Poll: Biden Losing Ground In Battleground States | Crooked Media
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May 13, 2024
What A Day
Poll: Biden Losing Ground In Battleground States

In This Episode

  • Donald Trump leads President Biden in five of the six battleground states, according to two new polls released by the New York Times. These polls come at a time when Biden is struggling to win the support of young voters. But while polls are an essential snapshot of the country, that snapshot is fairly narrow. So to discuss what these numbers do and do not tell us, we spoke with Dan Pfeiffer, a co-host of Pod Save America and the host of Pollercoaster.
  • And in headlines: Michael Cohen takes the stand in Trump’s hush money trial, three states hold primaries, and Louisiana could be the first state in the country to categorize abortion pills as controlled, dangerous substances.


Show Notes:



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Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, May 14th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson. And this is What a Day where we’re putting a hex on the New York Times for trying to convince us that cicadas are an edible delicacy. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, they’re calling cicadas the noisy lobsters of the trees. And that is a quote. I am calling the FDA. No, I don’t accept. 


Tre’vell Anderson: No thank you. 


Josie Duffy Rice: No thank you. I’m opting out. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, Louisiana lawmakers could classify abortion pills as dangerous, addictive drugs. Plus, Donald Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen takes the stand in the Trump hush money trial. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, in startling news, Donald Trump leads President Biden in five of the six battleground states, according to two new polls released Monday by The New York Times. Biden leads by two points in Wisconsin while Trump is up in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia and Nevada. And while three of those states remain within the margin of error, in Georgia and Nevada, Trump has a very, very commanding lead. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t like the sound of this Josie. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm mm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Now, do we know why Biden is losing so significantly?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Well Biden has struggled with young voters, as we’ve talked about on the show. In particular in recent months, in part due to his administration’s support for Israel in the war in Gaza. But it’s actually not just Gaza. The current economy is also a point of contention for voters, and is likely driving at least some of the diluted enthusiasm around his campaign. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That makes plenty of sense to me. But obviously, for Democrats, this is not the hopeful picture for the fall election I’m sure they were wishing for. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It is definitely concerning. But while polls are an important snapshot of the country, they’re also kind of a narrow snapshot of the country. Right? And so to understand what these numbers mean, I called up Dan Pfeiffer. He’s a co-host of Pod Save America and the host of Pollercoaster, our exclusive podcast all about polls for our friends of the pod subscribers. And I started by asking him if Democrats should be in panic mode after seeing these polls. 


Dan Pfeiffer: You should never panic. Panic is a very counterproductive response to anything. Right? So it’s like, no, you should not run around like a chicken with your head cut off. But I just want to remind everyone that polls are not predictive. This poll does not tell us really anything about what is going to happen in November. It tells us what’s happening right now here in early May. And the picture is not super pretty. But take them seriously, but not literally, right? Try to like, look at what the broad trends say. How do voters feel and worry a little bit less about whether Biden’s up by two or down by two, or whether Trump’s lead went from six to eight. And just focus more on what it says about where voters heads are right now, because it’s from the perspective of people trying to win the election, that’s how you devise your plan to win. Right? As you read these polls, you understand what people are thinking about. Then you go persuade them to feel better about your candidate and worse about your opponent. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I do want to ask, is what we’re seeing a real question about whether voters are going to vote for Biden versus Trump, or whether Biden leaning voters are going to turn out or Trump leaning voters are going to turn out? 


Dan Pfeiffer: It’s both really. This poll looked at both registered voters. So anyone who is registered to vote, whether they had state how certain they are to vote in 2024, and likely voters, people who have expressed a intention to vote in 2024. And Biden does better with likely voters, and Biden always does better with more politically engaged voters. Biden does better with midterm voters. He does even better with special election voters. So the more politically engaged you are, the more you are for Biden. What that says is that Trump depends on voters without a great history of voting. And that’s sort of the opposite of how politics used to be. It used to be Democrats who really needed high turnout to win. But politically, since the Trump era, we’ve become a party where our base votes all the time. And so when it’s our base versus their base, we win. When Trump is able to expand into these people who are less certain voters, then he wins. So this poll looks at it both ways now to be, you know, sort of brutally honest about it. Trump is winning under both scenarios, right? He certainly gets to 270 electoral votes under both scenarios. But the more certain voters are more pro Biden than the electorate at large. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Can you remind our listeners which battleground states Biden won four years ago, and how crucial these six states are for him to be reelected? 


Dan Pfeiffer: Biden won all of these states in 2020, most of them by very, very narrow margins, often less than a point. But he won all six of them. Now to get to 270 electoral votes. He doesn’t need to win all six. He can get there simply by winning Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan. And what this poll shows is those states are essentially tied. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So the president’s campaign for reelection is trying to kind of redirect attention from this poll. 


