By Arul Louis
New York, June 22 (IANS) Democratic Party’s former Vice President Joe Biden is holding his lead over US President Donald Trump in opinion polls and even increasing it in some as the COVID-19 pandemic and the national movement against police brutality against African Americans and racism challenge the incumbent’s leadership.
The latest Fox News poll taken showed Biden, who is assured of his party’s nomination to take on Trump in the November 3 election, ahead by 12 per cent — 50 to 38 per cent. The poll was taken June 13 to 16.
But his lead was two per cent less than a CNN poll taken from June 2 to 5 that showed Biden ahead by 14 per cent — 55 to 41 per cent.
The Quinnipiac poll taken around the same time as the Fox News poll showed only an eight per cent lead for Biden and an Economist/YouGov poll, also around the same period, had Biden leading by nine per cent.
However, the RealClear Politics averages of several polls showed Biden’s leads over Trump steadily increasing from 6.8 per cent on June 1 to 9.5 per cent on Friday.
In terms of optics, Trump had a setback over the weekend with his campaign reboot rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, did not draw the expected crowd of supporters raising questions about the depth of his support.
The 19,000-seat stadium for his first campaign rally since March was not filled and organisers cancelled an outdoor rally because not enough people turned up.
It was not clear if it was a diminution of supporters as several media critical of Trump reported that the Chinese social media, TikTok, was used to sabotage the turnout for the Trump rally.
These media reports said that a campaign on TikTok had Trump opponents signing up for the rally in large numbers to keep out his supporters.
After getting tickets they did not attend the rally, depriving some Trump supporters of attendance.
The leftist Democratic House of Representatives member, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortes, admitted the role of the Chinese-owned social media, tweeting to a Trump campaign official, “Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok.”
The incident draws attention to the possibility of China influencing the presidential election through its social media assets as Russia had in 2016, but using US socialAmedia.
Biden has been holding a lead, starting September 4, when the RealClear Politics charting of the aggregation of Trump versus Biden polls starts with a 9.9 per cent lead for the Democrat, and his lowest lead was down to 4 per cent in mid-January.
Among individual polls, one by CNN in mid-January and another by Public Policy Polling in late March had shown Biden with a 17 per cent lead.
Democratic Party leaders have warned against complacency citing the 2016 experience when the party’s candidate Hillary Clinton lost after leading in polls and in popular votes because of the way the US election system is set up.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who is from Biden’s home state of Delaware, told Politico, “I think the easiest way to ensure Trump’s reelection is to be overconfident. Too many Democrats are looking at national polls and finding them encouraging.”
“Too many Democrats assumed that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in and didn’t vote or didn’t work,” he added.
Another sign of potential trouble for Trump is Biden’s lead Trump in four swing states which the president had carried in 2016.
The states, which are called battleground states because neither party locks down the voting, play an important role in the election’s final outcome.
Trump has a slender 0.6 per cent lead in only one, North Carolina.
The battleground states have a crucial role because popularity in opinion polls or even votes polled nationally do not always translate into an election victory as the president is elected indirectly through the electoral college made up of delegates representing the presidential candidates whom the voters elect in reality.
In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton received 2.1 per cent more votes nationally than Trump, but was defeated because in the electoral college Trump had 304 electors to her 227.
It operates like Indian parliamentary elections where the number of Lok Sabha seats do not accurately reflect the popular votes because of how the supporters of various parties are unevenly distributed.
In yet another warning sign for Trump, his overall job approval rate is a negative 12.4 per cent — 55.3 per cent disapproving to 42. 9 per cent approving — and even lower at a negative 13.3 per cent on his handling the COVID-19 pandemic, according to RealClear Politics averages.
Two factors that could play an important role in the outcome of the election are the anti-police brutality and anti-racism protests sweeping the US and the COVID-19 pandemic and both parties are counting on them.
Democrats expect both to help Biden, the protests energising the party base and the pandemic raising questions about Trump’s competence.
Republicans count on the fallout of the anti-racism protests helping Trump due to surging crime and demands to remove memorials for the nation’s founding fathers like George Washington because they had owned slaves.
Trump said at his Saturday rally, “The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrating our monuments, our beautiful monuments, tear down our statues.”
Trump backers also hope that re-opening the economy as COVID-19 restrictions are loosened without infections reaching the catastrophic levels seen in mid-April and progress is made on a vaccine,Aas the president hopes.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])