Biden’s support is broad but shallow

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On the roster: Biden’s support is broad but shallow – Trump in crisis meeting with govs: ‘Most of you are weak’ – Biden closing in on magic number – Florida grads

Joe Biden
 is trying to do something no one has accomplished in 20 years: Get elected president without the intense support from a core group of voters.

The latest WaPo/ABC News poll continues a run of bad auguries for President Trump’s re-election hopes. In a head-to-head matchup with Biden, Trump trails by 10 points, an eight-point swing from the previous survey taken the week after Trump declared a national emergency for coronavirus.

Trump dropped 4 points from March to 43 percent and Biden floated up above the magic majority threshold to 53 percent. At this time four years ago, Trump led Hillary Clinton 46 percent to 44 percent in the same poll.

This tracks with all the recent polling that shows voters’ frustration with Trump’s leadership, with lower scores on handling the coronavirus and his administration overall.

Biden pretty plainly hopes that as voters grow weary of the agonies of a year dominated by a health crisis, an economic catastrophe and now, racial unrest, that voters will care more about changing the status quo than anything the challenger says or does. But that comes with its own risks in this era of hyper-partisanship.

The WaPo/ABC News pollsters asked respondents about the certitude of their support for their chosen candidate. A sky-high 87 percent of Trump voters said they “definitely would” cast their ballots for the incumbent, 10 points higher than at a similar point four years ago. 

On the other hand, only 74 percent of Biden voters said they were certain to stick with their man. That puts Biden about where both Trump and Clinton were in the spring of 2016.

Some of the gap between Trump and Biden on voter intensity may be another part of the incumbent/challenger dynamic. No one wonders what a Trump presidency would be like, while Biden, despite his many decades in public life, is a less-known commodity.

But we have to think that some of this relates to Biden’s low-impact approach.

While Barack Obama certainly built a broad coalition in his 2008 victory, there was no doubt that he had an active core group of supporters on whom he could depend. The worshipful treatment of Obama by his supporters was on par with the near-religious zeal with which the Trump faithful follow the president.

You have to go back all the way to George W. Bush in 2000 to find a winning candidate who was trying to win more on breadth of support rather than depth of intensity. It’s hard to remember given all that would transpire, but Bush ran as “a uniter, not a divider.”

Bush touted his bipartisan credentials from Texas and promised an administration that respected other points of view. After the never-ending tumult and rancorous partisanship of the Clinton years, Bush offered a de-escalation.

That is the antithesis of most politics today, which relies on division rather than addition. For many cycles now, both parties have focused on trying to fire up their base with strong appeals to negative partisanship. While Biden certainly attacks Trump regularly, he is careful to be conciliatory toward Republicans, even talking about having a bipartisan cabinet.

That all sounds nice, but there is a reason that campaigns have come to adapt the tactics of Civil War ironclads: Keep your armor up, stay low and try to sink your opponent below the water line.

Broad support is great, but tends to be shallow. Intense, narrow support is durable. And there are lots of reasons to wonder about the durability of Biden’s coalition.

As the campaign slogs on the intensity and frequency of Trump’s attacks on Biden will intensify. You can consider the GOP’s efforts with Tara Reade’s accusation against Biden the model for what is to come. He will be branded as a disloyal American, a creep, a crook and an incompetent in advertisements backed by more than a billion dollars.

It won’t matter whether Trump can convince persuadable voters to come all the way over to his side, just that he can suppress what little enthusiasm for Biden that already exists and shrink the electorate. 

It has been hard for the Trump campaign to do given the magnitude of the incumbent’s struggles in office of late, but it would only take a few weeks of a more normal political cycle to get the focus back on Biden and his alleged deficiencies.

Democrats’ hatred for Trump may be enough to get Biden through in a replay of 2016’s race to bottom. There are plenty of folks who would vote for anyone other than Trump, whether they shot someone on Fifth Avenue or not. Negative intensity may be a sufficient replacement.

But as Biden aims for a big win, he does so without the kind of fanatical support that either Trump or Obama could claim.

