Donald Trump is weaker than he was in 2020, President Biden is primed to "beat him like a drum," Democrats still have a branding problem and Florida is now a party "reclamation project" — those are just some of the midterm takeaways from Mr. Biden's pollster, John Anzalone, who appeared on "The Takeout" this week.
Anzalone said that he, like many Democratic strategists and pollsters, was far more worried than Mr. Biden about widespread Democratic loses in House, Senate and gubernatorial races.
"Joe Biden was right and I was wrong," Anzalone said. "A bunch of things happened that we haven't seen happen in a long time. All the rules have been thrown out since 2016."
Anzalone described these midterm surprises:
- Mr. Biden's approval rating improved from the summer to the fall, despite persistently high inflation, recession worries and stock market declines.
- Independents broke late for Democrats, something the party in power had not seen since 2002, a midterm deeply influenced by the national trauma of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- Democrats narrowly won late-deciding voters, those who made up their minds in the last week of voting. Typically, the party in power in tough economic times, Anzalone said, loses these voters by margins of 3-1 or 4-1.
"The other thing is that those people who had a soft unfavorable view of him broke big towards the Democrats," Anzalone said. "He wasn't a part of the bad part that people thought was going to happen."
Democrats also had unexpected help, Anzalone said.
"Republicans gave us an assist," he said. "One of the reasons those late deciders decided for Democrats is that there was just nominees that they couldn't vote for. This election cycle was between headwinds and head cases."
As for Trump, who announced a third bid for the White House this week, Anzalone said nothing about his candidacy will deter Biden — who has said he intends to run for re-election but will not make a final decision until early 2023.
"I know enough about President Biden and his team that he believes he can beat Donald Trump, and I think he can beat Donald Trump like a drum," Anzalone said. "I think Donald Trump is weakened right now. And I think that people have always underestimated the strength of Joe Biden."
Anzalone, known in Democratic circles for his candor, said Democrats cannot afford to overlook their weaknesses.
"We still have a branding problem," Anzalone said. "The American people think we are more interested in prioritizing social problems than economic problems. We also have a problem with rural America. We have to work on crime and immigration."
Florida was a bright spot for Republicans, and Anzalone conceded the state's 30 electoral votes may be out of reach in 2024.
"Florida is a reclamation project," Anzalone said. "Florida is really expensive. You have to make the resource allocation, that cost-benefit analysis. So the map changes."
Executive producer: Arden Farhi
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
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