We’ve talked about the recent rise in President Trump’s approval ratings. But over the weekend, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed another measure of political strength for the president that’s probably worth your attention.
Simply put, Republicans are more excited to vote for Mr. Trump than Democrats are for Joe Biden, their likely nominee.
According to the Post/ABC survey, 55 percent of registered voters who back Mr. Trump say they are very enthusiastic about supporting him, and 32 percent say they are somewhat enthusiastic. Among Mr. Biden’s supporters, just 28 percent say they are very enthusiastic, while 46 percent are somewhat enthusiastic.
Overall, there’s a 12-point enthusiasm gap between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden. Among the most excited voters, it’s an even bigger 27-point gap.
Pollsters, strategists and political types pay a lot of attention to the intensity of enthusiasm because it offers hints about who is likely to show up at the polls and who is likely to stay home. (We’re assuming “showing up at the polls” will still be a thing in November.) Campaigning in this polarized era is often less about persuading undecided voters and more about driving out your forces.
Here’s The Post on the history:
In May 2012, Mitt Romney, now a U.S. senator, had a strong enthusiasm deficit of 25 points against President Barack Obama in Post-ABC polling. In June 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was down 33 points on enthusiasm against Obama. In June 2004, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) faced a 16-point gap on enthusiasm in his campaign to unseat President George W. Bush. Romney, McCain and Kerry all managed to narrow that gap by November but ultimately lost their elections.
For much of this election cycle, both parties have been fairly energized. While Republicans have appeared slightly more enthusiastic in polling, Democratic turnout surged on Super Tuesday at the beginning of March, with record numbers of voters coming out to vote in the primaries.
So what’s happened over the past month? Oh, just this tiny, life-changing national crisis called the coronavirus.
Mr. Trump’s news briefings have become a ratings hit, while Mr. Biden is relegated to news media interviews, grainy virtual events and conference calls with experts from his house in Delaware. Mr. Trump’s backers have relished seeing him take a leadership role in the crisis.
But other voters are starting to pay less attention to the election entirely, as the campaign has entered a kind of coronavirus deep freeze. That’s a sentiment I heard from a number of people I spoke with this past weekend.
“It was all about election, election, election, but now it’s all about Covid-19,” Hannah Soule, a photographer in New York, told me. “I don’t know who I’ll support. It’s not something I’m thinking about in the moment. Right now, we’re just trying to survive.”
Despite the frozen state of the race, the new enthusiasm numbers show that Mr. Biden needs to work quickly to shore up support, particularly among younger and more liberal voters who have backed Senator Bernie Sanders. Courting them is complicated by the fact that Mr. Sanders remains in the race, though Mr. Biden is trying with virtual happy hour events aimed at young voters and policy plans targeting liberals.
It’s also difficult to be running for president while lacking the power to actually do anything, a situation that some Democrats fear could make Mr. Biden seem more like a distraction than a leader. A governor — like Andrew Cuomo of New York, whom some Democrats wistfully hope to draft into the presidential race — can demand supplies and issue executive orders.
Mr. Biden, well, he’s stuck on the sidelines, spending time on the phone consulting with medical experts and governors.
“Everything that I have done has been designed to be constructive,” he said, when asked during an interview on MSNBC today about whether he’s been visible enough during the past month.
But clearly the questioned rankled him: “Well, thanks for giving me the time. So they don’t wonder where I am,” he said, signing off.
This week: Draft Cuomo?
Our colleague Matt Flegenheimer just published an article about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s growing fan base, so he answered a couple of questions from our On Politics readers.
Is it too late to get Cuomo into the presidential race? Or would he run? Can’t help but be reminded that your comments about Joe’s fans’ “lack of passion” is exactly what Bernie said.
— Dudley Gilmer, Banner Elk, N.C.
I’m afraid any “Draft Cuomo” activists are likely to be disappointed, Dudley. The primary is both well underway and effectively stalled, with Joe Biden (whom Mr. Cuomo endorsed enthusiastically) holding a commanding delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. For all the affection he’s earned during the coronavirus outbreak, Mr. Cuomo is still a noncandidate with an escalating crisis on his hands. And for all the elaborate contested convention scenarios tossed around earlier this year, this one is almost certainly prohibitively far-fetched.
Any chance you could respond to the idea (notably crazy for these crazy times) that Biden and Bernie would agree to pledge their delegates to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is demonstrating himself to be the most presidential of any elected official?
— Eduardo Duarte, Portland, Maine
Doesn’t sound like a deal that Mr. Biden or Mr. Sanders would find agreeable! While Mr. Biden especially has praised Mr. Cuomo, a friend of his, for his leadership during the crisis, there is no indication that either existing candidate — still standing in a field that once included more than 20 contenders — has much interest in stepping aside to accommodate someone new. Especially when that someone new is quite busy.
We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at [email protected].
Be like Elmo!
Sesame Street has updated its classic tune, “Brushy Brush,” for the coronavirus age. It’s part of four new animated public service spots reminding young viewers to stay healthy during the pandemic.
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