More on Biden’s Low Profile

And some notes on Trump's media exposure.

Harry Enten writing at CNN: Biden’s invisible campaign is winning.

A lot of Democrats have been hankering for Biden to try and get out to be more part of the daily media conversation. The latest numbers suggest that these voices are likely wrong. Biden’s proving that the less media he receives, the better it is for his electoral prospects.

Over the last month and a half, Trump has had the political spotlight shone on him. He’s had daily press conferences that the media has extensively covered. Meanwhile, Biden’s struggling to attract much of an audience as he is stuck at home.

You can see this really well in media mentions in the top paragraph of stories, as measured by Four years ago from March 20 to April 20, Trump had about 65% of the mentions between Hillary Clinton and him. This year during the same period, Trump’s gotten about 90% of the coverage dedicated to Biden or him. That is, Biden’s turned a 2:1 disadvantage into a 9:1 disadvantage.

You would think that this would be a disaster for Biden. It’s not happening.

This is interesting because it is empirical evidence that, yes, Biden is getting a lot less coverage. This is certainly what it has felt like, but it is always good to be able to go beyond the feels in these discussions.

Also, contrary to the notion that more coverage is always good, note the following:

Trump likely would have lost the 2016 election had the news focus been on him only. A study of news coverage of that election found that Trump’s poll numbers were negatively correlated with how much news he received. Fortunately for him, the final days of the campaign were spent discussing the former director of Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey’s letter. A higher share of Hillary Clinton’s coverage in that final week was spent on her alleged scandals than at any other point in the late summer or fall.

Enten notes that coverage helped Trump win the GOP nomination, however.

He continues:

The 2020 general election though won’t be determined by the Republican base that loves Trump, however. It will be determined by all voters. Over the last three years, Trump’s never once had a positive net approval or net favorability rating among the general electorate.

A 2020 election about Trump is likely an election Biden wins. We saw it in the 2018 midterms when feelings about Trump correlated extremely well with Democrats taking back the House.

Unless something changes dramatically, Biden is likely only to lose if the media attention comes back to him. Trump better hope that Biden starts getting some of the limelight. That won’t guarantee a Biden loss, but it’d give Trump a shot.

This comports with the point I noted the other day from Daniel Drezner, that Biden is likely in his best position if he is considered the “generic Democrat.”

The above also underscores why Trump wanted dirt on Hunter Biden from he Ukrainians (remember that? It was soooo long ago).

I also found this of interest, as it comports with a point I was trying to make earlier in the week:

As I noted last week, Trump had the shortest rally around the flag event in modern presidential history.

From that piece:

Looking at the data, Trump seems to have had one of the fastest retreats of a rally around the flag effect in modern polling history.

Trump’s net approval rating stood at -10 points among voters in an aggregate of polls as late as March 11. Less than three weeks later, it got up to -4 points on March 27. Today, it’s back down to -8 points.

Even at its peak, the jump of just 6 points is weaker than any well-known rally around the flag event that I know of for a president. It’s only about half that of what Barack Obama got after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It falls well short of the nearly 70-point jump George W. Bush received after 9/11.

Trump is unpopular and appears unable to do anything to make himself more popular (although, likewise, nothing he does makes him substantially more unpopular).

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    From his Delaware basement Biden is beating Trump in the polls.

    A factor I think people are overlooking is simple fatigue. Trump has been exhausting. We’ve all seen his act, he’s brought nothing new. From the start it’s been lies, rage tweets, racism, misogyny and sheer stupidity. After a while, most Americans like to change channels and see a different show.

    The exception of course is people who find reassurance in hearing the same things over and over and over again while blocking all other programming: evangelicals. They are the core of the 40% who still support Trump.

    We are a bit more than five months out from the election. Voters in five months will be faced with an America that is, in every measurable way, worse off than it was four years ago – massive unemployment, a stagnant housing market, and quite possibly a resurgence of Covid-19. That won’t make evangelicals turn on Trump, nothing can, they are genuinely in a cult of personality and have dug their holes so deep there’s no way out. But it will dampen their fervor and keep some of them home.

    The only ‘accomplishments’ Trump can be credited with is packing the courts with a ragtag collection of fools, something Mitch McConnell could have accomplished with any GOP president.

    What can Trump run on? Hatred of Joe Biden? Biden is not Hillary. You may sneer at Biden, you may underestimate Biden, but it’s a stretch to paint Biden as a bad or dangerous guy. Evangelicals had been well-trained to hate Hillary, a hate made easier by the fact that she’s a woman and when it comes to women, evangelicals are the American Taliban. Can they be brought to hate Biden? Trump will tap evangelical racism by conflating Biden with Obama, but that’s small beer. They will go on hating liberals generically but specific hate is more motivating than general hate.

