US Election: Four takeaways from the Democrat Convention

Former US Vice President Joe Biden
Joe Biden retains a big poll lead

Despite failing to extend his poll lead, Paul Krishnamurty says Joe Biden can take plenty of positives from the Democrat convention...

"Biden did well to talk of what America is capable of. Parties of the Left win rarely win without a message of hope and unity."

After months of terrible signals for Donald Trump's re-election bid, here is some good news for the sitting president. According to the first polls taken following the Democrat Convention, Joe Biden has not received a bounce. Despite wall-to-wall publicity and choreographed messaging, CBS show his lead static at 10% compared to before the convention.

Simultaneously, the betting trends have moved against him. Biden is now rated 55% likely to win at 1.814/5 compared to 43% for Trump at 2.3211/8. The lack of bounce may or may not explain the market trend. The move was already underway.

Now, we shall see whether Trump gets a bounce after his own convention as the Republicans meet in Charlotte, North Carolina. He certainly did following their 2016 convention, briefly overtaking Hillary Clinton in popular vote polls. Equally though, remember that opinion has been extraordinarily consistent and entrenched since Trump took office. It is quite possible, perhaps likely, that we again see very little change.

Democrats must be happy with united front

One profound difference with 2016 was the unity. Four years ago the DNC proceedings began with disaster. Leaks from a Russian hack were released to great online fanfare, revealing the party establishment's preference and bias towards Clinton over Bernie Sanders. It drove a wedge between the progressive and moderate wings which may very well have cost her the election, because Sanders supporters either didn't turn out, or switched to Trump or third parties.

This convention passed off without any such incident. The fact it was socially distanced was a great help, as it prevented footage of argument or protests (however small) being amplified.

Rather the party came across as absolutely focused on defeating Trump. Whether left-wingers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Elizabeth Warren or centrists such as Clinton, the message was consistent. Unite. Avoid complacency. Remove this unique threat to democracy.

In that respect they can also count upon a growing number of Republicans. Last week I noted the significance of GOP moderates like John Kasich, Colin Powell and the McCain family in building a big tent. Since then they've been joined by more than 70 National Security officials from various Republican administrations. Consequently there won't be much division in Charlotte either - Trump's internal enemies have already left.

Biden defies low expectations

The conclusion I drew from Biden's speech is how badly Republicans have played this. For months, Team Trump has been painting the 77 year-old former VP as a sleepy figure, struggling with dementia, who can barely finish a sentence.

Having set such a low bar, Biden was always likely to exceed expectations. His speech wasn't particularly memorable. But it was competently delivered, without pauses or errors. Nor was any evidence of mindrot on view in his setpiece interview with ABC.

Thus, many worries were assuaged. Where Biden did get a bounce was a 5% jump in his approval rating. Team Trump's belief that he'll be exposed in debates looks highly optimistic, especially given that didn't happen during the primaries.

Obama's formidable presence looms large

One speech stood out above the rest, in terms of delivery, potency and significance. Biden's bestie is back on the campaign trail and Trump should worry.

When Barack Obama excoriated Trump's record and actions in office, it was historic. Presidents shy away from criticising their predecessors, let alone get involved in elections. They don't label them a threat to democracy. Having kept his powder dry despite obvious temptation to hit back, Obama's words carried greater weight and there is still no better orator in the game.

It was notable how Obama eclipsed VP Kamala Harris' address. She went down very well but the news agencies were more interested in his bombshell speech. Not least because Trump walked straight into it, live angry tweeting with caps locked about his Obamagate conspiracy.

We must assume Obama will now play a prominent role on the campaign. His importance to Democrats cannot be overstated, whether getting the message across, getting the vote out or signalling to Americans that a Biden administration will mean a restart of his.

Hope and unity are generally winning messages

So what of the messaging? 'Build Back Better' is in my view, rubbish. It won't cut through. Broader, simpler themes, however, will. Biden is pitched as the safe, patriotic choice to re-unite the country after years of Trump chaos and division. A racially diverse ticket as opposed to white supremacy.

Considering the general Democrat analysis is that the USA is going through an unprecedented dark spell in its history - precisely as Obama and others warned - Biden did well to talk of what America is capable of. Parties of the Left win rarely win without a message of hope and unity. It will contrast well with Trump's fear-mongering.

They will frame the choice at this election as one of character. Trump, with all his well-documented crimes and scandals, versus a decent, family man. A working-class kid from Pennsylvania who overcame terrible tragedies. Because he's built such a big tent, Biden can call upon former Republicans such as the Lincoln Project to sell that message.


Follow Paul on Twitter and check out his website, Political Gambler.

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