Joe Biden’s campaign is mounting an aggressive behind-the-scenes effort to address the biggest weakness of his candidacy: A lack of enthusiasm among the liberal base, particularly young voters.
Since his landslide victories earlier this month, Biden’s advisers have engaged in talks with a range of top progressive groups, including some that endorsed his chief rival, Bernie Sanders, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversations. The outreach to left-wing organizations and individuals — representing causes from climate change and immigrant rights to gun control and mobilizing underserved black and brown communities — is focused on young activists. Broadly speaking, they viewed Biden as one of the least-inspiring candidates in the sprawling Democratic primary field.
It’s a delicate dance for both sides. For one, Sanders is still in the race. Plus, the progressives recognize that their time and leverage to influence Biden is limited since he’s all but wrapped up the nomination. Still, Biden needs to fix his enthusiasm deficit, which was partly masked by his wins this month, and it’s far from certain that antipathy toward President Donald Trump alone will do the job.
The activists are seeking commitments from the Biden campaign on their issues, knowing that any headway is likely to be on the margins; Biden, for instance, will never come close to Sanders on policies like “Medicare for All.” It’s a distinct letdown for them after coming tantalizingly close to getting Sanders as the nominee. To win the nomination now, Sanders would need to win more than 60 percent of the remaining delegates.
“The dirty little secret is everyone’s talking to Biden’s campaign,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of the liberal think tank Data for Progress. “There will be fights, but at the end of the day, progressives still hold votes in the Senate and increasingly Democratic voters stand behind our views. I expect we’ll see Biden embracing key planks of the ambitious agenda progressives have outlined on issues like climate and pharmaceutical policy.”
Biden’s team is treating the project like a minicampaign. It has formed an internal working group dedicated to outreach to progressives, which met this week, and is crafting a timeline of engagement over the next few weeks. Senior Biden advisers Symone Sanders and Cristóbal Alex, along with policy director Stef Feldman, are leading the effort.
Politico reports that Biden’s team has reached out to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Indivisible, The Sunrise Movement along with advisors from both Elizabeth Warren and Jay Inslee’s presidential campaigns. The article also notes that Biden has already adopted Warren’s bankruptcy plan and Bernie Sanders tuition free college plan. Biden is also in agreement with Sanders on this:
Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders joined state lawmakers in New York and California in calls to freeze and forgive rent payments, as millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet under coronavirus lockdown.
Both Sanders and Biden followed several state-level Democrats in demanding a 90-day or three-month moratorium in tenants paying rent to landlords. After nationwide U.S. confirmed cases of coronavirus surpassed 100,000 Friday, Biden concurred with California Governor Gavin Newsom's executive order protecting renters from eviction as a direct result of medical or employment issues tied to COVID-19. Sanders offered his support on Saturday to New York State Senator Mike Gianaris, who is leading “#CancelRent” calls, and who proposed Senate Bill 8125A Friday to suspend rent payments for small businesses and tenants who've either had their paychecks eliminated or reduced by the coronavirus quarantine.
Gianaris told Newsweek Saturday the logic of his legislative proposal is simple: how can renters be expected to pay rent when the government has — with good reason — suspended their employment?
“Let's start from the bottom-up and protect tenants whose job was taken from them by an act of the government, and whose most pressing financial obligation for the 90-day period is paying rent,” Gianaris told Newsweek by phone Saturday afternoon. “[The federal bailout] supports the big boys — airlines, banks – but we should provide help for small businesses and lower income tenants to soften the landing at end of the crisis.”
Sanders, the progressive Vermont senator agreed Saturday on Twitter: “Along with pausing mortgage payments, evictions, and utility shutoffs, we must place a moratorium on rent payments, especially in states hardest-hit by the coronavirus like New York. We must build on the important work @sengianaris and others are doing to make this happen.”
Speaking Friday night at a CNN town hall, Biden said of rent payments, “Freeze it and forgive it so that you're able to stay in that place … There should be a rent freeze. No one should be evicted during this period — period.” The vice president added that stipulations would include helping small businesses and targeting people whose income is below $75,000.
With the first of the month looming for April, California Governor Newsom on Friday ordered a moratorium on evictions through the end of May for people hit by job loss, furlough, loss of hours, sick leave or medical expenses. Under the California stipulations, tenants must notify landlords within seven days of failure to make a rent payment and must provide documentation from a doctor or employer regarding their circumstances.
Progressive groups believe that there is plenty of opportunity for Biden to adopt more of their policies and Biden’s campaign understands that they cannot take progressives for granted. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll has Biden leading Trump 49-47 but Biden is facing an enthusiasm gap in this poll:
The clearing of the Democratic field hasn’t led to much change in the profiles of Biden and Sanders supporters, but there’s a magnitude shift for Biden. Seniors and black voters have been good for him in the past, but with significant shares interested in other candidates. They’ve coalesced: Eighty-three percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning seniors prefer Biden over Sanders, up 63 points from February; two-thirds of blacks say the same, a 34-point increase.
Eighty percent of Sanders backers say they’ll vote for Biden against Trump; as noted, 15% say they’d back Trump. (This is familiar: Twenty percent of Sanders supporters said they’d vote for Trump in spring 2016.) For context, 15% of Sanders supporters is 6% of all leaned Democrats, and Trump won 8% of Democrats in 2016. Still, Biden wants all the in-party support he can muster.
Further, among Sanders supporters who say they’d vote for Biden in November, a mere 9% are very enthusiastic about doing so. More, but still only 49%, are “somewhat” enthusiastic.
Even among those who support Biden for the nomination, his very enthusiastic support against Trump is just 39% (with an additional 50% somewhat enthusiastic). That’s dwarfed by strong enthusiasm for Trump among his supporters, including a peak of 81% among strong conservatives and broad majorities of Republicans, seniors and rural residents.
On the issues, men favor Trump over Biden to handle the economy by an 18-point margin, 56-38, while women split between the two. Nearly all Republicans, three-quarters of conservatives, and 72% of white men who don’t have college degrees – core Trump groups – also pick him on the economy, but here they’re joined by 20% of liberals and a third of racial and ethnic minorities.
It’s essentially flipped with health care, with Biden leading Trump by a slight 8 points among men and 16 points among women. Outside the Democratic core, most seniors, 12% of Republicans, 28% of conservatives and three in 10 non-college whites pick Biden on health care.
Differences in trust to handle the coronavirus outbreak reflect customary partisan divides. Majorities of whites, conservatives and rural residents pick Trump on this issue; most racial and ethnic minorities, college graduates, urbanites and liberals go with Biden.
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