, Nate Silver. Hey, Nate, how's it going?
Hey, Galen. How are you? Oh, I'm good. That was pretty hesitant. Are you OK?
I choked. Yeah, I choked on the intro of all the pressure of all our listeners for a lot of our audience.
While they may be curious about Joe Biden's VP pick, there might be more excited for a different announcement this week, which I think you're now ready to share with our audience. So what is that announcement?
So barring extremely unexpected events, which you always have to say in these troubled times, right. There's an earthquake in North Carolina the other day, for example. But we will release our presidential forecasting model. On Wednesday morning, all right, there you have it, you heard it here, nine ninety ninety seven percent chance it's a 97 percent chance. And of course, we'll have a model talk for you all when that happens. Also here with us is senior politics writer Perry Bacon.
Junior. Hey, Perry. Hey, good to see you.
And also here with us is politics editor Sarah Frost and said, hey, Sarah Hagan and Claire is out today. Let's begin with Biden's VP pick. And we can keep this short because as I mentioned, we are going to have an emergency podcast when it comes out. And we also just don't have to wait that much longer until we actually know. So speculation is at this point, maybe only worth so much. But Perry, can you lay out for us what the state of the race to be Biden's running mate looks like at this point in time?
So we don't we don't know much is the real answer to this question is like we you know, one person decides and the rest of us are sort of watching that we think it will happen later this week. I would assume kind of the traditional timing is to have it around Thursday or Friday going into the convention. So hopefully we'll be announcing this podcast is over and looking into it. I think the general thinking is that Kamala Harris is the favorite to be chosen and it will be surprising if it's somebody else.
Although, as we were talking about before we get on, it appears that Gretchen Whitmer flew to Wilmington to meet with the vice president seven days or so ago. And I think there is a possibility of other pick, Susan Rice, Gretchen Whitmer, Elizabeth Warren. So I think that it's not definitely Kamala Harris, but I think she's the person I think most of the pundit ocracy and the politics people and media people think it'll be Nate and Sara as people who would qualify as media people.
Do you agree? Do you think that it will be surprising if it's not Kamala Harris at this point? I think it's really hard to tell.
You know, one thing about the V.P. picks is that, like, there's usually some element of deception or subterfuge. If you say subterfuge, some of those words, you don't get that. Yeah.
If you go in with one of the obvious choices and you want to create some suspense, make it seem like this person is newsworthy when they're announced, kick the tires in case there are last minute issues. So you could have a world where it's been Harris for a long time and they're going through the motions. Right. You could also have a world where you have genuine doubts about the obvious alternative or alternatives.
And that's why you're you know, you're bringing other people into Wilmington and putting out trial balloons. I mean, clearly, it serves the interests of Joe Biden or any presidential nominee to put the name out there, see how interest groups react and see what rises to the top. You know, it often serves the interests of the candidate as well. Right.
Like, you know, Karen Bass has a higher profile now than she might have. So it's I think it's just very hard to read to me.
Some of the doubts expressed about Harris by Biden allies like Chris Dodd were surprisingly. Candid, not quite to the point of burning your bridges, but like seemed like more candid than these remarks are ordinarily, but it still doesn't tell you whether you, like Biden himself, has reservations or whether there are kind of vocal factions within within the Biden camp that might have objections.
But I think it's really hard to tell what's going on and what you're if you're there is that Chris Dodd told Politico, among other things, that Kamala Harris didn't show any remorse for her attacking Biden's position on bussing in the first primary debate. There was blowback, essentially activists, commentators saying that that was sexist criticism. And Kamala Harris, those people then defended her to the Biden camp and it created a bit of a kerfuffle a couple of weeks ago. The question here, I guess, Sara, is, does it seem like that has the potential to actually shape the outcome of the selection process?
What's been interesting about it is in that Politico article, it was kind of detailing some of DOD's issues with Harris. It also seems as if because he's saying, oh, you know, now we can't trust her because of the way in which she attacked Biden in that first debate. She's not loyal. That's really opened an avenue for someone like Karen Bass to then kind of be put into the national spotlight, someone who doesn't have as big of a national profile.
But then going back to Nate's point, does that actually mean that the Biden camp isn't considering Harris as much? I don't know. I thought the Newark magazine had a great piece over the weekend that was kind of talking about the final stretch. And there is this line where essentially, you know, all the nominees, whether it's Wittmer flying in to talk with Biden and kind of do the final vetting, they then have to watch all this coverage of, you know, advisers and friends of either themselves or by it, and then talking out and gaining, you know, his supposed thinking.