Dan Pfeiffer: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: They’re trying to direct attention more to this democratic pollster Simon Rosenberg. And Rosenberg is saying that it’s too early to tell that the results are, quote, “inconsistent.” And he also said, quote, “the reality is that many voters are not paying close attention to the election and have not started making up their minds.” These voters will decide this election, and only the Biden campaign is doing the work to win them over. Is this correct? Talk to us about Simon Rosenberg. Like, is it actually too early? How should we interpret that statement? 


Dan Pfeiffer: Yeah, I mean, Simon is a very, very smart guy who’s worked in Democratic politics for a long time. And in this election he is someone who has repeatedly pointed out that Biden is on the path to win, regardless of what the polls say. Where Simon, I think is correct here is really essentially a one point lead in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. It’s essentially a tie, that is a tied race. The Biden campaign has built a massive organization that is much larger and drastically outpaces what Trump is building, which gives him an advantage in a close race. It is certainly too early. Simon is correct that voters haven’t tuned in yet. There is a large, persuadable universe here. It’s also clear that Biden has real work to do. He is underperforming specifically with voters under 30, Hispanic voters, and Black voters. He has largely maintained his 2020 margins with white voters and older voters. Hence, these three groups who have sort of frayed from the anti MAGA or the Biden coalition. He’s got to get them back, now there’s some good news there, which is that these voters in general, even though they’re unhappy with Joe Biden right now, have voted for him in the past. Disagree with Donald Trump on a lot of issues, including abortion, and have a history of voting for Democrats. And so they are voters who are very persuadable. But there is work to do, and six months is a long time, but time is moving fast here.


Josie Duffy Rice: So we know that in some of these swing states, Democrats are leading in key Senate races. So Bob Casey is polling five points ahead of his Republican opponent in Pennsylvania. Ruben Gallego, the Phoenix Democrat, four points ahead of Trump ally sycophant, Kari Lake in Arizona. And yet Biden is struggling. So what do we attribute that to? What issues are at play here when it comes to this lower approval rating? 


Dan Pfeiffer: What’s really interesting about this is that the Senate Democratic candidates are winning because they are getting typical Democratic levels of support from Democratic base voters like voters under 30, Black voters, and Hispanic voters. So there are sort of three theories as to why that is the case. All of them could be somewhat correct. One is that Biden has a particular weakness among these three groups, for whatever reasons. The other could be that Donald Trump has a strength among these groups that other Republicans do not have. And the third reason is the economy, right? In this poll, three quarters of voters say the economy is fair or poor. Young voters, Hispanic voters and Black voters think it’s even worse than that. Typically, voters do not hold senators accountable for the economy. They want the senators to vote for the right things. They care about who’s in control of the Senate. But in general, they associate the president with the price of eggs and gas and rent and the unemployment rate in a way they do not hold senators accountable. So you can see a world in which voters who generally align with Democrats on other issues, but are very upset about the economy, or very frustrated with the economy, will hold Joe Biden accountable for that, but not Ruben Gallego, Bob Casey, Tammy Baldwin or some of these other candidates. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Another thing we’ve talked about a lot about on the show is just like the disarray of the Republican Party, like in terms of leadership, obviously, there’s the mess in the House of Representatives right now. Their party’s frontrunner is stuck in court facing criminal charges. At last count, they’ve had 19 speakers of the House. That’s my own count in just the past few months, it feels like. So these sound like things that should work in Biden’s favor here, and it almost seems like they’re not. What do you make of that? 


Dan Pfeiffer: They still could work in his favor. Like, one of my takeaways from this poll is the more voters know about Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the better Joe Biden does. To the point you asked about Simon Rosenberg earlier is voters have not fully tuned into this race. Many of them have tuned out of politics. There have been fundamental changes in the media ecosystem that make it harder for casual news consumers to follow politics. It doesn’t show up on your Facebook feed anymore. Fewer people are watching local news and broadcast news and cable news, and so people are not tuned in yet. And when people tune in, that’s our opportunity to educate them about what Biden’s done, what Biden will do. And as importantly, what Donald Trump will do, the fact that he wants to cut Social Security and Medicare, the fact that he is okay with even the most extreme total abortion bans at the state level, that he would probably, despite what he has said, sign a federal abortion ban. That he wants to essentially use the White House to give himself legal immunity, reward his friends, and go on a retribution tour against his enemies. Voters don’t know that yet. That’s information we can give them. And so just because something hasn’t hurt Trump yet, doesn’t mean it’s not going to hurt him over the next few months. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Do you get the sense that people have forgotten what the Trump years were like? There does seem to be some sort of short term memory on the chaos of the Trump administration. 


