Biden goes with Harris. His acceptance speech will set campaign tone

Biden/Harris campaign

This week is Joe Biden’s moment in the spotlight. After keeping his campaign mostly low-key with small digital events since he became his party’s presumptive nominee at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the former vice president will accept the Democratic presidential nod via virtual speech on Thursday.

His selection of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate will be flaunted at the convention in hopes of exciting Democrats to vote for the Biden ticket. Harris is at once the most expected, conventional choice and a historic choice, pleasing rank-and-file Democrats by making a black and South Asian woman the presumptive vice presidential nominee.

Picking Harris, who repeatedly adopted far-left policies before walking them back during her own presidential run, also reflects Biden’s changing approach to governance and the presidency. Biden increasingly sees himself as a Franklin Delano Roosevelt-like transition figure and is happy to adopt positions further to the left than he ran on in the Democratic primary in an effort to unify the more moderate and far-left wings of the party.

While Biden maintains an average national poll lead of around 7 points, those on his campaign and other Democrats continuously warn not to become complacent due to the favorable poll numbers, citing the 2016 election.

“The thing I’m looking for is: Can Donald Trump get this to a 4-point race?” Democratic analyst and consultant Mary Anne Mash told the Washington Examiner last week. “That’s where the 2016 race was as it went into Election Day.” —  by Emily Larsen

The Biden acceptance speech: What does he have to do?

On Thursday, Joe Biden will give his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. We asked people of varying backgrounds and ideologies to weight in what they thought Biden should and/or will focus on in his speech:

Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report: “Right now, this election is between Donald Trump and Not Donald Trump. That’s worked out pretty well thus far for Biden. But a presidential candidate has to be able to give voters a reason to vote for him/her. What we know that voters are desperate for at this moment is leadership — someone who can navigate and articulate a path forward. That’s the job ahead of him at this convention. No need to make it about Trump.”

Max Burns, Democratic strategist — “Biden needs to focus on two key areas: convincing hesitant Republicans that his administration will be a safe and predictable alternative to Trump’s play-it-by-ear presidency and refining a national message that sells key progressive wish list items like climate action and criminal justice reform to voters turned off by how toxic the partisanship around those issues has become.”

Erick Erickson, conservative commentator — “I think his focus will have to be on unity and competence. Biden and Trump both need people off the sidelines. Biden gets the Left off the sidelines with a VP pick. He gets the moderates and independents to come out for him by highlighting his ability to competently steer government and unite people for a common purpose. Essentially, Biden needs to make the case that these are insane times largely because of Trump and that he can bring calm back to our lives.”

Shermichael Singleton, political analyst — “Biden needs to present a clear message to the American people that goes deeper than, ‘Trump is terrible, so elect me.’ His words need to be forward-thinking and aspirational. In essence, he needs to give people something to look forward to. Thus far, he’s running on, ‘I’m going to make things normal again,’ and that doesn’t generate excitement.”

Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe — “Joe Biden should use his speech to explain how his presidency will provide Americans with a return to normalcy. How he will fight to preserve constitutional norms, defend the rule of law, and respect checks and balances of Madisonian democracy that Donald Trump ignores. Biden also needs to speak out against the lawless extremists in Portland and across America who spread chaos and undermine the cause of George Floyd, John Lewis, and Martin Luther King Jr.”

Jesse Ferguson, Former Deputy National Press Secretary for Hillary Clinton — “This is one of Joe Biden’s best moments to speak to the whole of the country and showcase how he’s the antidote to Donald Trump. People need to come away with confidence that he’ll bring a stabilizing approach and trust that he can start to cure what Trump has done to us – from the corruption of our government to the division of our nation to the pandemic on our people. Everyone knows that Donald Trump only cares about looking good, so now they can see the antidote is Joe Biden who has spent his life doing good.”

Trump-Pence Campaign: Taking on the Harris choice

After months of attacking presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, known variously as “Beijing Biden,” “Hidin’ Biden,” and “Sleepy Joe,” Trump’s reelection team has a new target: Harris. Biden announced the California Democrat as his running mate ahead of the national convention, and the Trump campaign wasted no time in trying to define her.

“Phony Kamala” is Trump’s nickname for Harris, which the campaign hopes will join the annals of Trump sobriquets alongside “Low Energy Jeb” and “Crooked Hillary.” It’s a Trump branding exercise designed to capture some political weakness as the essence of a given opponent. Harris has a reputation among detractors for political opportunism. This perception helped doom her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination — but not before she leveled her attacks on Biden, which the Trump campaign has also been quick to use against the Democratic ticket.