And, you know, to some extent I think we're seeing a test run then if, like, can you find holes in someone like Rice's resume who hasn't been, you know, who hasn't held elected office. And yet, I mean, Dodd has kind of brought barcin for better or for worse. Right. But it still doesn't underscore whether or not Harris's candidacy and all of this is in jeopardy.
Perry, do you think that ultimately this conflict within Biden's vetting circle matters for how the ultimate VP pick is perceived by the public? Or is this just inside baseball that we're only paying attention to?
I think it depends a lot on who the pick actually is. So I mean, it is Harris. I think it'll be forgotten. And if it's not, I think so.
I mean, it's worth thinking about what Chris Dodd seemed to be implying, like if Chris Dodd, older white man, is going around saying that we couldn't pick Kamala Harris because black woman, because she was too mean to Joe Biden when discussing busing, that's not great for Joe Biden's campaign. I don't think that is that will be in the coverage. If he does not pick Kamala Harris, it will be in the coverage in a few days. Will that matter electorally?
I don't know. I don't think it's going to be have to be explained if the the chief rationale for not picking Harris seems to be that she was too mean to Joe Biden about a racial issue that's going to be discussed. It's going to be controversial. I would argue personally, I think there would be not a good look for Joe Biden to do it, though there are other reasons not to pick Harris, particularly the fact that she ran for president was not a particularly good candidate at it.
But I think that that reason itself and sort of lingering bitterness from that in the Vidia, she didn't apologize. I guess I'll just be honest here. I worry this process and I'm not sure that's Joe Biden or not. I don't think we should be picking the most pliable black woman, according to Chris Dodd and Ed Rendell. And that's kind of where I wonder where we are now. It's like Karen Bass does not seem too ambitious. She's the aunt.
Karen Bass is very talented and very smart. I don't think the goal of picking her should be Carmella's to uppity so we can't pick her. I found this process to be fairly distasteful in the way Biden's I don't know if Biden is doing that, but certainly Ed Rendell and Chris Dodd, who are people Joe Biden knows fairly, will have made comments and I have been uncomfortable with now. I guess the other part of this process that I've found to be strange and I think it's hard to talk about, is in 2008, the real choices for Barack Obama were Tim Kaine, Evan Bayh and Joe Biden, white male, like in 2016, everyone knew Hillary Clinton would pick a man.
So in both those processes, you had a sort of sort of effect of in reality, they're only going to pick Obama is going to pick a black person and probably a woman, Hillary, that could pick a woman. But it was never explicitly stated at the beginning. So Joe Biden can go around and sort of claim he was the most qualified person in 08 as opposed to the most qualified older white man was with. Really, what he was and so in Biden in earlier this year said, I'm going to pick a woman, I sort of worried that this might turn into a little bit of a tokenization of the role.
And then as it's become like, are we going to have a black woman, I worry has become even more a tokenization of the role. And to be blunt about this, Elizabeth Warren, Val Demings and Gretchen Whitmer, those all three can't be the real finalists because those are three different people with three different resumes. It would not make any sense to really those are picks for different jobs. On some level. It's hard to imagine he's really taking seriously Elizabeth Warren, Gretchen Whitmer and Val Demings at the same time, one of those people is kind of fake.
Do you think that the tension that you're describing or the divides within the Biden camp represent divides within the Democratic Party or just something that's specific to Biden's campaign?
I don't know if there's a divide in Biden's camp or not, because I only have Chris Dodd's comments. For all I know, all the Biden people don't like Kamala Harris. I don't think we know the answer to that question. I do think within the Democratic Party, there's clearly a divide between should this pick a be sort of about a representational pick, meaning like a black woman, should this pick be about a leftward person to balance the ticket? So, like, more like Elizabeth Warren, should this pick someone, someone who's sort of going to help you more electorally, kind of like a Gretchen Whitmer.
So it's hard to imagine Biden is he Biden must be prioritizing governing Warren, electability, Wittmer Simborg reputation. Valdimir he must be valuing one of those things over the other two. But we don't know which one and we won't know until the pick. Really.
OK, well, let's take the easy one of those three to eliminate, which I think at the risk of being spectacularly wrong is probably Warren, right? Warren is a choice where it seems like you have to say you're considering her because that satisfies a certain faction of the party. Right. But there seems to be a little kind of substantive buzz about like actual and again, we're reading tea leaves here kind of almost literally. Right. But it seems like she's like a name that gets mentioned kind of in a perfunctory way.
