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Low enthusiasm for Biden? It might not actually hurt him

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 3/30/2020 Tiana Lowe
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Washington Examiner

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll has confirmed what the political commentariat has long suspected: Democrats who previously elected our first black president and then the first female nominee aren't terribly excited about voting for the 77-year-old Joe Biden.

Whereas 86% of registered Trump supporters polled reported being enthusiastic, just 74% of Biden's registered supporters said the same. More stark is the breakdown. Among Trump supporters, 55% reported being "very" enthusiastic, and 32% "somewhat so." For Biden, those figures were nearly reversed, with just 28% of his enthusiastic supporters claiming they were "very" enthusiastic and 46% saying they were "somewhat so."

That's not great news for Biden, but it still might not matter when it comes to Election Day.

For starters, the Washington Post noted that Mitt Romney, John McCain, and John Kerry, who all had enthusiasm deficits halfway through their general election years, managed to narrow their gaps by November — although yes, all three did lose. Democrats have disproportionately reported "beating Trump" as their highest priority this year, and they probably won't let Biden's ordinary-ness get in their way of showing up to vote.

With the coronavirus shutting down the country, even the most partisan and political of people are probably thinking more about their own lives than the presidential election. The pandemic has robbed Biden, who's clinched a nearly insurmountable lead over Bernie Sanders, of a chance to clinch the Democratic nomination de jure and declare himself the nominee.

Furthermore, Biden has made a calculated decision not to weaponize the coronavirus crisis. Although he has enlisted a shadow cabinet of sorts to critique Trump's handling of the pandemic publicly, Biden's own criticism of Trump has followed the narrative of his campaign, focusing on Trump's personal penchant for lying without vilifying the entire Republican Party. And even Chuck Todd tried to goad Biden into claiming Trump had "blood" on his hands, Biden refused to take the bait.

That's the honorable and right response to such a question — and also not one geared at galvanizing one's political base.

Furthermore, even if Biden maintains something of an enthusiasm gap, it may not matter as a pure issue of mathematics. Bernie Bros in San Francisco and Bushwick may loathe Biden and feel no interest in voting for him, but they'll never vote for Trump. And the suburban women who flipped the House in 2018 may not love Biden, but they might turn out in greater numbers for him than they did for Hillary Clinton, the most divisive woman among women in politics.

After all, even as general election polling tightens as it usually does with an incumbent, Biden has retained his dominance over Trump in swing states and counties where Trump and Clinton were within 10 points of each other in 2016.

There are still many factors making a Biden slam-dunk unlikely. The Democrat holds a narrow lead in Pennsylvania, but Trump hasn't yet had the chance to plaster the state with ads about fracking. If the economic recovery takes off quickly following the coronavirus, an incumbent presiding over a prosperous nation in peacetime will be extraordinarily hard to beat.

But none of these things has happened yet.

As Trump proved in 2016, you don't need to inspire high turnout or even win the popular vote to win the White House. You just need to win the Electoral College, and despite the narrative of lackluster polls, not one has proven that Biden's lost his ability to do just that.

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