“…it is easy to see that jealousies and uneasinesses may gradually slide into the minds and cabinets of other nations, and that we are not to expect that they should regard our advancement in union, in power and consequence by land and by sea, with an eye of indifference and composure.” – John JayFederalist No. 4

History: “On June 1, 1968, Helen Keller dies in Easton, Connecticut, at the age of 87. Blind and deaf from infancy, Keller circumvented her disabilities to become a world-renowned writer and lecturer. … Keller [was] an accomplished writer, publishing, among other books, The World I Live In (1908), Out of the Dark (1913), My Religion (1927), Helen Keller’s Journal (1938), and Teacher (1955). In 1913, she began lecturing, with the aid of an interpreter, primarily on behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind. Her lecture tours took her several times around the world, and she did much to remove the stigmas and ignorance surrounding sight and hearing disorders, which historically had often resulted in the committal of the blind and deaf to asylums. Helen Keller was also outspoken in other areas and supported socialism all her life. For her work on behalf of the blind and the deaf, she was widely honored and in 1964 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Lyndon B. Johnson.” 

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (103 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15)
Lean R/Likely R: (186 electoral votes) 
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]

Average approval: 43.4 percent
Average disapproval: 52.6 percent
Net Score: -10.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 1.8 points
[Average includes: ABC News/WaPo: 45% approve – 53% disapprove; American Research Group: 40% approve – 57% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 42% approve – 53% disapprove; CNN: 46% approve – 51% disapprove.]

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AP: “President Donald Trump on Monday derided the nation’s governors as ‘weak’ and demanded tougher crackdowns on protesters in the aftermath of another night of violent protests in dozens of American cities. Trump spoke to governors on a video teleconference with law enforcement and national security officials, telling the local leaders they ‘have to get much tougher’ amid nationwide protests and criticizing their responses. ‘Most of you are weak,’ Trump said. ‘You have to arrest people.’ … The president urged the governors to deploy the National Guard, which he credited for helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis. He demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced a spasm of violence, like New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. ‘You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again,’ said Trump. ‘We’re doing it in Washington, D.C. We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before.’”

Trump waited out riot in bunker – NYT: “Inside the White House, the mood was bristling with tension. Hundreds of protesters were gathering outside the gates, shouting curses at President Trump and in some cases throwing bricks and bottles. Nervous for his safety, Secret Service agents abruptly rushed the president to the underground bunker used in the past during terrorist attacks. … After days in which the empathy he expressed for George Floyd, the man killed, was overshadowed by his combative threats to ramp up violence against looters and rioters, Mr. Trump spent Sunday out of sight, even as some of his campaign advisers were recommending that he deliver a nationally televised address before another night of violence. The building was even emptier than usual as some White House officials planning to work were told not to come in case of renewed unrest.”

Biden heads to black church for meeting on killings, riots – AP: “Joe Biden vowed to address ‘institutional racism’ in his first 100 days in office as he met with community leaders at a predominantly African American church in Delaware Monday morning, leaving home for a second consecutive day to address exploding racial tensions that have begun to reshape the upcoming presidential election. … But after another night of violent protests, the 77-year-old Democrat gathered with roughly a dozen local black leaders during an intimate meeting in his hometown ahead of a virtual meeting with mayors from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and St. Paul, Minnesota. ‘Hate just hides. It doesn’t go away, and when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen into the hate under the rocks, it comes out from under the rocks,’ Biden said, his face mask lowered around his chin, after several participants shared their thoughts on police brutality. If elected, he promised to ‘deal with institutional racism’ and set up a police oversight body in his first 100 days in office.”

Greg Sargent: Biden may disappoint activists – WaPo: “With protests spreading across the country, President Trump’s advisers at first urged him on Sunday night to give a nationally televised address. But they ultimately calculated this wasn’t a good idea, because he didn’t have anything new to say or announce. … The extraordinary vacuum of leadership this has created gives Joe Biden a big opening. But how will he use it? Biden advisers tell me we can expect a few things. First, they say, we can expect Biden to place more emphasis in coming days on the need for more expansive use of the Justice Department to crack down on systemic police department racism and abuses. … Second, they say, we can expect more of an effort from Biden to speak to the nation in the manner he believes a president should do at a moment like this. … After talking to the Biden campaign, I’m persuaded that they reject this fundamental premise, though they may not prove willing to go as far in proposing reform as some might want.”