I mean, I think like you mentioned, like Chris Dodd, like articulate, like all the worst reasons. To not pick haircuts, right, and the good reason not to pick her is a reason you mentioned, which is that she ran a campaign that's probably in the lower quartile to be very generous about it, of performance relative to expectations. In fact, you might say that this is kind of if every year you have a campaign, you know, Phil Gramm or or Jeb Bush, you know, or a candidate who just kind of totally disappoints than she was that candidate this year.
And the question is, to what extent does that reflect on how she would perform, maybe not as vice president, but as a vice presidential candidate?
I also wonder about picking someone who hasn't ever run for office before, like Susan Rice when we talked about this a few weeks ago, you know, I kind of think, well, Biden is from the perception of do the least harm that you can write, but it's not entirely clear kind of what the most risk free choices necessarily inevitably in the VP selection process.
Some of the leaks, whether it's, you know, attached to someone like Dodd or more, just generic, a friend of Biden, a friend of X person who's being considered is testing the waters. Right. Like, I think with race in particular, you've seen a lot of. What about Benghazi? How Republican? You know, there are there's one headline where it was like Republicans are like, please give us Rice. Right. So it's like testing out how these various candidates would do.
But I think back to what Perry was saying, the fact that in March in that debate with Sanders, Biden said, I'm going to pick a woman. It has now shifted the conversation, particularly as he's delayed. Right, like he was supposed to do in August 1st. He'll do it closer to the convention now.
But it's now become what kind of woman and less about the qualifications and more just like, oh, it was the right type of woman, which I think then kind of, as Perry was saying, tokenized the role in all of this, which is unfortunate because from my perspective, I sort of feel like in March, the most logical candidates for a 78 year old person running for president were Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
Like the clearly qualified people who have been through the process, I'm not sure all of this floating and so on has necessarily clarified or change that dynamic. And that's why I'm a little bit like I don't like, you know, in general, I think being vetted for BP is good. I don't think the last couple weeks have been great for Karen Bass, and I'm not actually sure how seriously they were actually considering her in the first place. And also, it's confusing because there's been some like I think David Axelrod tweeted on Friday night, kind of implying that Kamala Harris was doing oppo on Karen Bass to stop her from being the pick.
I don't know if that's true or not, but I think it goes to the point that is Karen Bass a serious candidate or not? I don't actually know if Susan Rice did it again. I don't know is Warren. I think Nate is right. She's probably not a serious one, but I don't actually know because we have all kinds of different types of people being like Val Demings. If you want to have a black woman, Baldivis makes sense.
But if you think about electability, Gretchen, always a lot more sense. And so I, I have found the process a little bit confusing in an unhelpful way, I think.
And I don't know if that's Joe Biden's fault or I don't know if that's the party's fault or if that's Politico's fault or the news media's fault. But there's something that feels a little bit off here.
I mean, doesn't it just reflect the different forces in the Democratic Party? There's been a large contingent, especially of people close to Biden, like James Clyburn, who from the beginning said, I want you to pick a black woman. And so there's been a loud voice saying it should be a black woman. And that's why there have been so many different black women vetted. At the same time, the left has said, well, what about Elizabeth Warren?
And she polls better with young African-Americans anyway. I mean, isn't it just reflective of divisions in the party? I mean, yes and no, I mean, if you ask the people pushing for a black woman with truth serum, they mean Kamala Harris, they don't mean Val Demings. They've looked at who vice presidents are in the past. They know what they're they can't say that. You know, they're trying to be sort of subtle about it.
But I mean, why can't they say it?
The idea that it's like pushing on him and forcing him into one like obviously done when they don't want to force one person on him. But I don't think anybody like there's one person who's been a senator or ran for president who's a black woman. That's kind of why if there wasn't a Kamala Harris, I don't think there have been a huge push for we demand a black woman kids would have been we who's obviously qualified.
What about Wittmer, though? And what about Tammy Duckworth? Because Biden did commit to pick a woman. He didn't commit to picking a black woman or a woman of color. And those are people who ordinarily they're from the Midwest. They're I mean, I guess you can say Wittmer is only two years into her term, which is an issue. But like Duckworth is someone who would seem like a pretty natural fit. She is a woman of color also.
But neither of those two would totally shock me, I guess I'd say. Whereas like. Karen Bass seemed more like a choice, a little bit out of left field, potentially. I agree with you. Yeah, that's fair.
