Biden beating Trump in the polls – but will America stick with ‘the devil it knows’?

If the polls are right, Joe Biden will be the next US president.

The 77-year-old officially secured the Democrat nomination on Saturday, although he has been the effective candidate ever since Bernie Sanders pulled out of the race back in April.

Biden comfortably leads Donald Trump in the national polls. A CNN poll of polls has Biden on 51% and Trump on 41% amongst registered voters.

Even data collected in recent days for the Trump-supporting Fox News has his rival ahead in key swing states.

Barack Obama, for what it is worth, was around two points ahead of his rivals at this point in his two election victories.

Biden is in a good place, if anything more a result of Trump’s actions than his own, but with five and a bit months until November’s election, all is still to play for.

Both candidates will remember that Hillary Clinton led Trump all the way up to polling day itself, and even won the popular vote by three million on the night, but by quirk of the US electoral system, the reality-TV billionaire ended up in The White House.

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If there is opportunity in crisis, then this period will define what happens later in the year, as this campaign takes place during a health pandemic, at a time of record unemployment, a coming recession and now civil unrest.

Joe Biden
Image:Joe Biden officially secured the Democrat nomination on Saturday

America will vote for the man they believe will bring calm to the chaos.

Trump, as the sitting president, has had the better platform of the two. He has been able to steer the response to coronavirus and address the nation on television daily.

Instead, Biden has been confined to his house in Delaware, self-isolating because of his age, and limited to recorded statements on his phone from his porch or basement. Not ideal.

Trump’s key message of a strong economy and record employment, was totally blown out of the water in March.

Unemployment rocketed to 14.5% and was, indeed still is, particularly high amongst the young, Hispanic and black workers.

Friday’s job figures showed two and a half million new jobs were created in May, defying expectations. It’s no wonder the White House leapt on them with glee.

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But economists remain unconvinced – unemployment remains high and the true economic impact of the pandemic is yet to be realised. Trump could yet pay the price for that.

The president’s handling of the current Black Lives Matter protests has divided not just America, but his own administration. His attempt to seize back control and appear strong by deploying the army on the streets, backfired when his defence secretary said that should only happen “as a last resort”.

An internal memo from General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, reminded senior officers they swore an oath to uphold the constitution, not the president.

And the NFL, the spine of American sporting culture, reversed its position on black players kneeling in silent protest during the national anthem – players are now encouraged to speak out and peacefully protest. That alone speaks much to a societal shift.

The court heard WikiLeaks asked to speak to Hillary Clinton as 'a matter of urgency'
Image:Mr Biden is hoping to succeed where Mrs Clinton ultimately failed

Although Biden is the natural candidate for most black voters, he’ll need to ensure they come out and vote in large numbers come November, especially in the critical swing states.

The former VP has reached out to the left flank of his party to build his appeal amongst Sanders supporters, something Hillary Clinton failed to do in 2016. He is yet to announce his pick for vice president, but has guaranteed it will be a woman.

Biden’s challenge will be convincing America he offers change – not just something different to Trump but something altogether different – many will associate him unfavourably with the Obama years.

At 77, Biden would also become the oldest president to take office should he win. In the end, amid all these crises, America might decide to stick with the devil it knows.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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