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Biden-Harris Buzz Factor Makes All the Difference

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 19:32


In the ultimate presidential contest, which will hang on voter turnout, perhaps all you need to know about Joe Biden’s announcement Tuesday of Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate is this: It was the Biden campaign’s best hour of fund-raising to date.

If there is one thing that presidential elections have in common in the modern era it is that the candidate who generates the most enthusiasm wins. By choosing Ms. Harris, Mr. Biden instantly sent a jolt through core Democratic voters, the kind the party needs to become energized enough to propel the ticket over the top.

Like him or loathe him, President Trump had the enthusiasm meter on his side in 2016. It seemed perhaps too inevitable that Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, would not get a large enough turnout to win in the Electoral College, despite getting more total votes than Mr. Trump. Both times out, Barack Obama had the emotional advantage in voters’ hearts, as did Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. But Al Gore? Excitement was not the first thing that came to mind.

This year, thanks to the pandemic, voting patterns will probably change, with mailed ballots taking the place of long lines at Democratic-majority polling places. And with years of a Republican-led suppression effort, getting one’s vote counted in many American cities will take dedication and fortitude.

Beyond the Russians, there are fears that the White House’s recent manipulation of the United States Postal Service is an attempt to keep Mr. Trump in office no matter what. A massive and overwhelming victory by the Biden-Harris ticket is probably going to be the best means to assure the results hold in the face of anticipated legal and procedural challenges by the Trump side.

Much already has been said about Ms. Harris’s effect on Black voter turnout, especially in states Mr. Trump won by only the narrowest edge. That may be so, but Mr. Biden has already been enjoying a wide polling advantage among Black voters. Where Ms. Harris helps directly is in buzz factor, as a woman of color, a standout member of the Senate during Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, and as a former California attorney general. She also has relative youth on her side; she is more than 20 years younger than Mr. Biden and was born outside of the window of the Baby Boomers, who are now widely thought of by younger Americans as the self-centered source of many of the country’s problems.

President Trump will have to respond, most likely by ditching Mike Pence, the current vice president, in favor of someone he thinks has more sizzle. People like Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, and his daughter Ivanka Trump have been floated. This may prove to be idle speculation; the official online Trump store features many “Trump-Pence 2020” items. But T-shirts and bumper stickers can be changed. With the dynamic Ms. Harris now on board in the Biden campaign, anything is possible.

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