I think Duckworth, given that she's a veteran, too, that plays to part of Biden's appeal. But I think it's still ultimately goes back to what Perry said is like because of the active campaign from DOD and maybe others in Biden's camp. The question will now be, if it's not Carmilla. Well, was it because she was seen as too ambitious? Right. And like that undertone in all of this, I think complicates than someone like Duckworth or Wittmer who have really good resumes for this position, kind of not being seen in the most favorable light.
Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how the media would cover it.
But I think they have to if it's not Harris at this point, although one thing about Whitman, Whitman, I know will be planning to run for president 2024 as well. So in that sense, the ambition thing is not like traditionally vice presidents have planned to run. It's not been a traditional qualification to be VP to rule out running for president. So I don't. So the idea that that should be done is a little odd. I think we've never had a female president.
So I sort of would prefer the person who's vice president, if they're a woman, be open to running for president. The idea they should rule that out seems insanity to me on some kind of weird loyalty. President Joe Biden, who thought about running for president 2016, like almost all VPs do. And so Wittmer, I think would be interesting choice in that there's a lot of like she's from the Midwest, she did very well electorally. But in some ways, the ambition thing, she's clearly ambitious, which I think is a good thing in all people, including politicians.
So I think that would be interesting. Pick it will make a lot of sense, actually.
Yes, 75 percent of people who became vice president since World War Two either became president or ran for president.
Now, if you lose on a VP ticket, then you do not necessarily have that promising a political career.
But if you become VP, that's a big deal. And all these people who are considering are women have a lot of ambition. And I mean, that's the game I like. The critiques of Harris were like the worst critics to make, if I were a voter, I would want somebody who was ambitious about being president because Joe Biden is 78 years old. I'm not sure if he's going to serve eight years. I'm not sure about four years. And so it just seems like weird to me.
And obviously, the gendered nature of that complaint, it just seems like the exact wrong thing to say.
Yeah, but by the same token, 75 percent you said like, that's so weird to me that if Biden wins in November, Biden's picked the next woman president. Maybe, you know, like it's just that's I think that's been a constant reminder throughout this process because he came out, announced in March, it's going to be a woman, especially as it drags on.
It just takes on a different tone because it's less on the merits. Right? Like there's always like, well, he was going to pick a woman.
So the one thing about the his last thing is I know some of the talk in the party is about it's weird to have to basically potentially pick the 2024 candidate right now.
And people are nervous about this. One reason if you wanted to pick Susan Rice, you would do so is you sort of stop that process, like maybe she runs for president, too. But I think it's obvious to me that if Wittmer Comilla is in the vice presidential role, they are going to be planning to run for president. And Susan Rice or Karen Bass even maybe you sort of delay that. You sort of defer that decision. You know, somebody even told me that, like when you had Hillary was the inevitable candidate for a long time.
But we had some evidence she was not a great candidate. At this point. You have some evidence that Comilla is not a great candidate, I think. And so therefore, you are maybe nervous about putting her in a spot where to get a new candidate, we have to sort of dislodge her. I think that's real. I think there is some real thought about that going on.
Well, look, generally speaking, unless you are an elected president, you don't get a pass for the nomination.
In 1976, when Gerald Ford became president, after Nixon resigned, you had a very vigorous, nearly successful challenge from Ronald Reagan. You know, LBJ in 1968 was challenged to the point where he quit and decided not to run for a second full term, a third partial term. So Tsongas person is going to like Walter Scott for the Democratic nomination in twenty twenty four. Excuse me, you're twenty eight. But there might be a 50/50 chance of it.
And like Sarah said. Right. You know, a 50/50 chance that you're picking, I guess not the next woman president, the next nominee, but between the chance that Biden didn't remain in office for four or eight years and the chances person at some point actually becomes president, yeah, there might be a 50/50 chance that Biden is picking the first woman president.
It's a pretty, pretty weighty decision.
So this is all the background and we're going to find out who the heck is soon enough. And then we'll be able to sort out a lot of what we've been saying here when we can actually apply it to a real running mate, Peck. So expect that later this week. Let's move on and talk about how this 2020 race compares with the 2016 race.
According to the polls, it was around this time in 2016 that Clinton notched her largest lead over Trump of the entire campaign. She was ahead by seven and a half points in the national polls coming off of the Democratic National Convention today. Biden leads by a similar margin. But even when Biden has led by much more than Clinton at similar points in the race, commentators have pointed to Clinton's experience as a reason to be skeptical of the polls. So when you compare their positions side by side, what does it actually look like?
