Biden & Trump Running Neck in Neck Despite Their Negatives

Though President Joe Biden easily won the nation’s first 2024 democratic presidential primary in South Carolina recently, turnout by voters of color was less than robust which could manifest into tepid support on Election Day, November 5, 2024. Readers may recall that four years ago a strong turnout by Black voters in South Carolina catapulted Biden to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and later the presidency. Will voter apathy and disillusionment by people of color alter that trajectory? Fortunately for Biden, his primary opponent – former President Donald Trump – is damaged and strapped with his own troubles which is hindering Trump’s ability to focus exclusively on victory in November.    

Trump so far survived the January 6 insurrection but is currently facing 91 criminal charges in four nasty lawsuits that many believe are damaging his brand and electability while also costing him millions. Although Trump is counting on a big win over former U.N. Ambassador and governor Nikki Haley in South Carolina’s upcoming republican presidential primary to lock down his candidacy, the 538 Politics podcast is drawing attention to what they consider the central question of the 2024 election: What are the legal limits of presidential behavior? Trump has been pushing the envelope hard but appears to be hitting a brick wall.  

Since the Civil Rights era, voters of color have consistently aligned with Democrats. According to the Democratic data firm Catalist, 90% of Black voters nationwide cast their ballot for President Biden in 2020. Support for a Democratic presidential contender has slowly eroded since President Barack Obama’s last election in 2012, according to USA Today. During the summer and early fall, Trump did gain some support among voters of color almost entirely because of their dissatisfaction with the Biden administration. 

Trump had been enjoying a narrow lead over Biden but that lead has shrunk to one point in polls taken between February 11 and 14, according to Ron Faucheux. As Trump’s legal issues continue to manifest, the Biden campaign is betting it can pull away from the former president in the months remaining before the election.   

In a November 2023 poll by the New York Times and Sienna College, Black voters voiced their frustration regarding what the Times called “inaction” by the Biden Administration on their political priorities. In six of the most important battleground battle ground states, 22% of Black voters said they would support former President Trump while 71% lined up behind President Biden. A Republican presidential candidate has not won more than 12% of the Black vote in more than half a century, the Times reported. No Democratic presidential candidate has earned less than 80% of the Black vote in more than 50 years. The poll included voters who live in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, and Arizona. 

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake was quoted as saying that Biden was not “present” enough for Black voters and even younger voters. His support is especially weak among Millenials and the Gen Z generation, Black men, Black voters in rural areas and Black voters without a college degree, according to the data firm Catalist. An August 2023 poll by the Associated Press and NORC found that 77% of U.S. adults including 63% of Black adults believe that Biden is too old to effectively serve another four years. Though just a few years younger than Biden, Trump has mostly been able to avoid the “too old to govern” analogy.     

Voters of color are focused on issues including voting rights, abortion, the overdose epidemic caused by fentanyl, police accountability, immigration, student loan debt relief, affordable housing and inflation as well as economic and global uncertainties. These same voters want to understand the Biden/Harris team’s priorities for the second term, plus extract a ramped-up commitment for continued advocacy. 

With the endless polarization in Congress, the Biden Administration probably had fewer successes for voters of color than originally anticipated. Yet, consultants believe they accomplished many goals including diversifying the federal judiciary, obtaining more funding for HBCUs, increasing funding from the SBA for disadvantaged businesses, and reducing student loan debt for some. Those successes did not always trickle down to reach every voter. 

To better connect with voters of color, the Biden campaign has launched a multi-million- dollar program of outreach which includes special events, advertising on ethnic-owned radio stations, targeted social media, and personal appearances by the President and Vice President Kamala Harris.  

A recent story published by Politico made a correlation between Louisiana’s Black voters and the election of Republican Governor Jeff Landry. Landry was not predicted to win outright in the primary, especially because he had a Black opponent, Dr. Shawn Wilson. On election day Black voters and other Democrats did not go to the polls in big numbers which gave Landry his primary victory. In fact, turnout statewide was only 36% – 10 points less than the 2019 gubernatorial primary. White voters – and more Black voters than expected – came out for Landry. Turnout was even worse in many of the state’s parishes with the largest number of Black voters including Orleans Parish and East Baton Rouge. Louisiana-based Republican pollster John Couvillion called the state’s Black turnout “anemic.”  

A similar situation occurred last year in Mississippi which enjoys a 40% Black registration. Brandon Presley, a Democratic candidate for governor, spent several million dollars on get-out-the-vote efforts aimed at Black voters but was unable to win the election. Mississippi has not had a Democratic governor in almost 25 years.

Asian-American and Pacific Islanders also have concerns regarding the Maui fires, gun violence against Asian-Americans as well as other economic issues including inflation. Latino voters are more diverse in their views but are also worried about the economy. 

While Biden has not been able to fully satisfy voters of color, minority consultants say Trump has never even developed a serious agenda to address their problems. The possible addition of U.S. Senator Tim Scott or another voter of color to the ticket as vice president would provide some benefit but may not make up for years of neglect by Trump.  

The outcome of the 2024 presidential election could well rest with choices made by Black and Brown voters. Neither Biden nor Trump are perfect candidates but are nonetheless leading the pack. Whomever can best motivate the electorate in November will inevitably be sworn in as America’s next president on January 20, 2025.

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