Do nice guys finish last in presidential races? Joe Biden hopes not

By Francesca Chambers and Alex Roarty, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

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Key parts of Biden's biography have also been on display, including the grief he felt after the deaths of multiple family members, his working-class upbringing in Scranton, Pa., and even the closeness of his relationship with his grandchildren and fondness for ice cream.

Those messages have made their way into Biden's speeches, in which he compares his background to Trump's, and TV ads, which highlight the Democrat's experience with tragedy and the way in which it underscored to him the importance of health care.

Biden officials say the point of their messaging isn't to make the candidate seem like a nice guy and leave it at that. Instead, it's part of a concerted effort to convince voters that his commitment to his policy agenda, whether fighting the coronavirus or defending protections for pre-existing conditions, is genuine.

"We're doing it this way because it gives credibility and a layer of texture to the issue areas in which we're playing," said Patrick Bonsignore, the Biden campaign's director of paid media.

The Biden strategy so far appears to be paying off. He holds a broad and consistent lead over Trump in national and battleground state polls, and among voters, many surveys show he's much more well-liked.


A national Quinnipiac University poll released this month, for instance, showed that an even share of likely voters saw Biden favorably and unfavorably, 45% each. Meanwhile, Trump was deeply underwater: just 41% of likely voters saw him favorably, compared to 55% who didn't.

Perceptions of how likable a candidate is have played a key role in each of the last two presidential elections. In 2012, polls consistently showed that voters liked Obama more than they approved of his job performance, an edge that eventually helped him win re-election.

Four years later, Hillary Clinton wasn't able to overcome that a majority of voters viewed her unfavorably.

"They successfully branded her as evil and mean," said Jane Kleeb, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party. "And so that contrast of Donald Trump being mean and Hillary Clinton being nice wasn't a set up that was going to work for Hillary Clinton."


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