And Sarah, I know that we've recently done this analysis for the website as well.
So kind of give us an overview of how Biden's performance in the polls so far in twenty twenty compares with Clinton's in 2016.
OK, so Clinton's peak in 2016 was like a week after the Democratic National Convention.
Right. And she had a seven point five lead over Trump in the polls.
Well, when you look at where Biden is now before the convention, he's already ahead of Clinton. So that's point one in his favor. Right. He has a stronger national lead in Clinton at her peak. He also enjoys a higher level of average support.
Now, some of that's not that surprising because Trump is an incumbent in 2016. We didn't have any incumbents running. And so there's less undecided voters because we know who the candidates are. Biden has high name recognition. He did throughout the primary. There's just less indecision.
But the third point, which was interesting, is Clinton, at her height, still did more in certain key states, particularly in the Midwest, than Biden did. So while he has a stronger national lead than Clinton over Trump, there's still a lot that could go in Trump's favor in various swing states, which underscores that maybe his lead, while strong nationally, isn't the. Much more durable than Clinton's in some regards. So what does that mean? I mean, why would Biden be doing better nationally but have a smaller margin over Trump in some of the swing states compared with Clinton?
Some of that comes down to the fact that less voters are undecided this year. And then also the states where Biden has these huge margins over Clinton or states like Texas, Arizona, and so those speak to larger environmental shifts that are happening in those states that we saw with Clinton.
She performed better in Arizona than you would have thought going in.
But it also underscores that these states in the Midwest, even though to be clear, Biden is leading Trump in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin, it's still not as large as what Clinton's was at her peak. And some of that could be that, you know, pollsters have redefined how they're doing their methodology since 2016, waiting for education, or it could just speak to the resiliency of Trump in these regions. Right. I mean, the other thing is we haven't had a lot of high quality polls in the last week or so, but Biden's lead over Trump is shrinking a little bit.
Again, we don't have a lot of high quality polls, but in these swing states, Trump is still competitive, particularly the ones in the Midwest.
So something that Sarah laid out there is that Biden has a higher level of support than Clinton ever did, even when their margins were somewhat similar. Biden has been polling at 50 percent or higher nationally, whereas even though Clinton may have had a seven and a half point lead, she was still only in the low to mid 40s. She didn't have a majority of support because there were so many undecided voters back then. Nate, what do you take that to mean for the state of the race?
I mean, do you look at that and say Biden is definitely in a better position than Clinton?
I think he's definitely in a better position. I mean, it's a little hard because the questions, whether you're polling, whether you're comparing excuse me, polls against polls four years earlier or polls against what we knew about how Clinton's vote actually wound up in 2016, our model always detected a little bit of an Electoral College advantage for Trump, meaning that he was favored the Electoral College, but that he was benefited from it relative to the popular vote.
But that became more clear over the course, the election cycle, and then was even more pronounced in the actual results than in the polls. So if you compare how Biden is doing the tipping point states, how he's doing nationally, it's actually a smaller gap than Clinton had based on real results. But it's larger, I think, than it was like seriously than it was at this point in the polls four years ago. There's kind of less awareness of how well Trump's coalition might play in the Electoral College, I think among pollsters, because of education weighting and people anchoring to 2012 and and other stuff.
Look, Biden is doing quite well. Who's up eight points? Something points to a national average right now. It's been a pretty stable lead there. Not that many undecided voters there are not serious no offense to Kanye West in a few states, third party candidates running. You know, there's more polarization now, which means there tend to be fewer swings in the polls. There is the elephant in the room, which is called covid-19, and how that could affect the election between now and November.
We haven't had the conventions yet. We don't know who the VP pick is yet. We haven't had any debates yet. And there's a lot of uncertainty. And so it's a different type of issue, right? It's more kind of macro level this year. And it's like, how sure can you? Because we certainly in the past have seen I mean, forget Clinton in some ways when people talk about 2016. If I can be kind. Or unkind, they reveal their ignorance a little bit about kind of how accurate polling really is or isn't a far greater concern for Biden than 2016 should be 1988, where Michael Dukakis was ahead by, you know, eight points at this point and lost the election by eight points or other years, where polls fluctuate very wildly.
2016, in the end, was a relatively minor polling error. And because Biden's lead is a little bit more robust from Clinton's, he could survive probably a 2016 style error, but it couldn't survive in 1988 style mistake.
