Either President Biden does not know about the polls that show he is trailing Donald Trump in mock matchups in key battleground states, or he’s the relentless optimist who beat the odds to win the White House and has chosen not to believe most of them. Which is it is not immediately clear.
Asked why he’s lagging behind the Republican frontrunner, Biden shot back last week that it was “because you don’t read the polls.” Maybe he meant election returns. Just two days earlier, Democrats had won off-year victories in states like Ohio and Kentucky, and Biden was bullish as he walked to Marine One.
“Ten polls. Eight of them, I’m beating him in those places. Eight of them. You guys only do two – CNN and New York Times. Check it out. Check it out. We’ll get you a copy of all those other polls,” Biden promised Fox News.
“You don’t believe you’re trailing in battleground states?” Peter Doocy asked. “No, I don’t,” the president replied.
The polling in question, a New York Times/Siena poll of battleground states, set off what some worried liberals are describing as “a five-alarm fire.” The survey findings that shocked Washington showed Biden losing to former President Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Publicly, the administration shrugged.
“We don’t put much stock in polls,” Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday after the press secretary took a moment to note how Biden beat the odds in 2020 and braced for a red wave that “didn’t materialize” in 2022.
But when asked which polls the president was referring to, specifically the ones he said showed him “beating” Trump in swing states, the White House referred RealClearPolitics to the Biden campaign, which pointed RCP to four recent polls of three battleground states.
A Meredith College poll released Monday shows Biden leading Trump 40% to 39% in North Carolina, a state Republicans won in 2020 by a single point. But according to the RCP average, Trump leads Biden in North Carolina by nine points.
Two polls from last week showed Biden maintaining a slim lead over Trump in Michigan. An Emerson College poll found the Democrat ahead of the Republican 45% to 43%. A Morning Consult poll reported a similar result, with Biden at 38% to Trump’s 37%. The RCP average in that state, meanwhile, has Trump leading by a single digit.
The Biden campaign did not reply when asked about the remaining five of eight states that the president referenced. This far out from the election, they find this kind of scramble both tiresome and repetitive.
Worrisome polling like the New York Times/Siena survey drives headlines and sets cable news aflutter, they feel, while polling more positive to the president gets lost in the news. Pundits, meanwhile, order premature autopsies months before voters even cast their ballots. It isn’t all that different from the last time Biden was all but considered a dead man walking.
“You all declare me dead,” he told the New York Times in 2020, “and guess what? I ain’t dead. I’m not going to die.” Unconvinced, the paper’s editorial board later endorsed Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who didn’t make it to “Super Tuesday,” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who didn’t even carry her home state.
The Biden campaign is now similarly prickly. It released a campaign memo last week dismissing again “the same polls that have gotten it wrong time and time again.”
“As pundits breathlessly make predictions based on polling, it is important to remember that President Biden, just three years ago, won more votes than any candidate for president in American history – 81 million votes,” wrote Michael Tyler, the campaign communications director. “And he is the only one to ever defeat Donald Trump,” Tyler added. “The American people had a chance to reelect Trump and they said no.”
The memo included eight recent polls. Six showed Biden up over Trump. Two had them tied. All of the surveys were national. None were specific to the battleground states that will be critical to winning or losing the White House.
“There’s no doubt this will be a very close election. Joe Biden has been counted out time and time again and proved pollsters and pundits wrong. His campaign is ignoring the noise and building the strong campaign it needs to win – just like in 2020,” the memo concluded.