Our First Week at Unite the Country

Unite the County has been live for a week now, and we are excited about the early responses. Initial fundraising has been quite encouraging, and we are in the midst of a research project in the early states to inform our work.  More on this to come.

That being said, we wanted to share with you a sense of how we see the race today, why we are confident about Vice President Biden’s chances to secure the Democratic nomination, and to defeat President Trump a year from now.

There is already a ton of evidence showing Vice President Biden is the strongest candidate to take on President Trump.  In fact, President Trump’s own actions, from asking foreign governments to smear Joe Biden, to the tens of millions they are spending to try to pick the nominee, make it quite clear who they do not want to face.

This week a series of New York Times battleground polls showed just how close this race will be, that notwithstanding polls showing Trump’s unpopularity nationally, in battleground states, he is doing quite well.  In fact, the New York Times battleground polls released on Monday show that Trump today would win enough electoral votes to defeat either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.  Only Joe Biden was found to have a pathway to a win – and specifically in their polling, a pathway to 318 electoral votes.   Furthermore, Joe Biden leads the Democratic field by 8 points in those battleground states, demonstrating Democrats in the states that will decide the Presidency believe Joe Biden is the strongest nominee.

But we know we can’t get to that point without Biden first winning the nomination.  So let’s start with the big picture of the Democratic primary: If you look at the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Joe Biden today holds an 7.7% average lead over his nearest rival, and has led in 19 of the last 21 polls.   Of note, the average of the polls in the weeks leading up to his announcement showed him with an average lead of about 6.3% — and what is interesting, Biden’s average vote total is almost identical. Morning Consult, a polling outfit that has published weekly polls for Politico since the start of 2019, reports a very similar path – with Biden today at 32% (a 12 point lead over Warren and Sanders), nearly identical to the 30% he was at the week before he got in the race. 

In other words, despite all the attacks from Trump, as well as the critical and skeptical coverage he has received as a front runner, his support level has remained strong and consistent. 

Biden’s lead is rooted in one singular fact:  he is the only candidate whose coalition looks like America.   Take the ABC News/Washington Post poll from last week, a poll which showed a five-point Biden lead nationally.  Within that poll, Biden is the only candidate in the race to earn more than 30% of the vote share from both Black voters, and other non-white voters (the poll did not break out ethnicities). In the same poll, the race was essentially tied among white voters. This explains Biden’s nomination path, and his challenges.  

Let’s start with Iowa and New Hampshire. Nationally, white voters make up just over 60% of Democratic voters, while in Iowa and New Hampshire, the white share of the vote is over 90%, and since white voters are fairly evenly split in national polls, it isn’t surprising to see Iowa and New Hampshire tightly packed.  For example, both the New York Times and Quinnipiac University Iowa polls show four candidates grouped within five points of each other, indicating a completely wide-open field.  We plan to compete aggressively in Iowa, where the race truly is up for grabs, and all of the first four states

But when you move beyond these first two, there is a different story. Two polls this week showed Biden with a growing lead in Nevada, a state where non-white voters make up about 1/3rd of the electorate, while poll after poll has shown Biden with a very strong lead in South Carolina, a state where the African American segment of the electorate makes up roughly 60% of the vote. Recent polls in Texas, North Carolina, and Arizona, all diverse states voting in March show a similar pattern.

Move forward to Super Tuesday, where 1,339 delegates are up for grabs, roughly 1,000 will be chosen in states where the non-white share of the vote is at least 1/3rd, including states such as Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Virginia, where the Democratic primary vote looks much more like South Carolina than it does Iowa and New Hampshire. Much like Secretary Clinton did after Iowa and New Hampshire, there is a very real path for Biden to get on a run to roll up delegates in the contests that come in the 6 weeks following New Hampshire.  

In fact, contrary to the way the race has often been covered, the overall Democratic map really favors a candidate like Joe Biden who can build a broad coalition.  Throughout the entire nomination process, states that are more than 90% white (like Iowa and New Hampshire), will chose only 282 delegates, less than 8% of the total elected (pledged) delegates, while states where the population is less than 60% white will select over 40% of the available delegates.

One other thing works in Vice President Biden’s favor:  his coalition allows him to compete more broadly for delegates in these individual states.   In the Democratic primary, the bulk of delegates are chosen at the congressional level (or in Texas, at the state senate level), where the results within each constituency are plugged into a formula that determines how many delegates are awarded. In order to receive delegates in a given district, a candidate needs to earn 15% of the vote, and right now, Biden is the one candidate in the race whose coalition allows him to compete for delegates everywhere, while other candidates could be shut out in communities if their support levels remain low. 

This is where our work comes in. Trump is spending considerable sums in the early states, particularly Iowa, in a hope to stop Biden’s momentum before he can get to the states where his coalition works to his benefit.  Trump’s digital advantage has been well documented, and just this week alone, the Trump campaign spent $250,000 in negative ads in Iowa and Nevada. He wants to choose the nominee, and we aren’t willing to let that happen. We have the only candidate ready to be President on Day 1, who also happens to be the best candidate positioned to beat Trump – what we need now is the resources to close the spending gaps in the early states, and aggressively push back on Trump’s attacks.