I just kind of think like the reason to not be that confident and will come out when the model comes out and Biden's chances, because like it's early August, polls can be way off the final averages in early August. And although some things point toward narrower ranges of uncertainty, we also have covid and negative 30 whatever percent annualized GDP growth and and the protests and and Donald Trump being president and all these stories that can cause pols to shift potentially. And we're in a very polarized time where in the end, you might expect the election to tighten in a tight election.
Trump probably still has an edge in the Electoral College, but jumped out at me was I didn't know was that I don't think I realized how far Clinton was from 50 and how close or above 50 Biden is. And I think that is important because I think those the idea that there were so many undecided voters and there are so few less, it feels to me harder for my voter to go from Iten to maybe undecided to Trump or Biden to Trump. That feels like maybe I'm wrong with it feels like a different process.
And I think that's an important one. The second one is like looking at where we are right now is interesting because, you know, Biden's campaign seems to be they're getting a lot of sort of pressure to go into Georgia, going to Texas. It seems like they kind of announced we're going to be in Texas. But then if you look at the ad buy, it's very small. It's like they're kind of flirting with it. And I sort of think that's where we are a little bit now is like the polls have been steady for a while.
And one of the things I'm looking for is like, what does Biden do to not only win if he can, but also to ensure there's a Democratic Senate? And I think that's where you're looking at an eight point lead versus a five point lead versus a three point lead versus a 10 point lead. That's kind of what I'm watching sort of the most. Can you drag a senator into Georgia or Iowa or Texas? And I think right now the answer is yes.
And if I was like Biden's staff, I'd be thinking about how do we win by eight and not five? And so I don't know what that looks like, but I think that's a big part of where we're headed.
But isn't that also what Hillary Clinton ended up doing in 2016 and then was pretty widely criticized for it after the fact? She tried to expand the map instead of focusing in on the states that she actually needed to win and then didn't win Michigan, where, you know you know the story.
I mean, I'm not convinced this idea that she showed up in Wisconsin three more times, I'm a little skeptical of some of that. I just think this is a different election. So, I mean, I don't know exactly this is not my expertise, all the others on this. But it seems to me there's some amount of diminishing returns here. You can only spend I mean, every dollar in Georgia is not a waste that you didn't spend it in Wisconsin.
I don't think the math quite works that way. And so I'm not sure. I mean, also, the value of a Democratic Senate is extremely high. Otherwise, you know, if you obviously you shouldn't detract from winning the presidency. But I think the value of a Democratic Senate is really, really high. So I don't think that they should dismiss that either. Clinton campaigned extensively in Pennsylvania and lost that state just like she lost Michigan in Wisconsin right now.
She should have campaigned more in Michigan, in Wisconsin, and we should say nobody is campaigning on the ground much in any of the states anyway. So I guess we're talking more about resources and ad buys and things like that, their feet on the ground.
No, I mean, she should a campaign in Michigan, Wisconsin, and like you should have adopted a more defensive strategy. You know, I guess I guess the other issues this year are the Senate as well, was also in play in 2016. Right. But also this notion that, like Biden needs a landslide victory to prevent Trump from delegitimizing. The result, or even trying to I guess you would have to call it cheat his way to victory, right, by impounding mail ballots or something, I mean, I don't know how far to go with the speculation on that stuff.
Right. That's another argument you hear that wasn't in play as much in 20. 16, but these kids are raising plenty of money. You know what I mean? You can play offense and defense to its ridiculous amounts of money that these candidates have. You do encounter diminishing returns. And so, you know, my general advice to the Trump campaign and to the Biden campaign, I'm not supposed to give advice, but I advise both campaigns like don't pick and choose, play a pretty broad map.
Now, maybe the exceptions are big states that are more on the fringe, right.
So Texas is a very expensive investment. You'd better be sure that, like, if you're Biden or Trump, that you care about the symbolism of Texas, because I'm not sure that Texas is very often going to be the tipping point state, as we would call it.
Ohio is an interesting one in that it's actually polling surprisingly competitively, even with Biden a little bit ahead. But also, if Biden's doing well enough the Midwest to win Ohio, does he need Ohio? Maybe not. It's not as safe as a lot of competitive House seats. So but, you know, there are some choices to make there.
But like all the little weird states, there's nothing wrong with the Trump campaign making a play for New Mexico or Nevada or something like that. Right. Or for Biden playing defense in Colorado. All these small and medium sized states are not that expensive to campaign and they got plenty of money.
