Could Biden Blow This Thing?

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participates in the first presidential campaign debate with President Donald Trump in Cleveland, Ohio, September 29, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
The data vs. the stories

When it comes to polling, like Jon Snow, I know nothing. I don’t know from statistics. I’m so innumerate that I’d have to phone a friend if you asked me what comes between 10 and 12. When it comes to crunching, I’ll choose potato chips over numbers every time. Plus, when it comes to politics, I’m hopeless: I predicted both that Donald Trump wouldn’t run for president and that Democratic voters would find Joe Biden’s creepy behavior around women disqualifying. Live and learn! Biden is way ahead. And he is certainly going to win. Right?

I’m all about stories, not numbers. True, the plural of anecdotes is not data, so nothing I have to say can possibly have any value whatsoever. When the whiz kids say President Trump has a 13 percent chance to win reelection, listen to them. Whiz kids are never wrong.

But when I look at President Trump, I see a guy who is trying so hard to get the girl — the voter — that he wears her down till she gives in just to shut him up, like Hawaiian-shirted noodge Robert De Niro agonizingly wooing Liza Minnelli in that nightclub at the start of New York, New York. De Niro in that scene goes from weird to alarming to annoying to funny. Just like Trump.

Trump: Now he’s in Florida, now he’s in Pennsylvania. This week he’s been in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota. He’s out hustling for a single contested electoral vote in Nebraska. He’s hitting Nevada, New Mexico, Madagascar, Peru, and the Moon. Remember when the guy was supposedly at death’s door and we all wondered what would happen if he died? Fat chance. I’ve seen golden retriever puppies with less energy. If his movement gets buried on November 3, the gravestone will read: 2020 Campaign of Donald J. Trump — You can’t say I didn’t try.

As for Joe Biden, well. Remember the old Friday-night SCTV show, maybe the funniest sketch-comedy show there ever was? Eugene Levy used to do a spoof of Perry Como’s act. Como was a ’50s lounge singer: Mr. Relaxation. Mellow. Smooth. He wore cardigans and oozed sincerity. He was so relaxed that Levy spoofed him as sprawled on his belly, flat out on a divan, warbling decaffeinated versions of pop hits of the early ’80s: “Cel. Uh. Brate. Good times. Come on.” Levy’s Como does one song draped over a chair. In another number, Andrea Martin plays a backup singer who has to hold him up by the scruff of his cardigan so he won’t collapse. Biden is campaigning like Perry Como. His idea of a rally is six calm people sitting around him in socially distanced chairs while he mumbles about solar-panel subsidies. His campaign has all the excitement of my small-town local library’s late-life discussion group. Which is waggishly called “Death Café.”

Yes, I know the “front-porch campaign” worked pretty well for McKinley in 1896, but maybe America has changed a little since then? Even after getting slapped in the chops with a grueling pandemic for eight godforsaken months, we’re still not Sleepyland. We don’t just lie there and wait for stuff to happen, we make stuff happen. Even when we’re getting kicked in the teeth, we’ve still got dragon energy. Viral attack, Islamist attack, Martian attack, whatever. It’s still America. Pedal-down, open-throttle, forward-thrusting, Red Bull America. Do we really want to give the top prize to the nice old gentleman whose argument is that he’s quiet? We built this country on rock and roll, not Muzak. Donny T. is facing Kenny G.

If Joe Biden is elected president he’ll be the first one who ever needed to take a break for a nap in the middle of his inaugural address. Can you picture Biden commander-in-chiefing his way through a mano a mano with the Ayatollah? The man looks like he needs help ordering lunch.

Still, the data show that of course Biden is gonna win. But there are a few items I just can’t get out of my head.

Item: Joe Biden just scheduled a last-minute stop in Minnesota. Minnesota? Minnesota. I realize Trump almost pulled off a surprise victory in 2016 there, but only because he was up against Nurse Ratched. Minnesota is ancestral land of the Democrats, the kind of place where free-range herds of Mondales and Humphreys roam the plains. Why would Biden be worried about Minnesota?

Item: A New York Times employee goes home to Pennsylvania and sees Trump-drunk supporters everywhere he looks, not in the Rolling Rock–chugging, hell-raising, gun-toting The Deer Hunter part of the state (which is where De Niro went to lick his wounds after Liza dumped him at the end of New York, New York) but the suburbs of Philadelphia. Isn’t Biden’s nice-guy act supposed to rule the suburbs so hard he’s more popular than a two-for-one deal at the Cheesecake Factory?

Item: Don Lemon’s friends are such gung-ho Trump supporters that he had to cut off contact with them. “I had to get rid of a lot of people in my life because sometimes you’ve just got to let them go,” a sour Lemon said on CNN Thursday. Don . . . Lemon? Has “a lot” of Trump-guided friends? Aren’t Don Lemon’s friends supposed to be as reliably anti-Trump as . . . Minnesota?

Item, item, item, item . . . That poll showing most people think Trump is going to win. That poll showing 56 percent of Americans say they’re better off than they were four years ago. That poll showing Biden is beating Trump by 11 points, yet when voters are asked whom their neighbors are voting for, suddenly Biden is winning by only one point. The stock market researcher who says the Dow points to an 87 percent chance of Trump victory. The pollster who puts Trump ahead in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Foolishness, all of this. Biden is going to win easily. Definitely. Probably. Right?


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