Biden's strong polling numbers, combined with Trump's dismal approval rating amid the pandemic and racial division, put the Democratic nominee on stronger footing than even Obama was in in his races, Belcher said.
Early voting statistics, he noted, show that 7 million voters who did not show up in 2016 have already cast ballots, a promising sign for Democrats. Voters of color who came out in force for Obama, but not for Clinton, have signaled they will do so for Biden. And the former vice president is polling stronger with white voters than Obama did.
"We set up these false expectations," Belcher said. "When 10% of African Americans are voting Republican, it is like, 'Oh, my God, the sky is falling.' No, it isn't. How about let's try turning out as many of the 88% of Black voters supporting us as we possibly can?"
When Brookings Institution scholar William Galston mapped out what it would take for Trump to win at this point, he found few similarities to 2016. Galston, who advised six previous Democratic presidential campaigns, said the biggest risk for Biden may be overreaching as red states like Texas, Georgia and Ohio have come within striking distance.
"There is always a temptation to reach for a sweeping victory," Galston said. "But in the current circumstances, reaching for sweeping victory and falling just short of victory altogether would be a catastrophe."
That leaves Democrats returning to a long-standing political maxim they seemed to forget in October of 2016: Always campaign like you are several points behind.
Forecasters, Begala noted, still see a greater than 1-in-10 chance that Trump pulls out a victory. Four years ago, Trump's slim odds from the analysts at the FiveThirtyEight website helped fuel Democrats' complacency. Now they are looking at the numbers in a very different way.
"If there is a 1-in-10 chance a plane will crash, will you get on it?" Begala said. "Until the number is zero, I am going to worry."
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com(c)2020 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.