I want to throw this question to you as well about how much oscillation we can expect from set pieces like the conventions or the debates, because we saw a lot of that in 2016. And obviously we've seen that Biden's lead has been pretty steady. So I think the question is like, do we see more of an oscillation? Do we see Trump start to rise around the time of his convention, around the time of the debate? You actually had to think about this in creating the models.
So are you treating those things differently this year because of maybe the pandemic or lack of undecided voters?
Well, in general, convention bounces have gotten smaller because there are fewer undecided voters.
There are fewer swing voters. So used to be a convention bounce would be 12 points. Right. And it's been in recent elections more like five points, three to five points on average.
We ultimately decided in the model to assume there was going to be half the usual convention bounce. You have no one abbreviated programming, which maybe doesn't matter as much for like the networks. They don't usually carry an hour anyway. But like but for like CNN and on the Internet, people follow the conventions and a lot of different ways now. So there's less stuff to watch. Number two, it's mostly going to be virtual and I don't know. All right.
I mean, I've watched enough State of the Union responses. I've watched enough pandemic basketball and baseball and hockey to say, like, it does look unusual when you're not in front of a live audience.
You're also not going to have, for the most part, reporters there. And so you'll have coverage on TV about like you're not going to have as many New York Times or Washington Post stories about, like kind of what it all means. So I think there is reason to expect that the effect of the convention would be blunted, even though you're going to have a lot of people sitting at home bored also, especially for the Republican convention. It's not clear that these speeches are going to be terribly well thought through or staged.
You know, I mean, Trump, we don't even have that much clarity on kind of actually what their plans are necessarily.
And so so, yeah, you know, the debates, though, I think could matter as much as they always do. The debates people will be very intrigued by and Trump debating is an incumbent's. An intriguing story. And like, you know, at least Trump, you know, one prediction that came wrong. People were like, oh, Trump, who refused to debate. Apparently Trump campaign was actually wanting to add a fourth debate and or move up a debate earlier, which I think, by the way, is a pretty reasonable argument.
If you're having people vote early, then it might be good to have an early debate. But the council presidential debates is a commission or council anyway. The ruling authority said, no, we're going to keep the schedule as it is. But the debates, I think, could be super important. Sure. The conventions, though, I don't know. Please turn into five thirty eight for all our coverage of the really exciting conventions.
Yeah, I think we're actually going to have daily podcast during the conventions, daily life blogs and daily life blogs as well.
In wrapping up here, one way that the chattering classes look at campaigns is like, have you been able to define your opponent? And oftentimes the stories of the losers of past campaigns are told through the lens of, well, Hillary Clinton got defined this way or Mitt Romney got defined this way and was stuck in that position and really couldn't get out of it. Now, I don't know if that's actually how campaigns work.
And my assumption is that it's not perfectly reflective, actually, of how campaigns work. But I guess educate me, does your ability to define your opponent matter? And along that same line, has Trump simply not been able to define Joe Biden in the way opponents of past presidential candidates have been able to?
It is early yet, but I think with the coronavirus, it's just a lot harder to have the campaign events, especially for a candidate like Trump who thrives on the in-person rally.
But then he's tried to make the sleepy Joe monicker work. But he's been less successful in his attempts to say that Biden is part of the radical left right. He points to his favorite punching bags in the House and Senate in terms of a Cortez or Nancy Pelosi. But it doesn't seem to have the same resonance with someone like Biden because part of Biden's whole political career has been working with the other side of the aisle.
Right. He was called the McConnell whisperer. And I think what sums it up really well is now for the first night of the convention, you're going to have former Republican candidate in 2016, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders, who ran, you know, in 2016 and 2020 here against Biden and Michelle Obama are former first lady all on one night, kind of talking about the future of the Democratic Party. I think Biden looks at himself as the candidate who can unify all these different factions.
Right. And then for Trump, who needs to have some way to punch Biden down in terms of like an opponent, it just hasn't been as successful as with Clinton.
He could point to her emails, the scandals there. And look, you know, it's not October yet. There could be a surprise.
But I think to your point, if part of an election is defining your opponent, it's been really hard for Trump to do that successfully with Biden.
Do you all agree?
Yeah, I mean, I well, I would say that some of the campaign analysis of, like, you define your opponent as a little bit silly, but I do think it was helpful that Trump was viewed unfavorably, but he managed to make sure Clinton was also viewed unfavorably in 2016. You know, they both, by the end, have very high negatives. A lot of voters were like, I don't like both these people after the person I don't know, the new person, Trump vs.
