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Trump's the frontrunner as Biden has no message on economy and immigration

OpinionTrump's the frontrunner as Biden has no message on economy and immigration

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While Joe Biden is in striking distance of Donald Trump in the polls, the way the White House is approaching the upcoming election does not provide us with any degree of confidence they have a winning strategy, approach or message other than demonizing Trump as they did in 2020 and 2022.

The problem with this approach is that elections tend to be a referendum on incumbent politicians, most of all. And so far, the polls show that currently, voters feel better about how their quality of life was under Trump than it is under Biden, suggesting that this is a contest the incumbent is much more likely to lose than to win.

A new national poll by Schoen Cooperman Research shows former President Trump leading President Biden by two points (47% to 45%). RealClear Politics’ general election polling average comes to a similar conclusion, with Trump leading Biden 47.5% to 45.5%.

split screen images of President Biden (Left) and Donald Trump (Right)

President Biden and former President Trump (Fox News)

Worse, Biden’s approval rating sits at 38%, according the latest Wall Street Journal poll and averages 39.6 points on RCP. In our experience, when an incumbent has an approval rating below 40%, it is virtually impossible for him to be re-elected. Therefore, this is not just a warning sign, but a sign of a near-death electoral experience.

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Our polling shows more than one-third (35%) of Democratic voters believe their party should nominate someone other than Joe Biden. Further, half of respondents (50%) think Biden is mentally unfit to be president, compared to 44% who think the same of Trump. 

And to make matters worse, Biden is losing on virtually every issue compared to Trump, especially on the economy (51% to 40%) and the border (58% to 29%).

But as one of us (Doug Schoen) has advised a president in the White House under analogous circumstances, we both recognize that the White House is facing far more serious problems than Bill Clinton did after doubts emerged following a blowout for Democrats in the 1994 midterm elections.

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The difference is that Clinton understood, as he told Mark Penn and Doug Schoen, that he had to change course, and fast, following 1994. Clinton got tough on crime, worked on a bipartisan basis to reduce the nation’s debt, and embraced values-related issues like welfare reform. He understood that repositioning was essential to his re-election chances.

Until recently, Joe Biden has campaigned on “Bidenomics,” which, judging by the polls, has been a manifest failure. Despite what Biden says about job creation and the economy being revitalized, the American people don’t feel the same way. 

As was expressed in the latest CBS poll, Americans feel the economy is worse under Biden than it was under Trump by a difference of 27 points (65% to 38%). A new editorial in the Wall Street Journal shows that while Biden’s marks on the economy are improving – his overall economic approval has risen 10 points (31%) in two months and voters are seven points more likely (43%) to say their personal finances are improving over that same period – more than two-thirds of voters still express frustration over inflation. 

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This will be a powerful obstacle to overcome, and the White House has not shown an interest in or ability to face the problem head-on. 

Biden must speak directly to the American people about inflation and address their concerns about the cost of living, including how it has impacted their everyday lives. If he can do this, he will continue his positive trajectory on the economy, as noted in the Wall Street Journal, and improve his record on economic leadership. 

As for immigration, a new Morning Consult poll shows voters are 16% more likely (66%) to say the issue of immigration is “very important” to them compared to only 50% who said the same in 2022. And indeed, there has been no sustained, unilateral effort by the administration to fix the southern border crisis after the collapse of the bipartisan immigration deal. It remains unclear, with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas maintaining there is little Biden can do without Congress, and the House and Senate Republicans arguing the opposite, whether the president can take action.

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In our opinion, however, Biden needs to use executive orders to unilaterally tighten the southern border, strengthen and restrict the asylum process, and show leadership on an issue which he has been virtually silent on except for the failed bipartisan bill on immigration and funding for the wars in Israel and Ukraine. 

But, in the absence of any sincere policy proposals by the White House, it can and should be expected that Trump’s almost 30-point lead on immigration will continue indefinitely.

In 1995, Schoen remembers strategizing with Clinton about what could be done to mobilize independent swing voters, and those that turned against Clinton for moving to the left. It was Clinton’s singular focus and one that our firm was able to help him successfully navigate. 

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But right now, we both doubt that this White House is willing, able or inclined to consider an alternative approach other than attacking Donald Trump as they did, albeit successfully, in 2020 and 2022.

For the first time, we think it fair to say Trump is the clear favorite in the race for the presidency. Whether that will continue remains the central question of the next eight months.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM DOUG SCHOEN

Carly Cooperman is CEO of Schoen Cooperman Research.

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