Team Trump has launched many volleys against Harris, whose nomination takes on added importance because Biden would be the oldest president in U.S. history. Too many, said Patrick Hynes, a communications consultant who advised the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and John McCain. Both the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have called her a radical, a disappointment to progressives, a reckless prosecutor — charges that may be individually true, Hynes said, but taken together add up to “muddled messaging.” GOP operatives say the key is to find and land on one line of attack and prosecute it through Election Day. —  by W. James Antle III

House Races: Is Don Young vulnerable?

The list of Rep. Don Young’s politically incorrect utterances over his 47-year House career is too long to recount. Eyeing November, Democrats think the Alaska Republican’s off-the-cuff approach will catch up with him just as swing state polls show voters getting weary of Trump’s incendiary style.

The House Democrats’ campaign arm is once again arguing that Young is vulnerable. It’s something it’s been trying since Young, now 87, first won Alaska’s lone House seat in a March 1973 special election.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is talking up the chances of Alyse Galvin, who is running as an independent along Democratic lines, emphasizing the former, since Alaska remains a Republican-leaning state.

A Public Policy Polling survey released July 10 shows Galvin, a professional educator by background, leading Young 43%-41%.

Democrats point to the epic list of Young’s controversial statements. In 2010, Young described the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as “not an environmental disaster” but a “natural” phenomenon. And in 2014, the former tugboat captain told a group of high school students who were mourning the suicide of a classmate that suicides could be blamed on a “lack of support” from family and friends.

That’s just a sampling of old statements Democrats are dredging up, implicitly linking the most senior House member, known as its dean, to Trump. Alaskans are tired of being embarrassed by their leaders in Washington, goes this line of argument.

There’s some reason to think this is having an effect. That same PPP poll shows Trump leading Biden in Alaska 48%-45%, which would make for the closest Republican win in the state since 1960.

But Young doesn’t seem to be sweating it and is confident of reelection. Young’s campaign website says he is “fortunate to have been named among the top 10 most effective lawmakers in Congress, crediting a laser-like focus on Alaska policy issues and the ability to move bills through the legislative process.” — by David Mark

Senate Races: Democrats on the march, but Gary Peters stands alone

Michigan’s junior senator is one of two vulnerable Democrats on the fall ballot — and the only one up for reelection in a swing state. Senate Democrats are expressing confidence about Peters, pointing to sizable leads over Republican challenger John James in most public opinion polls. But the incumbent might be more concerned than his colleagues back in Washington. This month, the senator took to the airwaves in conservative northern Michigan (not metropolitan Detroit) to highlight his cooperation with Trump to protect the state’s cherry crop from unfair trade practices by Turkey.

“Gary even went directly to President Trump in the White House,” cherry grower association CFO Nels Veliquette says in a television advertisement from the Peters campaign, as a flattering picture of Trump flashes on the screen.

Trump is especially reviled on the Left — and the president trails presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Michigan in any event, weighed down by voter dissatisfaction with his handling of the coronavirus. In tying himself to such a president, even in a geographically targeted ad, Peters is signaling that he believes he has a fight on his hands with James down the stretch of the fall campaign. And with Republicans defending a narrow three-seat majority and under threat in as many as seven states, whether Peters can hang on could determine the balance of power in the Senate come 2021. —  by David Drucker

Latest polling news

In the RealClearPolitics average in a head-to-head matchup, Biden leads Trump by just over 7 points. The good news for Trump? Hillary Clinton had a similar lead at this time in 2016. The bad news for Trump? He hasn’t led in national poll since February. Naturally, the question remains whether Joe Biden gets a “convention bump,” but with the pandemic affecting the event to the point that Biden won’t accept the nomination in person, it remains to be seen what happens in the days after. In the battleground states, Biden enjoys small leads in three states that Trump won in 2016 that had been Democratic strongholds — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

On the Senate side, elections raters at RealClearPolitics declared last week that South Carolina’s Senate race is a “toss-up” despite incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham having an average polling lead of 8 points over Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison. Republican Sen. Martha McSally is hoping to fend off astronaut Mark Kelly, but she has about half the money in her war chest that he has as of July 15: $11 million compared to $21.2 million. Recent polls consistently show Kelly with a lead, sometimes a double-digit lead.

In the House, Republicans are not optimistic about taking back control but could still see some gains and not losses. Republicans think they may be able to flip some Democratic-held seats that Trump won, such as longtime Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson’s seat in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District. A Republican internal poll last week found his challenger, former Minnesota Lt. Gov. Michelle Fishbach, ahead of Peterson by 10 points. —  by Emily Larsen and Jay Caruso

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