. So I do think the next three months, I think with the protests not being covered by the media as much, not happening as much, maybe covid is not being covered as much as it was perhaps in in April or May. I do think and the veep I do think Trump has three months to now try to drive up the negatives of Biden and the VP candidate by calling them too liberal, by saying they're dishonest, by saying that, you know, the real vice president, the real president will be whoever Biden pick.
So I do think there's a potential for Trump to be successful at that. And I just because Biden has sort of done well so far, when I would argue a lot of people are not engaged in the campaign, voters wise, I don't I wouldn't rule out Trump being more successful in defining Biden and driving Biden's negatives up in these next three months. I think it's entirely possible that he can do that. It's possible, I think. Biden kind of ran as a candidate to prevent that Biden kind of ran is like I'm a generic Democrat and he's.
And he's white and he's a man and he's straight, and those things, I think, make it harder to define him in particular ways, right? He's Catholic, which is actually a bit unusual. He is kind of in the middle of his party. So, yeah, I don't know. I mean, I think, like, the Biden is just a Trojan horse for AOC and Pelosi. I think that can maybe work with a certain element of Trump's base.
I'm not sure it really persuade swing voters that much. Trump will have the opportunity to make some type of a sustained, coherent argument. Right. I wonder if it won't wind up being about protests or rallies after all. Let me be less euphemistic. Right. You know, you see now scenes in two cities, so Portland and Chicago, where you had more violent uprisings, especially Chicago overnight. You know, I wonder if Trump maybe unsuccessfully might try to resuscitate that theme, which I'm sure feeds a lot of his natural impulses toward more authoritarian thinking.
But I don't know.
I'm not confident that they're going to be able to say anything new about Biden that isn't kind of already priced into how voters are thinking, because I guess one question I have here this earlier is that Biden was ahead by about 10 in the average of polls around July 2nd. He's ahead by about eight. Now, is that is that real? Is that not real?
Because if, you know, Trump can gain two points in a month while behaving somewhat normally in his normal erratic behavior, maybe he can gain two points next month and at six. I mean, because I do think the protests in their most intense moments and the way Trump reacted to them were hurting him. And I don't think that factor will be around again. So I do wonder if Trump is going to come is in the midst of a small comeback.
But I'd be curious what you guys think. Ten to eight is not nothing, but it's not huge, but it's not something I don't, you know, look, I think. When people were sympathetic after George Floyd to the cause of Black Lives Matter, right, and in ways that were pretty robust, given that people had mixed feelings about that movement before. Right. And, you know, so it was the notion that, like, I don't know.
I mean, I remember kind of covering as a newsroom, it felt like there are these two big stories, covid and the protests and that Trump is. Somehow on the wrong side. Of both of them right now, it feels like there's one big story, it's covered after all right and maybe even more on the wrong side of that. His approval ratings on his handling, of course, would have continued to worsen, but it doesn't feel like there are multiple fronts as much.
And so that might that might help him a little bit. And that kind of opens a question of like, does he want to, like, resuscitate the protests as a theme or not? Would it be wise for him to do so? You know, it also gets a little bit toward the VP segment we talked about earlier, right. Where, you know, before Biden say is going to pick a woman, there was no particular expectation to be a black woman.
Then you had the protest became the major story. Right. And now with him fading a little bit, then maybe they're floating. Maybe it could be Gretchen Gretchen Whitmer, after all, who is more known for covid being the major issue.
So, yeah, no, I think I think it's plausible why Trump's closed a bit could also be kind of noise in the polls or whatever else. But yeah.
Yeah, we haven't gotten a lot of high quality. Recent polling is August downtime for pollsters.
I think what happens is the polls want to take it before and after snapshot with respect to the conventions. Right. Or if they can't don't afford both the before and after the wait until after.
So, yeah, my guess is you'll have some big national polls coming out late this week, preconvention and then another round after the conventions.
But that creates a drought kind of for the past week or two.
All right. Well, let's leave it there. We will see what happens, though. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Sarah. Thanks, Galen. And thank you very. Very girl. My name is Galen Droog. Tony Chow is in the virtual control room. You can get in touch by e-mailing us at podcasts at five thirty eight dotcom. You can also of course, tweeted us with questions or comments. If you're a fan of the show, leave us a rating or review in the Apple podcast store or tell someone about us.
Thanks for listening and we'll see you soon.