Patrick Basham’s commentary on new Democracy Institute poll
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Patrick Basham's commentary on new Democracy Institute poll

Dead candidate walking – Biden misread public’s law and order mood, says PATRICK BASHAM

In any political campaign, there’s a moment that tells you which way the electoral wind is blowing. In this year’s American presidential campaign, that moment arrived on Wednesday.

Joe Biden restated his support for peaceful protests but, crucially, condemned the violence that has come to dominate the months-long nationwide protest movement.

When a candidate changes his tune three quarters of the way through a race, it is not because he knows he holds a winning hand. He does so because the electoral ground is shifting beneath his feet.

The Biden campaign made this move for one simple reason. Its own internal polling numbers revealed what Democracy Institute/Sunday Express polls have shown for the past three months: the overwhelming majority of Americans, including Black voters, are opposed to the organised anarchy – looting, vandalism, mayhem, and murdering of innocent people – explicitly and implicitly cheered on by a considerable cabal of Democratic politicians, while an even large number simply turned a blind eye.

Although Biden never condoned the violence, neither did he bother to publicly denounce it, at least not with any vigour, conviction, or regularity. By the end of August, the electoral writing was on the wall. Should voters continue to rally to President Trump’s clarion call for a return to safe streets and fully funded police departments, Biden’s candidacy would be dead in the water.

So, Biden finally acted; but, has the law and order horse already bolted the political stable? Our polling evidence suggests most definitely that it has, as two-thirds of voters still say Biden hasn’t been critical enough of the riots.

Public perception of the inane nature of the protests took a serious turn for the negative during the past week, following violent events in the Wisconsin town of Kenosha. Our latest poll asked voters whether or not these particular protests made them more likely to vote for Trump?

The result is telling. By a ratio of five-to-two, voters are more, rather than less, likely to vote for Trump due to the chaotic events in Wisconsin.

Such is the American voter’s growing appetite for a return to safe streets and peaceful neighbourhoods that, according to our poll, the issue is now clearly the most important one in deciding how they will vote in November. Last month, law and order did not make our poll’s list of top issue concerns.

Joe Biden and his Democrats have only themselves to blame. They have been completely tone-deaf on the issue.

These past months, Democracy Institute/Sunday Express polling found that, while most Americans supported the original notion of peaceful protests against the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and against racial injustice generally, they drew the line when the protests seemed to become more about intimidation, arson, property destruction, political revolution, and even murder, of both police officers and innocent civilians.

Two weeks ago, the Biden campaign had the perfect opportunity to address this massive public perception problem. The four days of the Democratic National Convention, which formally nominated the presidential ticket of Biden and his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, provided the campaign with countless prime time hours to denounce the violence and call for a return to civil political protest, discourse, and debate.

Instead, the Democrats spoke not a single word about the riots that now dominate the thoughts and fears of ordinary Americans, including many traditional Democratic voters, Black small business owners, and White suburban women. The latter demographic group, a longstanding weakness for the Trump campaign, is increasingly taking a second look at Trump, as the threat of urban violence and mob rule literally seeps into the affluent areas surrounding many of America’s major cities.

That is why our new poll finds no traditional convention bounce for Biden. Stunningly, in fact, the convention actually hurt Biden’s chances. Only 8 percent of voters are more likely to vote for Biden because of the Democratic convention, but 13 percent are less likely to do so.

Just as the Biden campaign completely missed the mark with its one note, “America is a racist hell dying of the coronavirus – and it’s ALL Trump’s fault” convention mantra, the Trump campaign hit an electoral home run this past week with its staging and execution of the Republican National Convention.

Trump’s convention was predictably scathing about Biden’s record and policy prescriptions. But, perceptively, the convention was proud of America’s past, positive about her present, and optimistic about America’s future, in complete contrast to the dark, dour, and deeply negative themes and narratives that characterised the Democrats’ convention.

With the further assistance of far superior stage management and production values, as well as politically astute speaker selection (i.e. lots of regular Americans, not the Hollywood celebrities favoured by the Democratic convention organisers), the Republican convention improved Trump’s well-established (at least in our polling) chances of reelection.

Today, just 9 percent of voters are less likely to vote for Trump because of his convention; strikingly, 21 percent are more likely to do so. In so deeply divided a political nation, characterised by an ever-dwindling band of truly undecided ‘swing’ voters, those numbers represent an electoral breakthrough.

This presidential election has been Donald Trump’s to lose for some time now, as our polling has documented. The events of the past fortnight probably will be recalled as the period when Joe Biden actually lost the election.

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