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Biden’s Trump Kryptonite

The public panic over those polls was so widespread that the Biden campaign emailed confidential talking points to friendly surrogates.
The public panic over those polls was so widespread that the Biden campaign emailed confidential talking points to friendly surrogates. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images
Peter Hamby
November 6, 2023

As a political writer based in Venice, California, I like to think I’ve developed a good antenna for vibes. And lemme tell ya: Democrats did not have a chill weekend. After The New York Times and Siena dropped a series of 2024 polls on Sunday showing Joe Biden losing handily to Donald Trump in five of the six closest battleground states—weighed down by concerns about his age and souring opinions of young people and nonwhite voters—Democrats everywhere went into full freak-out mode. Former Obama adviser David Axelrod, who has already made enemies in Biden world for criticizing the president, suggested on Twitter that Biden should drop out of the race. “Among all the unpredictables there is one thing that is sure: the age arrow only points in one direction,” Axelrod wrote. Biden loyalists like former chief of staff Ron Klain and campaign spokesman T.J. Ducklo went after Axelrod in response, mocking his newfound career as a pundit. Biden, Klain wrote, “is the kind of tough fighter that enabled him to beat Trump in 2020 and he’ll punch him out again this time.”

The public panic over those polls was so widespread that the Biden campaign emailed confidential talking points to friendly surrogates—literally at 10:59 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday—urging them, to quote one tweet, to “Keep Calm. Carry On.” I got my hands on the email, too. In it, the Biden communications team told allies to tweet that polls one year out from an election are rarely predictive, that Obama’s approval ratings weren’t that great at this time either before his 2012 re-election, and that Biden has been underestimated many times before. “There’s no doubt this will be a very close election,” the email said. “Joe Biden has been counted out time and time again and proved pollsters and pundits wrong. His campaign is ignoring the noise and building the strong campaign it needs to win—just like in 2020.”