Biden and the Democrats target landslide win in November election
— 3 minute read — By Sam Portillo
Joe Biden’s march towards the Democratic nomination was largely unimpressive. Progressives Sanders and Warren offered more exciting visions. Younger candidates, like Buttigieg and Harris, outshone him on the campaign trail and debate stage. Now he commands support of the party, however, Biden finds himself in a strong position to take the presidency this November.
After a resounding win in the South Carolina primary, fellow centrist competitors Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out of the competition, endorsing Biden’s campaign alongside popular Texas politician Beto O’Rourke the day before fifteen states held their votes on Super Tuesday. Ten victories for Biden cemented his place as the strongest alternative to Sanders, and endorsements from Michael Bloomberg, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker followed.
The former Vice President’s victory in South Carolina, which political commentators widely regard as a lucky resurrection moment, represents something bigger: Biden’s timeless electoral strength – his appeal to socially conservative demographics.
In 2008, Obama chose Biden as his running mate to counterbalance the sense of new that would come with electing the first African American president. During his thirty-six years as a senator for Delaware, he had earned respect and recognition from both sides of the political aisle and forged friendships with Republicans such as John McCain along the way.
Compared to the national average, South Carolina has a disproportionately African American and Christian population. Although the Democrat is unlikely to win the state, his popularity among such voters places him in good stead to challenge Trump in similar Southern battlegrounds.
Aggregate polling makes Biden strong favourite to win Florida, which voted for Trump in 2016. Having voted for the Republican candidate in each of the last ten presidential elections, Texas came within 215,000 votes of electing a Democrat senator in 2018. If Biden wins both these states, he will already have 67 electoral college votes more than Hillary Clinton achieved in 2016.
The Democrats are also looking to win back the group of traditionally-industrial northern states known as the Rust Belt. Workers in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, thousands having lost jobs to automation and globalisation, and having never fully recovered from the financial crash, were endeared by Trump’s promise to return exported jobs to American workers. Nonetheless, poverty and unemployment persisted. Now, workers find themselves at risk from both a highly-infectious virus and business closures.
A moderate Democrat who supports the armed forces and private healthcare, Biden must speak to the younger, progressive wing of the party if he is to inspire enough voters to turnout. For this reason, he has embraced the challenges of the day with an ambitious agenda designed in collaboration with Sanders’ policy team. Among other things, Biden promises to raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hr (over £11), reinstate and expand the reach of the Affordable Care Act and work towards decarbonising the economy by 2050.
The choice of Kamala Harris as running mate was obvious for all the right reasons. She is relatively young, with the right age and experience to lead the “next generation” of Democrats. In the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is important that ethnic minority voters feel they are represented at the highest level of politics. A black woman herself who was born to immigrant parents, Harris promises to make the issue of racial injustice a personal one.
The first presidential debate, held in Cleveland, Ohio, with a socially distant and silent crowd, exposed the weaknesses of both candidates. Trump’s bombastic rants, often overrunning the allocated two minutes and interrupting Biden’s speech, put him at odds with the moderator and audiences at home, with 6 in 10 television viewers believing the veteran Democrat won on the night.
In Biden and Harris, the Democrats have a competent and respected ticket ready to take advantage of the sitting president’s unique unpopularity. But the result of this election may have long been hidden in gradual demographic shifts, as the country – notably Republican states like Texas and Florida – becomes less white over time. With the pro- and anti-Trump camps fairly settled, the election will be decided on the day- boiling down to exactly who and how many vote.