Delaware and Biden make history with presidential primary, despite lack of suspense


Meredith Newman

Technically, the primary had little importance. But it was still historic in Delaware.

For the first time, residents could vote for a Delawarean who is a viable

presidential candidate. And the man could become president.

After running for president three times, Joe Biden has become the first Delawarean to clinch a major political party’s nomination for president. 

But due to the coronavirus, the moment felt a bit anti-climatic. Delaware’s presidential primary was held weeks after Biden secured the nomination. Many Delaware residents voted through the mail, or not at all. 

Biden and wife Jill reportedly also voted absentee, dropping their ballots off last week at the Department of Elections in New Castle County.

Yet the moment illustrates the role the coronavirus will continue to have on all aspects of the 2020 presidential election, affecting everything from how people will vote to the kinds of campaign events held and even how the debates are hosted. 

Historically, the reelection of most incumbent presidents has hinged on the economy — but not this year, experts say.  

“There’s no doubt the coronavirus and how it’s handled is going to be one of the fundamental issues," said Terry Madonna, a pollster and political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

And that brings challenges for both Trump and Biden.

For decades, Biden has been known for his retail politics. He often has intimate moments with voters while on the campaign trail. 

But because of the pandemic, the former vice president has been forced to run for the country’s highest office out of his Wilmington home, where he's held virtual fundraisers and campaign events.

In recent weeks, Biden has been back out in public, often contrasting himself with Trump. He visited Market Street in Wilmington after peaceful protests turned violent and many businesses were damaged and looted. He spoke to a select group of voters in Philadelphia and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

And last week, in the gymnasium of A.I. duPont High School, he blasted the president's leadership over the country's handling of the pandemic. 

Trump is continuing to host large-scale campaign rallies, akin to those he held in the 2016 election, despite the safety concerns expressed by top infectious disease experts. 

Early into the pandemic, Biden faced criticism for his lack of campaigning and visibility. David Redlawsk, chairman of the University of Delaware's political science department, doesn't think these limitations will necessarily hurt Biden. 

"For as much as people said 'Biden is in his basement,'" he said, "I think a lot of Americans looked at that and said 'Yeah, that's great.'"

But Biden will face the challenge of generating enthusiasm to get people out to vote, the professor said.

The conventions often create significant media coverage and “hoopla,” Redlawsk said, but this year the Democratic Party is scaling back its convention because of the pandemic. 

This likely makes the announcement of Biden's pick for vice president even more important. The candidate has pledged to pick a woman for this position, and many are advocating for it to be a Black woman. 

Redlawsk and Madonna, the Pennsylvania pollster, agreed that, typically, people do not vote for a presidential candidate because of their running mate.

"But we are in a different world," Redlawsk said. "There are plenty of Democrats that, while they are adamantly opposed to Donald Trump, they are also disappointed that the Democratic nominee is an old white guy."

Mercedes Diaz, 57, of Hockessin, voted for Biden on Tuesday morning because she believes he can help "bring the country back together." She added that she doesn't care who he picks for his vice president, though she would like it to be a woman of color. 

Wilmington resident Mike Williams, 56, reflected a sentiment on Tuesday that Redlawsk and Madonna have found in their research. 

"Anybody but Trump," said Williams, who voted for Biden. "I wanted to make sure my voice was heard."

In recent weeks, Biden has surged in national polls — which is credited to Trump’s response to a pandemic that is not getting better and to the protests following George Floyd’s death. 

Thirteen consecutive national polls released between June 5 and June 26 showed Biden ahead by at least 7 percentage points. Both Redlawsk and Madonna noted how, in the polls, Biden has made serious inroads with older voters. 

"If Trump really does lose his margin among those voters," Redlawsk said, "I don't know if there's an area where he can make it up."

Looking to the general election, Pennsylvania will once again be a crucial battleground state that could determine the election. In 2016, Trump narrowly beat Clinton in Pennsylvania, contributing to his win. 

On Wednesday, Biden will head to the Scranton area, his birthplace, to tour a metal works facility. That same day, Vice President Mike Pence will campaign in Lancaster and Philadelphia. 

Redlawsk said it has been “stunning” to see Biden lead Trump by more than six points in recent polls. When looking at the polling at-large, Redlawsk said, it “looks like Biden’s campaign to lose.”

But the election is far from over. 

“I’m not saying Trump can’t come back,” Madonna said. “It’s not like Biden doesn’t have his own problems.

"We’ll just wait and see.”

3 views0 comments