Joe Biden‘s Democratic campaign for the White House has gotten a boost lately because President Donald Trump is alienating voters with his divisive rhetoric, longtime Republican pollster Frank Luntz told CNBC on Friday.
“This election is absolutely not over. But it’s Joe Biden’s to lose,” Luntz said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “You never, ever count anyone out, but these have not been a good two weeks for Donald Trump.”
“Biden has been pretty quiet” lately and he should stay that way, because when he speaks he makes gaffes that Trump can exploit, Luntz said.
The latest gaffe came during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, where Biden on Thursday said the U.S. had “over 120 million dead from Covid,” when he meant to say over 100,000. According to data from Johns Hopkins University on Friday, total Covid-19 deaths in America exceeded 124,000 from more than 2.4 million cases.
Trump tweeted out Biden’s misstep, writing, “This is beyond a normal mistake.”
Luntz said Biden should be “staying in his basement,” where he had been on coronavirus lockdown for months, and “staying away from the media.”
“The quieter [Biden] is, the better he’s doing in the surveys,” Luntz said. “That ought to tell you something. The more Trump speaks — and I think it’s the message, and I think it’s what he’s saying — the worse he’s showing up.”
According to the RealClearPolitics national polling average, Biden leads Trump by 10 percentage points.
More importantly, Luntz said, “States that Donald Trump won in 2016 have now shifted to towards Joe Biden by anywhere from 6 to 10 points. That’s significant. That’s beyond the margin of error.”
The Trump and Biden campaigns did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Biden is also gaining favor on Wall Street, which has benefited greatly from Trump’s 2017 corporate tax cut and his push to eliminate business regulations. Even with the coronavirus hit to the markets, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, as of Thursday’s close, was up 40% since Election Day 2016 and 30% higher since Trump’s inauguration 73 days later.
Various current and former financiers, analysts, lobbyists, lawyers and political advisors with banking clients told CNBC they’re increasingly preparing for the possibility that the former vice president could beat Trump in the November election.
“They are willing to support anyone that gives them a sense of stability, and a sense that things will calm down. That’s why Biden has actually moved in the business community and people are now considering voting for him,” Luntz said.
Luntz said the prospect for higher taxes under Biden is not hurting him in the polls.
“There’s a greater acceptance for higher taxes today than there ever has been in my research. And this goes back to Reagan-Mondale in 1984. That’s how significant this is; a willingness to pay for the spending, willingness to keep the economy going, willingness to give something because of all the unrest out there,” Luntz said.
He said Trump should not try to use the same bluster and tough talk that worked four years ago when he shook the political establishment by beating Hillary Clinton. “Hillary Clinton was very easy to dislike. Donald Trump had her number.”
However, Luntz added, “There is a brittleness, an anger, a frustration, an anxiety that exists in the American people that did not exist in 2016,” referring to the dual crises of the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests against racial inequalities sparked by last month’s killing of George Floyd by a White police officer.
“Again, it’s Donald Trump’s language, not his policies, that matter,” Luntz said. “The language that he’s using is not the language of the American people. He’s being very tough. The public wants empathy. They want understanding. He talks about law and order. He should talk about public safety. He talks about his supporters being warriors when what people really want is for him to [work] for hard-working taxpayers.”