Thursday, 18 July 2024

Predicting the Biden Versus Trump rematch? Watch the suburbs in key battleground states.

Tim Phillips By Tim Phillips | March 16, 2024 | United States

In nicely manicured, mostly well-to-do suburbs across 5 key states, the most important swing voter group is intently watching this presidential election.

Most of these voters are college educated, white collar professionals.  They tend to be married with children at rates higher than just about any other voters in the United States.  They pay attention to the news more than most other swing voters.  

In 2020, they broke sharply for Joe Biden and against Donald Trump.  From the North Fulton suburbs of Atlanta to the Brookfield suburbs west of Milwaukee to Paradise Valley Arizona these voters drained votes away from Donald Trump as Trump under-performed his 2016 percentages in key suburban precincts across the battleground states.    

Now, with the Biden versus Trump rematch officially set, they are once again considering these same two candidates.  Which direction will they go in 2024?  To answer that question it’s helpful to examine how these swing voters view Trump, Biden and their own personal situation now versus 2020.  

First, Donald Trump.  In 2020, they strongly disliked Donald Trump on a personal level.  They viewed him as vindictive, juvenile and perhaps corrupt.  They liked some of his policies (tax cuts, immigration) but his personality, statements and personal narratives drove them nuts.  As President of Americans for Prosperity, I knocked on literally thousands of these suburban doors for our senatorial and congressional candidates and they would bring up their anger and frustration at Trump without me even asking.  

Today, they still strongly dislike Trump.  In poll after poll Trump’s personal disapproval numbers are no better today than in 2020 with these college educated suburban voters.  At the same time, they grudgingly do believe that Trump has been over-zealously targeted by Democrat prosecutors and an overly political Justice Department and FBI.  Social pressure in their world means they only hesitantly bring this up but it’s there when you scratch just beneath the surface.  Thus, the dozens of indictments and possible multiple convictions of Trump do not disqualify Trump in their minds because they know there’s a lot of politics and a hypocritical double standard.      

Second, Joe Biden.  In 2020, these swing voting suburbanites viewed Biden as perhaps too old but relatively benign.  They believed him to be a center left, old school Democrat.  They were not impressed by him.  After all, career politicians are not popular these days.  However, they felt he would bring back a certain normalcy to the presidency.  At a minimum, Biden did not anger or irritate them and often in politics it’s what a candidate DOES NOT do that matters.      

Today, their view of Biden is very different.  They now absolutely believe that he is too old to be president.  The cringe factor when Biden slowly walks down steps or tries to figure out how to get off a stage is real.  Democrats compound the problem when they trot out other old politicians like Pelosi and Schumer to swear that Biden is some kind of spring chicken.  

But, there’s something more.  These swing suburban voters now believe, or at a minimum, sense that Biden and his family (especially son, Hunter) are at worst corrupt or at best just like so many other self-seeking political families who have used their position of public trust to enrich themselves.  This sense comes up time after time in polling verbatims and focus groups with these suburban voters and it has drained good will away from Biden thus allowing these voters to more objectively judge the impact of his policies.

Joe Biden began his presidency with swing voters assuming he was an old-school center left Democrat on the issues.  Today, they view Biden for what he has become - a far left Democrat on social issues, environmental policy, government spending and taxation.  These voters are largely sympathetic to Israel’s plight in the Middle East and they sense how Biden is bending to radicals in his own Democrat Party who hate the Jewish State.

Thus, Biden’s job approval AND personal favorability poll numbers are at their lowest point with these voters.  With good reason, Biden and his team believe that their only hope is to convince them that while they may no longer like or trust the President, bringing back Donald Trump is even worse.  

Third, how do suburban swing voters view their own personal situations now versus 2020?  During the 2020 election they mostly felt secure financially and viewed the economy favorably.  In fact, 2020 was historic because it was the first time an incumbent president lost re-election despite voters being generally satisfied with the economy.  Violent crime in their neighborhoods was, for the most part, not an issue.  Immigration was not an issue.  The world was at peace for the most part.  The impact of the Covid pandemic had impacted their lives in unprecedented ways.  They had mixed views on how Trump had handled the pandemic but largely it was not a decisive issue for them.  

Today, these voters feel far more pessimistic about the state of the United States and their own personal situation.  Inflation concerns them even though they tend to be upper middle class.  They believe immigration at the southern border is a disaster and that it’s making their communities less safe.  Their confidence in their local public schools has declined.  They have less trust in most government institutions and the media.  Bottom line:  they feel more personally at risk for themselves and their children and their nation.  This spells big trouble for Joe Biden’s re-election.  

Without question, Donald Trump is in a position to improve his performance this November with these swing suburban white-collar voters.  They do not really like either candidate.  However, they do believe their own personal situation and the country writ large was better off during Trump’s presidency.  The objective data supports their conclusions.  That’s a crucial edge for Donald Trump if he does not make his own personality the bigger issue.  

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