U.S. President Joe Biden reacts during a campaign event at Pullman Yards in Atlanta, Georgia, US Image Credit: Reuters

Finally, some good news for President Joe Biden on the polling front. A new Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll of voters in several pivotal swing states shows Biden gaining ground on former President Donald Trump after months of lagging.

First, to all the polling truthers, let’s take these numbers at face value. Previous polls have been fairly consistent in showing Trump ahead of Biden. Trump still leads across the seven states in this new poll, but the race is tightening with the former president at 47% to Biden’s 43%. But Biden gained ground against Trump in six of the key states — significantly so in at least two, according to the poll.

The poll surveyed voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden’s biggest gains were in Wisconsin, where he leads Trump by one point after trailing him by 4 points in February. And in Pennsylvania, where the two are tied after Trump being up by 6 points in February.

They are also tied in Michigan. In Nevada, the gap has also narrowed, with Trump up by just two points, compared to 6 points last month. The results in these blue wall states — traditionally Democratic states at the national level — are all within the poll’s margin of error. Trump still enjoys leads outside the margin of error in Arizona (+5), Georgia (+7), and North Carolina (+6).

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How can Biden keep it up?

According to the poll, it’s clear that Biden got a bump from his State of the Union. He began that speech with questions from the media and voters about his stamina and mental acuity. He left that speech with something he had rarely gotten before — great reviews from the press and Democrats, who described his performance as “fiery” and “energetic.” When was the last time voters used those words to describe the 81-year-old Biden?

According to the poll, one-third of voters said they had recently seen positive news (possibly about his speech which was viewed live by 32.2 million people) about Biden, the highest number since polling began in October.

Biden and his team smartly capitalised on the spotlight and favourable press from the State of the Union, which frankly hasn’t moved the needle in years past, and fanned out across the country. Vice President Kamala Harris went to Nevada to rally Latino voters.

Biden rallied Black voters in Milwaukee, touting billions in infrastructure investments, and he did the same in Arizona. The campaign blanketed swing state airwaves with a $30 million ad buy called “For You” which ends with an out-take of Biden joking about his age.

In the ad, Biden lists his successes with the pandemic and infrastructure, promises to reinstate Roe v. Wade, and mentions Trump’s failures, pointedly showing the former president tooling around in a golf cart. (The poll also shows that 69% of registered voters favour taxing the rich, as Biden has proposed).

“Donald Trump believes the job of the president is to take care of Donald Trump,” Biden says in the direct-to-camera minute-long ad. “I believe the job of the president is to fight for you, the American people, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Biden’s changing fortunes

Contrast has been key to Biden’s changing polling fortunes. He and his campaign have pointed to Trump’s outright ridiculousness, joking that Trump has bragged about winning a golf tournament at his own golf course. And while Biden has rightfully been reluctant to comment on Trump’s legal issues, he has recently joked about Trump’s financial woes, mentioning his debt.

Trump, continues to offer plenty of content for the Biden team. He hasn’t been campaigning much, but he has been in the news and in ways that only reinforce for voters why a second term would be problematic.

Something else is at play. Republicans, more broadly, are, quite frankly, a hot mess. Ideally, Trump’s fellow Republicans would serve as his wingmen, making the case that they should all be in charge. But, even disgraced former Representative George Santos, wants nothing to do with the GOP, tweeting that he couldn’t affiliate with a party that “stands for nothing and falls for everything.”

By being normal, Biden and the Democrats make a compelling case for why Trump shouldn’t be elected.

No miracle worker

The upside for Biden is that he is president, and over these last weeks, he has just been, well, doing presidential things. He hasn’t solved the Gaza conflict. He hasn’t become 10 years younger. He hasn’t passed border reform. But he has delivered in the very basic ways that incumbent presidents can — announcing funding for job creation and loan forgiveness and slowly shifting his rhetoric and approach to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In other words, Biden hasn’t been a miracle worker who has solved all of his political problems. But he is slowly changing the narrative — on the airwaves and among Democrats — of his campaign by doing the bread-and-butter work of a politician.

Biden has never been a highfalutin, cult-of-personality type politician. Between now and November, he (and his team) should keep doing what he’s been doing, reminding voters of what he has done and of Trump’s many failures and flaws. They must also recognise that to get media attention, they have to do something, well, new. It’s not enough to give a speech supporting abortion rights. It’s better to do it at an abortion clinic, as Harris did recently.

Biden’s calling card has been his basic decency and a workmanlike approach to the job. If Trump is intent on running as the persecuted messiah, Biden and Harris, and Democrats more generally, must lean in on the everyman, politician-next-door-approach.

Biden won’t get another big platform like the State of the Union, but he can keep up the momentum by doing something much more basic — meeting voters where they live, announcing deliverables, asking for their votes, and rhetorically punching Trump where he knows it hurts. — Bloomberg

Nia-Malika Henderson is a policy columnist who has covered politics and campaigns for two decades