Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden continues to lead Donald Trump in the polls by nearly double-digit margins as the two parties prepare for their quadrennial conventions that will take place mostly online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The president – whose response to the Covid-19 crisis and protests against police brutality have stoked fierce resentment among Democratic and many Independent voters – trailed Mr Biden by 9 percentage points nationally in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday.
In other new polls, from CBS/YouGov and Fox News, Mr Biden held advantages of 10 points and 7 points, respectively.
On the surface, the 2020 electoral landscape looks rosy for the Democrats. Polling figures show Mr Biden with a steady edge over the president in the key swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and several others.
Democrats were projecting an image of unity on the eve of their national convention. The four-day event commences on Monday with keynote speeches from Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and former First Lady Michelle Obama, respective embodiments of the party’s liberal and traditional wings.
But Mr Biden’s lead over Mr Trump shows some signs of potential slippage, most notably in the form of a lingering enthusiasm gap.
His firm standing in the polls is not thanks to pro-Biden sentiment – it’s fuelled by anti-Trump sentiment.
While 50 per cent of the 900 registered voters polled last week by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News said they would vote for Mr Biden, compared to just 41 per cent who said they would vote for Mr Trump, most said it’s their opposition to the president – and not their enthusiasm for Mr Biden – that mostly underlies their electoral position.
Fifty-eight per cent of Biden voters said their support for him is based more on their opposition to Mr Trump, while just 38 per cent said it’s based on their support for the actual candidate, the poll found.
That contrasts sharply to Mr Trump’s voters, 74 per cent of whom said they are more for the president, compared to just 20 per cent who said they are more against Mr Biden.
Mr Trump’s campaign is battling its own demons, of course, which explains why he’s the underdog despite having all the advantages of incumbency.
The president’s approval rating over the last few months has remained stubbornly low, driven down by perceptions of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and his response to a reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of several black Americans dying in police custody.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents to a Monmouth University poll released last Thursday said he is doing a bad job leading the country through the health crisis, compared to 40 per cent who said he is doing a good job on it.
Americans are increasingly frustrated, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
“There appears to be a growing sense that the U.S. does not have a handle on this pandemic, especially when Americans see other countries opening up without the uptick in cases we see here,” he said.
To open up the convention on Monday, Democrats are planning to hammer Mr Trump on three areas where they believe the US is struggling: the coronavirus crisis; the unemployment rate, which has been in the double digits since April; and racial injustice.
Slated to speak on the coronavirus on Monday are Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, both of whom have found themselves in Mr Trump’s cross-hairs at times during the pandemic.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking black member of Congress whose endorsement of Mr Biden before the South Carolina presidential primary was instrumental in helping turn the tide in the former vice president’s favour, is also scheduled to speak.
Senator Doug Jones, upset victor of the special election in Alabama in 2017, will also take the stage.
Mr Jones rose to prominence in the early 2000s as the federal district attorney who successfully prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing that killed four young black girls.
Events will stream live on the Democratic National Committee’s website, as well as on its accounts on YouTube and Facebook.
Mr Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala of California, will formally accept their nomination for the Democratic ticket on Thursday.