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Democrats on edge as Biden-Trump fight nears end

The Hill logo The Hill 10/31/2020 Amie Parnes
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: Democrats on edge as Biden-Trump fight nears end © Getty Images Democrats on edge as Biden-Trump fight nears end

Democrats are on edge going into the final weekend of the general election campaign, but say they believe Joe Biden has been doing enough to win the White House and defeat President Trump.

"We're all f---ing nervous as shit," one Democratic strategist said. "But the stars aligned for us, I think. And I think that's good enough. I think we'll have a different outcome this time around. I hope so, anyway."

Much of the apprehension for Democrats is rooted in the shocking defeat by Trump in 2016, when they expected their nominee, Hillary Clinton, to win but she fell short.

There have also been grumblings about Biden's light travel schedule and the campaign's organizing and door-knocking operation beginning later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, as the Democratic strategist said, "I think it'll be enough to put us over the finish line."

They also say that while they are nervous, this cycle feels different than 2016.

Biden has been campaigning in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the three states that cost Clinton, and most polls show him with a durable lead.

He is also contending in Iowa, Ohio and Florida, along with states seen as long shots for Democrats, such as Texas and Georgia.

All of those states are seen as toss-ups, as is Arizona, another state won by Trump in 2016.

Wins in any of them could give Biden some breathing room.

"After 2016, Democrats will never again feel confident about where they stand, even when the data paints a clear picture," said Democratic strategist Mike Morey, who served as a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).


Video: Biden: Trump 'has simply given up' on COVID-19 (Reuters - US Video Online)

"That said, the map is as wide as it ever has been and the polling has shown remarkable consistency, with little-to-no fluctuation. Vice President Biden has approached the final weeks of this campaign with the kind of balance that we need -and have been missing -in the White House."

Biden, who will turn 78 next month, spent much of the general election sidelined because of the pandemic, which Democrats say was both positive and negative for the Democratic nominee.

It would set the tone of his campaign, telegraphing to voters that Biden and his team believed in following science and social distancing at rallies. It also intentionally served as a contrast to Trump, who defied guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and held rallies with thousands of jam-packed supporters. At the same time, it kept Biden off the campaign trail, where he could make headlines and draw cable news commentary.

Because of the pandemic, Biden's campaign was also late to traditional organizing including door-knocking and in-person interactions. At the start of the fall, they surprised Democrats - including former aides to former President Obama - by saying they would run an all-virtual organizing operation. After seeing the consternation it had caused, Biden's camp quickly reversed course.

But some say they wonder if it was all enough.

"Biden ran the campaign he was comfortable running," Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo said, adding that he still has some doubts about the outreach to Hispanic voters.

"I believe given a pandemic he has done everything he could do to get voters to vote, but we all know the gold standard is door knocking, let's hope they knocked on enough doors to win," he said.

That is a sentiment echoed by other Democrats who for months have openly wondered about how Biden could keep up with an opponent who was constantly on the move.

As recently as this month, as Biden sought to run out the clock with leads in most battleground states, Democrats privately opined that he should be doing more.

"Staying in the basement or even in Delaware wasn't an option," said one mega donor at the time. "They knew they had to do more."

This week, that donor was feeling more optimistic. "I'm glad he is going to all the swing states," the donor said earlier this week.

Democratic strategist Joel Payne said he thinks "Democrats are set up to have a good night on Tuesday, from Joe Biden all the way down the ballot."

Still, Democrats are bracing for the unknown, Payne said, including the possibility of voter suppression.

"We know the president is going to restrict ballot access and try to throw out votes," Payne said. "There must be no back down from the get out the vote efforts and the fight to protect voters from Republican efforts to suppress and disenfranchise."

Jon Favreau, who served as a chief speechwriter to President Obama during his administration and on both of his presidential campaigns, said he was "hopeful" about the election during his "Pod Saves America" podcast.

"I'm not optimistic or pessimistic because optimism is guessing what might happen. I am hopeful," he said. "Because hope is about believing that you can make something happen."

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