Leaked polling memo 'shook Democrats in their boots,' says former Obama adviser

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Former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer said that a leaked polling memo “shook Democrats in their boots” in a Wednesday Substack post.

The polling memo from Open Labs, leaked to Puck News, showed how President Biden’s support was sliding following his panic-inducing debate performance Thursday.

The Open Labs memo noted the “largest single-week drop” in Biden’s vote share since it began horse-race tracking in late 2021, which it noted came as Biden already faced a “challenging” election landscape before the debate.

Among the key findings was that 40 percent of Biden voters in 2020 said he should end his campaign, up from 25 percent in May. The poll also showed Biden’s vote share falling in every important swing state, with Trump holding a roughly 7-point lead in both Michigan and Pennsylvania. And it noted that Democrats other than Biden were outperforming the president in a horse race against Trump.

Polls released since the debate have been mixed, with some showing little change in voter attitudes after the debate. But Pfeiffer in his newsletter said that multiple polls on Monday started to paint a more worrying picture for Biden.

“However, the poll that really shook Democrats in their boots came from Open Labs, a highly respected Democratic polling operation that works with campaigns and Super PACs,” said Pfeiffer, also a co-host of the popular progressive podcast “Pod Save America.”

“The poll made the rounds among Democrats for a couple of days. I had four Democratic operatives share it with me on Tuesday.”

“Look, this is just one poll and polling can be very noisy in the aftermath of a major event like the debate,” Pfeiffer wrote. “But it’s hard to find an outfit more respected in Democratic circles, so folks are taking this one very seriously. The results are clearly driving folks inside Washington to push the President’s team for answers, and it has led vulnerable Democrats to begin distancing themselves from Biden.”

Following Biden’s rough performance in the presidential debate last week, in which his voice was raspy and he stumbled over his words, questions about whether to replace him at the top of the Democratic ticket have only picked up this week.

The Biden campaign has gone after the media for what it says is overhyping coverage of the president’s debate performance, with Biden deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks saying on a Zoom call with donors Monday that “the media has spent a ton of time blowing this out of proportion. We are not going to be in a defensive posture on this campaign.” 

The White House has also said that Biden had a cold during the debate, and Biden himself said this week that his travel schedule had contributed to his exhaustion that night.

In its own memo after the debate, the Biden campaign criticized “self-important podcasters” for their very negative response to the debate, a jab that Pfeiffer responded to in his Wednesday missive.

“The Biden Campaign kinda, sorta attacked us in a fundraising email referencing ‘self-important podcasters,” he wrote. “Now, ‘self-important podcaster’ is redundant and a fair hit. But as a lifelong staffer to my core, becoming a part of this story in this way makes me deeply uncomfortable.”

Pfeiffer said he understood the fear Democrats feel about Trump returning to the White House, and said both sides of the Biden debate are operating in good faith.

But he said Biden also needed to be making the case in public that his debate performance was not a cause for panic or change at the top of the ticket.

“Where’s the press conference? A round of interviews with the morning shows or White House Correspondents? Why not sit down with 60 Minutes for a big interview to air this weekend?” he wrote.

“This tempo of carefully curated, mostly scripted appearances is par for the course for Biden’s operation, but in the current context it raises real questions about whether the President could prosecute an effective campaign against Trump. If Biden’s advisors don’t trust him to do a press conference, is he really our best bet against Trump?”

The Hill has reached out to the Biden campaign for comment.

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