President Donald Trump’s campaign has been trying to paint Joe Biden as a stooge for the far left. A new poll shows why it’s not working.
Only 17 percent of registered voters perceive the former vice president as more liberal than most Democrats, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult survey, while nearly two-thirds see him as in line with or more conservative than the party at large. The survey also found that a larger proportion of the electorate views Biden as moderate (23 percent) than sees Trump that way (9 percent).
The findings underscore the difficulty of turning Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, into an unacceptable choice for independent and suburban voters by tying him to the most progressive figures in the Democratic Party. After eight years as vice president and dozens more as a split-the-difference senator, Biden has a well-formed reputation among many voters.
Trump is still trying. At his first rally since the coronavirus outbreak began, the president cast Biden as a “helpless puppet of the radical left” and misleadingly claimed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was spearheading Biden’s environmental policy.
“I just don’t see suburban voters buying in on that,” said Ryan Costello, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. “We just had a Democratic primary campaign where everybody on the left attacked Biden. That’s still fresh in people’s minds, in addition to the fact that over the past 30-plus years he was in the Senate and vice president, I don’t think anyone mistook him for being a leading, confrontational progressive.”
There is at least one cause for hope for Trump in the poll: Forty-one percent of voters agreed with the statement that Biden is “more liberal than me,” and 20 percent didn’t know or had no opinion on the matter, meaning that they may be persuadable.
But roughly the same percentage of voters said they didn’t know or had no opinion on whether Trump was more liberal or conservative than them. And four months from the general election, it is clear Trump’s attempts to label Biden as a pawn for the left wing have largely been unsuccessful so far.
People aren’t stupid and they know he’s not a left-winger. But Trump isn’t completely off base in his assessment.
Biden is smack in the mainstream of the Democratic party. (For a lot of us that’s part of the problem.) But the party has moved substantially to left over the past 20 years and as it’s moved, he’s moved with it. In other words, the mainstream is more liberal than it used to be.
Biden has always gone with the flow. When it moved right, he did too. Now that it’s moving left, he’s going that way. I can’t say that’s a particularly inspiring form of “leadership” but it’s not the worst form either. He is at least responsive to the people which is at the heart of democratic governance. But he’s not going to pave the way to major progress on his own. The people are going to have to demand it.
I don’t think people really understand this about him and simply accept him as the moderate old white guy, compared to the lefty old white guy he just beat in the primary. Trump can’t run against him as if he’s Bernie Sanders and his attempt to paint him as suffering from dementia isn’t going to stick either, particularly since he sounds fine and Trump himself seems to be more addled than ever. Good old Joe isn’t a hippie. Never was, never will be.
Published with permission of Hullabaloo