Joe Biden and the 3 Cs

Donald Trump has ordered up a re-run of “LAW & ORDER” and voters wonder if they’ve seen this show before. They have.

Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, the president demanded our urgent attention to the caravan of migrants (Criminals! Drug dealers!) making its way through Mexico toward the U.S. southern border. Trump escalated the tension by ordering up national guard troops to protect against the foreign invaders while he tweeted how Democrats and their weak immigration policies were to blame for this dire, dire situation.

Voters responded, “Oh,” and voted for Democrats who kept their message focused on health care which was, by far, the top issue concern in the 2018 exit polls. No longer useful, the president’s caravan narrative faded to black.

Fast forward to 2020 and President Trump has gone back to his old playbook to revive his LAW & ORDER theme with a twist: this time it’s your fellow Americans who represent the threat and the blame is directed at Democrats (and Democrat-led cities) who are weak on crime, and responsible for these terrible urban uprisings (Looters! Anarchists!) that threaten your safety. He has sent unidentifiable federal stormtroopers to cities to “keep the peace,” while encouraging his supporters to wade in with their flags, trucks, and guns. He has warned “suburban housewives” that the insurgents are coming to their neighborhoods and to be very afraid.

Voters are, in fact, afraid. They tell pollsters that they are afraid about health care costs, job insecurity and a weak economy, and the fact that COVID-19 is in no way under control. Increasingly, voters express concern about “government dysfunction” and the sense that no one is fixing these problems, only fighting about them.

Within this context, the roadmap for Joe Biden is clear; he needs to keep his message on the 3 Cs: Coronavirus, ending Chaos, and Competence. Until the coronavirus pandemic is under control, no one can have what they want in terms of health or the economy. It requires a competent approach and real leadership, not the chaos this president has created for the past four years.

While certainly there are those who enjoy a good fight, most people don’t want to keep up this level of sustained fighting and animosity. I hear often – and especially from women – that they are “exhausted” by it. And I think more men are coming to that conclusion too. While reporters often ask me about women voters who are a focus, I have recently been monitoring college-educated white men and am seeing a shift.

In 2016, white college-educated men voted for Trump by a 14-point margin according to exit polls. In the 2018 midterm elections, they supported Republicans by four points.

In the August ABC/Washington Post poll, white college-educated men supported Joe Biden by 14 points over Donald Trump: that’s a 28-point swing from 2016 and one reason why the suburbs have moved dramatically against the president.

White college-educated men may be the story in 2020. If it were Bernie Sanders running and not Joe Biden, this group would be much less available to Democrats. In addition to the three C’s: Coronavirus, ending Chaos, and Competence, voters may be looking for one more C – Certainty.