Fox News: “The former vice president currently has 1,566 delegates to [Bernie] Sanders‘ 1,007. Biden needs 425 more delegates to secure the 1,991 majority of delegates needed to win the nomination, a total he can theoretically secure on Tuesday. Among the seven states that vote in the Democratic presidential primary Tuesday – Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses, is holding its primary for non-presidential offices – there are 479 delegates available. Biden, the only game in town, could theoretically lace up the Democratic nomination if he gets 425 or more of those delegates. But voters can still select candidates besides Biden on their ballots, and Sanders has previously said he still hopes to amass delegates in the later primaries in a bid to gain influence at the Democratic convention later this year.”

Other races to watch Tuesday – USA Today: “The primary in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District will determine whether Republican voters in this largely rural district spanning northwest Iowa return Rep. Steve King to office. … Iowa has a competitive Democratic primary for the nomination to take on Republican incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst. … Ernst’s seat is seen by some analysts as a pick-up opportunity for Democrats looking to take back the Senate. … New Mexico’s Second Congressional District sprawls across the southern half of the state and is represented by Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.  Republicans eye the district as a potential pickup opportunity given its general Republican lean. … [New Mexico’s] Third Congressional District has attracted a crowded field of Democratic candidates to succeed Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is running for Senate. … Maryland, which rescheduled its primaries from April 28, will vote in several congressional primaries on Tuesday.”

N.C. Health and Human Services secretary presses GOP for more convention details – Politico

Pergram: SpaceX and the House of Representatives shared something in common last week – Fox News

“Y’all doing that for us, but we didn’t ask you to do that.” – A black woman telling vandals at a Starbucks in Los Angeles to stop what they were doing. The viral video shows two white women spray-painting the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

“For us 2020 voters there’s this lingering question: ‘Is our unconventional President an authentic person?’ Forgive me if I missed it, but I would like to hear more from you on the authenticity thing. You’ve pointed out before how voters knew who they were getting in 2016 – ‘warts and all’. Oh for the ‘good ol’ days’ of elite whining, ‘but his warts are so unpresidential!’ Now it’s full-on, ‘The devil has to be outed from our heaven!’ (or most recently, ‘I’ll vote a rapist with some good points, unlike this Satan with none!’). So it could be that 40-50% of voters prefer to see the ‘rough edges, warts and all’. Many of the rest may yet figure out they run an ‘outrage machine’ of their own, demanding a more polished President decent enough to cover up in the make-up room – yes, like Barack Obama (PS. After 8 years some of that smooth, presidential stuff must have rubbed off on our good ol’ Joe.) What think ye of authenticity?” – John Entermann, Anacortes, Wash.

[Ed. note: Your calling Biden a rapist reminds me of how ineffective Democrats were in using those attacks against Trump in 2016. Republicans just did not care. Even after multiple accusers and Trump on tape laughing about committing sexual assault, it wasn’t enough. Even Republicans who may have believed some of the allegations against Trump decided they would overlook those things to deny Hillary Clinton the presidency. Republicans are now frustrated that Democrats are not applying their standard for Trump to their own candidate. And before that, Democrats were frustrated that Republicans wouldn’t apply the standards for honesty and leadership they upheld for Obama to Trump. And on and on and on and on… I don’t think it has much at all to do with authenticity. I think it has a great deal to do with stone-drunk partisanship. This is why we try so hard to tune out partisan assessments on matters related to character, morality and personality. Forty to 50 percent of the electorate is going to vote for each side no matter how great a “devil” the other side says their nominee is.]

