Joe Biden has been ahead of Donald Trump in the polls for every single moment of the 2020 election cycle. Now that Trump is falling to pieces and Biden is even further ahead than he had been, there’s been a popular notion that we should be afraid of this. The theory says that because we were winning in 2016 and lost, the only way we can win in 2020 is if we pretend we’re losing.
If that makes no sense to you, don’t worry, it makes no sense period. But because 2016 left us all feeling so burned, there’s a tendency to think that we did everything wrong, and we must therefore do the opposite in 2020. But that’s simply not the case. I’ll keep saying it until it sinks in: Hillary didn’t lose because of her strategy, or because we got complacent. She lost because Comey’s last minute letter completely upended the election. Trump didn’t win because of his strategy. He ran an ineffective campaign and he got lucky.
The worst thing we can do is to learn the wrong lessons from 2016. If you look at the facts, Michigan and Wisconsin were never in play until the Comey letter. Hillary had them locked up. She was correct to put her time and resources into the states likes Florida and Ohio, which were in danger. By the time the Comey letter changed the entire map, it was too late to change course. Short of having ESP to see the Comey letter coming, or a time machine to go back and redo things after the Comey letter dropped, Hillary didn’t actually get anything wrong in 2016. Nor did we.
More to the point, Trump didn’t make a single move that helped him in the entire 2016 general election. His every move backfired. He pushed an ineffective message that left him with a too-small base. He put his focus into the wrong states. Even his Russian collusion didn’t work well for him; it wasn’t enough to put him over the top. If not for the Comey letter, all that Russian collusion would have been for nothing. Yet we somehow cower in fear over the idea of him using the same losing strategies again. We should be hoping he runs the same ineffective campaign again.
Should Biden spend some time and money in Michigan and Wisconsin? Sure. Should he spend too much of his time and money there, while neglecting other swing states, because of a whacked out fluke in 2016? Of course not. All we know about 2020 is that if a last minute fluke does happen, it won’t be the same fluke, so it won’t have the same specific impact in the same states.
You can go crazy trying to guess what might happen, overcorrecting. But it’s smarter to just use sound strategy all around. In any case, this notion that we can only win if we pretend we’re losing? Silly and counterproductive. People like voting for a winning team, not for a team that goes around moping about how it’s afraid it’s going to lose. You want to run up the score? Start by making it okay to admit you’re winning to begin with.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report