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Tipsheet

Report: Biden in Deep, Deep Denial About His Bad Poll Numbers

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

We've been closely watching the polling situation in the 2024 presidential race, regularly highlighting data that illustrates President Joe Biden's precarious position as a highly vulnerable incumbent.  Earlier this week, we analyzed the latest New York Times/Siena numbers that show Biden trailing Trump in five of six swing states, and leading in the sixth by just one point.  A separate round of battleground polling published this week gave Trump an advantage in every state surveyed.  As things stand this week, in mid-May, the overall race looks -- well -- like this:

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One might think that Biden and his team are alarmed by their position at present, but according to an Axios report, one would be wrong.  The president and the people around him are unperturbed by the above graphic because, simply, they don't believe the polls:

President Biden doesn't believe his bad poll numbers, and neither do many of his closest advisers, according to people familiar with the matter. The dismissiveness of the poor polling is sincere, not public spin, according to Democrats who have spoken privately with the president and his team. That bedrock belief has informed Biden's largely steady-as-she-goes campaign — even as many Democrats outside the White House are agitating for the campaign to change direction, given that Biden is polling well behind where he was four years ago. The public polling simply doesn't reflect the president's support, they say...In public and private, Biden has been telling anyone who will listen that he's gaining ground — and is probably up — on Donald Trump in their rematch from 2020...Biden likes to cite his numbers in a recent PBS/Marist poll, which show him ahead...However he feels about all the public polls, Biden is clearly well briefed on them — and often goes deep into the cross tabs.

He sincerely doesn't believe the polls, but hypes up the ones with findings that he likes, and "often goes deep into the cross tabs" of data he dismisses.  Uh, okay.   The story notes that "polling errors in recent years prove that polling isn't destiny: Trump over-performed polls in 2016 and 2020, and Democrats did better than expected in many 2022 midterm contests."  It's true that Trump has over-performed his polling in his last two national elections (winning one, losing the other), and 2022 was a mixed bag.  Republicans were favored to win the House 'popular vote' by 2.5 points in the polling average; they won it by 2.8 percent.  It's possible that the dynamic has abruptly flipped and now Biden's standing is being underestimated by public polling vis-a-vis Trump -- but that's not how things have gone in the last two presidential cycles.  

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It's conceivable that the polling averages will be wrong this time -- in the incumbent's favor -- but "un-skewing the polls" often doesn't end well for people dismissing what the data is showing, especially if the data looks fairly dire.  Often, but not always.  Byron York, on the state of play:

In the past six months, Biden has traveled the country, touting what he believes are his economic accomplishments. He has spent zillions of dollars on advertising, focusing specifically on the key states. And at the same time, Trump was either preparing to go on trial or, since April 15, actually on trial in New York, facing a maximum of 136 years in prison. And Biden is still unable to catch Trump. Last month, CNN reported that from March 6, the day after Super Tuesday, through April 21, “Biden’s campaign and other Democratic advertisers spent $27.2 million on advertising for the presidential race, while the Trump campaign and GOP advertisers spent about $9.3 million, according to AdImpact data. The Biden campaign’s ad spending has included millions in key battleground states such as Michigan ($4.1 million), Pennsylvania ($3.9 million), Arizona ($2.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.2 million), and Georgia ($2.2 million). The Biden network has used its plentiful airtime to promote the administration’s first-term record and to slam Trump, focusing on key issues such as the cost of living and abortion rights.” ... Biden’s position is becoming quite serious. As RealClearPolitics analyst Sean Trende wrote recently, “The political science literature is pretty consistent that this is the time when the electorate’s views about the election start to harden, particularly with respect to the economy.” Yes, the Democratic dream that a prosecutor will save Biden is still alive, but the president’s situation looks more difficult every day.

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Biden shrugs off his apparent predicament at his own peril.  According to the Times results, his former supporters are abandoning him for concrete and understandable reasons.  If he's in denial about all of this, and he's wrong, he's blithely shuffling toward defeat:

And no, despite what some Biden supporters may be arguing, the NYT/Siena series has not historically been tilted toward Trump:

Study that chart for a moment.  This is the same polling series now showing Trump ahead nearly everywhere.  Biden believes or hopes that's all just incorrect.  Risky assumption, especially when this is how people are feeling about the number one issue:

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I'd humbly submit that repeatedly and verifiably lying about this problem is not likely to be a politically successful strategy, but that's what Biden appears to be going with:

He takes no responsibility, pretends he inherited a problem that he caused, and expects you to simply forget or ignore reality. Insulting. Trumpworld will have a lot of material to work with for ads over the next five months, even if they get vastly outspent.  On that front, I'll leave you with this:


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