    Trump’s highest Gallup number ever is 49%, the rally-round effect of coronavirus, and that bounce is gone. He’ll keep his 40%, but the rest of the country will be sick to death of all things Trump. My guess is we will spit him out like the worm in an apple.

  2. Kit says:

    Count me amongst those who worried about Biden’s lack of exposure. In hindsight, that concern was misplaced but only because Trump has outdone himself these past few weeks. Now the smart money has to be on laying low until Trump finds yet another way to gain control of the narrative.

    Still, just as the country needs to worry about how to restart the economy, Joe needs to worry about how (and when) to restart his campaign. April is going to seem like ancient history before we know it.

  3. dazedandconfused says:


    I agree, sometimes being quiet is the right move. The Reagan/Bush campaign said as little as possible about the Iran hostages, it didn’t hurt them, and in those days there was nothing like the RW slime machine we currently have. A primary tactic of which is parsing words and phrases with nary a nod to either decency or honesty. Biden’s “starving the beast” there.

  4. de stijl says:

    Not to get too Sun Tzu, but if your opponent is self destructing, don’t interrupt.

  5. de stijl says:

    Trump is tweeting about “Noble” prizes today.

    He actually meant Pulitzer, but he went with Noble.

    Not Nobel, but Noble.

    Shamefully ignorant. That dude is our President.

    There is no Nobel (or Noble) Prize for journalism. It is spelled Nobel. You wanted Pulitzer, you friggin moron.

    Google is right there. Spell check. Wikipedia. It’s all right there. An icon. You can click. Aaaaaah!!!

    I am so annoyed with this whole shitty, shambolic mess right now.

    Grr! I need space and remember to breathe deep and smooth.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    IIRC one of the things Doug Jones campaigned against Roy Moore on was an end to the crazy. Should work against Trump.

  7. Kari Q says:

    I read someone’s musing that this election, a winning campaign could run on this slogan: Elect me and you won’t even have to think about who is president for weeks at a time.

    (I can’t remember where I first saw this or I would give credit where due)

    The ability to ignore politics if we want is something many of us miss. Biden can just go about the business of being president without constantly forcing the rest of us to pay attention? Sounds good to me.

  8. Joe says:

    @Kari Q:
    I believe this sound bite belonged to the former mayor of South Bend, one Mr. Buttigieg (if memory serves). That recollection came to my mind too.

  9. Liberal Capitalist says:

    A lot of people are saying…

    It’s George Wallace’s World Now

    The republican party has been taken over by an unscrupulous populist demagogue. His loyalty is to himself, not to his party or any ideology. He glories in violating political norms. He trashes liberals and government bureaucrats but has no use for limiting the government’s powers—at least, not his own powers. He has no problem with deficit spending, provided he can direct it to his base. He plays on white grievance and inflames racial division, while bragging that many black Americans support him and complaining that liberal bullies play the race card to shut him up. He gleefully attacks intellectuals and experts as enemies of America and common sense. He is not above calling his opponents traitors and hinting that they should be dealt with violently. In a crisis, as at present, he is a genius at finding others to blame. And the more he shocks and blames, the more his supporters love him for speaking forbidden truths and standing up to condescending elites.

    The politician I speak of is, of course, George Corley Wallace.

    I don’t care if Biden is sitting in his basement, wearing a tutu, earing Pelosi’s secret ice-cream stash… We can’t let the party of the ghost of Wallace win.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    So I was watching a documentary earlier this evening about FDR…to compare his response to the Great Depression to the response by the current president to the pandemic is truly heartbreaking…what has happened to us as a country that it is acceptable to have this trash sitting in the White House? Joe Biden has numerous flaws, just as FDR did, and this is not a comparison, but it would be really nice to again have a president who, despite whatever flaws he has, possesses some sense of basic decency…I don’t think that’s too much to ask of a president…

  11. Teve says:

    From his Delaware basement Biden is beating Trump in the polls.

    A factor I think people are overlooking is simple fatigue. Trump has been exhausting. We’ve all seen his act, he’s brought nothing new. From the start it’s been lies, rage tweets, racism, misogyny and sheer stupidity. After a while, most Americans like to change channels and see a different show.

    I can imagine a succession of ads, the first 50 seconds are insane jabbering nonsense from Trump, cut to Biden, “hey America, are you tired of this stuff? I sure am. Vote for me. Thanks.”

  12. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: To judge by his 2016 campaign rhetoric, Trump was the reincarnation of Huey P. Long. To judge by his actions, he’s another George Wallace. To judge by his temperament, he is Joe McCarthy, risen from an obscure grave.

  13. Hal_10000 says:

    I think Biden is doing the right thing in the current crisis. A big campaign push right now would rub a lot of people the wrong way, when we’re trying to get control of the biggest health crisis in a century. It’s over six months until the election. plenty of time for all that.

    Also think it’s the smart play. Let Trump destroy himself.