“In an essay back in 1954 when I foolishly thought that the Cubs will come alive in ‘55, Jacques Barzun, a prominent cultural historian, wrote ‘Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules, and reality of the game.’ Though the world may regard association football (soccer) as ‘the beautiful game,’ that’s principally because it approximates the exquisite combination of team, strategy, and individual that marks baseball. …as one whose fondest wish was to sit with Charles Krauthammer and George Will in Washington during a Nationals-Cubs game, I miss it dearly — not only for the play on the field but also the by-play of fans between each pitch. In fact, I miss it so much that I’d even settle for watching a Cubs-Cardinals game on television in my living room with you.” – Bob Foys, Chicago

[Ed. note: To watch baseball with Charles was perfection. His heart and mind were exactly attuned to the rhythm of the game. And while it would be a heck of a downgrade for you, I like the idea of us watching the Cardinals and Cubs. Let’s just hope that it’s at Busch or Wrigley and in the sunshine next year, and, of course, that the good guys win…]]

“It’s always a pleasure for me to stumble upon an unexpected baseball column, but I have to respectfully disagree with your framing of the issue in Friday’s newsletter. I say this as a classical liberal who is the first to jump to the defense of Bezos, Gates, etc.: blaming the players for this mess — or even assigning them half the blame — is immensely unfair.  Yes, they ‘play a game’ for a living. But they’re also the very best couple hundred people in the world at what they do. They often come from rags and work incredibly hard — harder than most of us — under immense public scrutiny while playing that game. And their playing of that game isn’t just some afternoon leisurely activity for bragging rights among friends, but something that generates billions in profits for the people who own MLB clubs as side investments (every team is a side investment — none of the owners innovated their way into achieving a better kind of baseball team). … The owners never ask the players to take a pay increase mid-season when revenue projections are greater than expected. They need to learn to live with both sides of the coin — or at a minimum open up their financial books to actually prove the losses they’re complaining about. Otherwise, they’re just using this national tragedy to extort the people who would actually provide us with a joyous distraction — the players whose jerseys we wear and live vicariously through all year long. Please don’t conflate my frustration over our national pastime with any issue with the great work you and Brianna do — I eagerly read every word of the note every single day.” – Mike Greenberg, Los Angeles

[Ed. note: Thank you for your very thoughtful note, Mr. Greenberg. And I offer the following with equal respect: I am completely uninterested in blame casting. I’m sure you’re right to some degree that the owners are being greedy and self-interested. I don’t care. I’m sure the owners are right to some degree that the players are being greedy and self-interested. And I also don’t care. I’ll stipulate both for the record. But this is about acting like grownups and trying to get to “yes.” There are lots more rational reasons to not play at all this season than there are to play. But the biggest reason on the side of playing is simple: It is their duty, and if they shirk it, they are unworthy of the privileges afforded to them. If owners and players are so self-interested that they can’t figure this out, then Major League Baseball deserves our disdain. And I promise you that if they agree to disagree there will be millions of Americans who stop caring about people who don’t care about them. Being a grown up, especially in a leadership position, means that you have to do the hard things. In this case, that means both sides not treating this like a regular labor negotiation, but rather a relief mission for their fellow Americans in a very tough spot. Then can go right back to hating each other’s guts.]

“Thank you for being such a calm voice in a very turbulent political storm (and using history as a guide without shoving it down people’s throats).  I don’t want this to become a sloppy fan girl letter (although I am tempted to write so many complimentary things), but I do want you to know that every day I look forward to your Halftime Report.  I don’t always read want I want to hear, but I always learn something new and look at things from a different perspective.” – Jennifer Newell, Santa Barbara, Calif.

[Ed. note: Your note was so kind, Ms. Newell that I almost couldn’t bring myself to publish it… Almost. Thank you for your warm words and great support. Readers like you are exactly why we are here.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

WCJB: “A group of Florida high school seniors held their graduation ceremony in a classic Floridian way, on jet skis. The pomp and circumstance for the graduating seniors of Somerset Island Prep in Key West included water and the sound of the jet skis’ motors. The nearly one dozen now-graduates of the public charter school each drove a jet ski to an anchored boat, where the school’s principal handed them their diploma. The principal handed the students their diplomas with a grabber though in order to ensure social distancing protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic were followed. The unique graduation took place on May 26. The seniors wore their graduation caps and gowns over life jackets and face masks. ‘The idea to have a Jet Ski graduation is a perfect example of the innovative mindset that permeates Somerset Island Prep,’ Todd German, Somerset Academy’s governing board chair, said in a statement, according to Storyful.”

“It seems to me obvious that machines will achieve consciousness. After all, we did, and with very humble beginnings.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Nov. 21, 2003.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.

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