Dan Pfeiffer: There is a real Trump amnesia effect. The Trump presidency for a lot of these voters is like frozen in amber from February of 2020, and the focus is on the price of eggs, gas, groceries, whatever else. But it’s also that huge swaths of this country tuned out of politics the day we were allowed to leave our houses in 2021. Donald Trump was gone. People started to live their lives again. They checked out of the news, and most people did not think about Trump for like four straight years. They haven’t seen him. We see all these clips of him acting like a lunatic at a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, or at the courthouse. Most people don’t see that they’re totally unaware of it. Absence has made the heart grow a little fonder, and it’s going to be incumbent upon the Biden campaign and us to remind people what it was like. Right? And what the consequences of having him come back to office are. He’s become a slightly generic alternative to Biden and we need to fill in the blanks there. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That is the latest for now. We will get to some headlines in a moment, but if you like our show, make sure to subscribe and share it with your friends and your family and your frenemies and your coworkers and the person on the bus. Just tell everybody.


Tre’vell Anderson: Everybody and they mama.


Josie Duffy Rice: Everybody. Everybody and their mama. And if you want more of Dan, tune into Pollercoaster, available exclusively to Crooked subscribers. To get access or learn more about the friends of the pod community, head to Crooked.com/Friends, we will be back after some ads. [music break]




Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Donald Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, took the stand for six hours on Monday in Manhattan in the criminal hush money trial of the former president. Responding to questions from the prosecution, Cohen claimed that Trump signed off on the plan to buy silence from adult film star Stormy Daniels for $130,000. Cohen needed to secure that money himself, and in court, he said, Trump promised to pay him back. This detail is crucial to the government’s claim that Trump falsified business records when he later classified reimbursements to Cohen as normal legal expenses. Prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office will finish questioning Cohen today, and then Cohen will undergo cross-examination by Trump’s defense lawyers. Cohen is by far the prosecution’s most important witness. Trump’s legal team has already made clear their intent to attack his credibility by highlighting his 2018 felony conviction and suggesting that he is motivated by a desire for revenge. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Maryland, West Virginia, and Nebraska are holding primaries today. In the West Virginia governor’s race, local Republicans are competing with each other to see who can be the most transphobic candidate. In Maryland, the traditional sleepy Democratic Senate primary is shaping up to be more competitive and contentious than usual, as rich guy Representative David Trone, the owner of Total Wine and More, faces off against Prince George’s County Executive and former prosecutor Angela Alsobrooks. Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is also running in the Republican primary for the Senate seat. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Louisiana could become the first state in the country to categorize abortion pills as controlled, dangerous substances, meaning fines and jail time for any non-health care professional caught in the possession of the drugs without a prescription. A pregnant woman who obtained the pills for herself would be exempt from prosecution, but a friend helping her get the pills could be charged with a crime and face up to five years in prison. The amendment, proposed by Louisiana Republicans would add abortion pills to a list of criminalized addictive drugs, like opioids and depressants. Even though more than 200 Louisiana doctors signed a letter pointing out that this makes no scientific sense. Because in case you were wondering, Mifepristone, which is the most common abortion pill, is actually safer than Viagra and Penicillin. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Thousands of Mercedes-Benz autoworkers in Alabama began voting Monday on whether to join the United Auto Workers union or UAW. In April, 73% of Volkswagen workers in Tennessee voted to join the UAW, granting the union, a huge win in its drive to organize in the South. The Tuscaloosa area vote could prove to be more challenging, however. Last week, the UAW accused Mercedes-Benz of union busting much more aggressively than Volkswagen. The National Labor Relations Board will announce the vote tally on Friday. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And we are about to find out what really happened behind the scenes of the daytime talk show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres in a new Netflix special from comedian Ellen DeGeneres. DeGenerous announced the show on Monday, writing, quote, “yes, I’m going to talk about it,” in a press release. The it she’s referring to is probably her messy exit from The Ellen DeGeneres show in 2022 following allegations of a toxic workplace and harassment by executive producers. She also said this would be her last special, capping off a long and trailblazing career that saw her star as the first gay or lesbian lead character on a US network television show. TBD whether Ellen’s new act allows her to dance her way back into you all’s hearts. While touring this year, the comedian has said that after the allegations hit, she was the, quote, “most hated person in America.” 


Josie Duffy Rice: Hmm. That’s crazy. In America? I wish, I wish our biggest controversy was Ellen DeGeneres. That sounds lovely. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m sure it felt like she was the most hated person–


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –in America. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But that’s why you go to therapy to get perspective. 


Tre’vell Anderson: There is that. [laughing] And those are the headlines. 




Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Get your tickets for Ellen’s Non-apology tour and tell your friends to listen.


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just Trump’s falsified business records like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


[spoken together] And you can’t make us eat cicadas. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I eat a lot of wild things, such as chitlins, Josie. But I don’t know if I can bring myself to do the cicadas. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’ll eat cicadas when there are no other options left. [laughter] But we’re not there yet. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We’re not there yet. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m not going to eat something that loud. I just, it’s too stressful. [laughter] [music break] What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Jon Milstein, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]