Apr 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump aides eye benefits of Biden's low profile


Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some advisers to President Trump have been envying Joe Biden's comparative invisibility in the daily news cycle, watching with unease as Biden seems to benefit from his lower profile during the coronavirus crisis.

Driving the news: The presumptive Democratic nominee is beating Trump in national and key state polls. This week, a barrage of swing-state polls showed Biden's position strengthening as he remains largely out of the public eye.

Between the lines: The data most bothering Trump's advisers is the president's softening standing among senior citizens — a cohort most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

  • Morning Consult polling shows that net approval of Trump's handling of the crisis among those 65+ decreased from +19 on March 16 to -1 on April 19.
  • Among voters 55+, Trump's Gallup approval rating has descended from 56% in January amid impeachment to 45% this month.
  • "I have told him repeatedly, he needs to always keep in mind that this is the group that is most scared," said a source advising Trump on his messaging.

Meanwhile, Biden's favorability with older voters is helping him.

  • In the Florida Quinnipiac poll where he leads Trump by 4 points, Biden led by 10 points among voters 65 and older. Exit polls from 2016 showed Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 17 points there among seniors.
  • In the Michigan Fox News poll where he leads Trump by 8 points, Biden leads by 18 among baby boomers.

What Trumpworld is seeing: Trump is no longer benefiting from being a leader in a crisis.

  • His approval rating hit a high point in March, but opinion turned sharply against him in April.
  • His overall approval rating has fallen as approval of his handling of the coronavirus crisis has plunged.

Several advisers to Trump argue that these polls will likely be Biden's high watermark.

  • Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said: "The president and his task force have the country to themselves for two hours each day. Biden-in-Hidin' has helped Joe for now. Eventually, he will need to face the music — and the voters. The debates will be the most watched in history."
  • David Urban, who ran Trump's Pennsylvania campaign in 2016 and remains close to the president, has been tweeting out polls from 2016 to remind people how wrong they were.

The other side: TJ Ducklo, national spokesman for Biden campaign, told Axios, “Donald Trump spending less time in the briefing room is a welcome development for Americans' anxiety levels, but cannot erase the truth that will haunt him until November: He ignored early warnings about the virus and thousands of Americans lives have been lost that didn't have to be."

  • "The less Biden himself is exposed, the less his own warts are explored, and the more he becomes a generic Democrat, the better his own chances may be," Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, told Axios.
Go deeper