Is Joe Biden the Front-runner? Not Really
Author: Greg Valliere
April 17, 2020
WE SEE THAT JOE BIDEN is assembling a White House transition team; we acknowledge that Donald Trump’s poll numbers have slipped; and we were impressed by the Democrats’ recent showing in Wisconsin. So is Biden now the November favorite? Not really; he’s no better than even odds.
BIDEN HAS A PLAUSIBLE PATH in the Electoral College (more on that below), but Trump has devised a win-win scenario on the coronavirus — if his call to gradually re-open the country is perceived as successful, with falling death rates, he will get credit as the economy and the markets improve.
IF, ON THE OTHER HAND, the re-opening is rocky, with new clusters of infection and public frustration over restrictions, he can blame the governors, who now will call the shots, Trump says. Or he can blame the WHO, the media, or Democrats. He’s got cover — no one plays the blame game like him.
TRUMP STILL HAS TO ANSWER for his administration’s policy paralysis in February and March, but he can spin better than any politician in our lifetimes. He will re-write history and insist that his banning of flights from China in late January was pivotal (it wasn’t).
YOU’D THINK THAT BIDEN has a good chance of winning the presidency, but he only leads by 5.5 points in the Real Clear Politics aggregate of all polls — that’s nothing; Hillary Clinton led by double digits in the summer of 2016 but lost the general election.
UNLIKE CLINTON, BIDEN has a major advantage — the Democrats are pretty united, and they were lukewarm at best toward her. But will progressives, young people and African-Americans turn out in big numbers for him? They will more than they did for Clinton, for sure, but there’s no great enthusiasm for Biden.
[THERE’S ENORMOUS ENTHUSIASM for Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom, and they both are likely to run — in 2024.]
MAKE NO MISTAKE — Biden will be on the receiving end of a brutal negative barrage, focusing on three issues: his business ties, with his son, to China; the whispering that has become deafening on Fox that Biden has early dementia; and film clips of his cringe-inducing unwanted touching of women.
IS THIS VALID? Republicans will blast Biden for going easy on China, which is becoming a huge virus villain, but Trump has frequently pandered to Chairman Xi. As for the women, there’s a hotly contested allegation that he sexually assaulted an aide 27 years ago; Trump, of course, has set that bar low. As for Biden’s mental state, he’s looked okay (but not great) in recent TV interviews.
THE NAME OF THIS GAME, of course, is winning 270 electoral votes, and we think the GOP got a wake-up call in Wisconsin, where their candidate for a state Supreme Court seat got clobbered by the Democrats. Four states Trump narrowly won in 2016 are in play — Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. If Biden captures those four states, he will win the presidency.
WE HATE SAYING THAT ANYTHING HAS A 50-50 CHANCE — that’s not very helpful — but for now we’d say Biden has an even chance of winning, which is FAR better than the oddsmakers and many people in the markets believe. The key factor will be how the economy looks on Labor Day — and Trump will spin it as improving, thanks to him.
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