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Despite polling lead, Biden still has work to do with Black and younger voters

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Speaks On His \"Build Back Better\" Clean Energy Economic Plan
Joe Biden leaves after speaking at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. on July 14, 2020.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If you’re Joe Biden and the Democrats, it seems like the polling couldn’t get any better right now — over the weekend, a national Washington Post/ABC poll found Biden up 15 points among registered voters, while a Fox News survey showed him ahead by 8 points.

But if the race is going to tighten, as Democratic data scientist David Schor warned in a recent interview, Biden still has some work to do with Black and younger voters.

Especially when it comes to motivating them to vote in November.

According to our NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll we released last week — which had Biden ahead of Trump by 11 points — 74 percent of African-Americans said they had a high level of interest in the upcoming election.

That’s higher than what it was in Oct. 2016 (65 percent), but lower than on the eve of the 2008, 2012 and even 2004 elections.

What’s more, Biden’s favorable/unfavorable rating among Black voters stands at 48 percent positive, 19 percent negative (+29) — good, but hardly great with this steadfast Democratic voting bloc. Still, Black voters favor Biden over Trump by an 80 percent-to-6 percent margin in the poll.

And that brings us to voters 18 to 34: 56 percent of them have high interest in the election, which is about equal to where it was it was in Oct. 2016 (54 percent).

Biden’s fav/unfav rating with these youngest voters also is abysmal — 26 percent positive, 44 percent negative (-18). Still, Biden is leading Trump among these voters, 62 percent to 23 percent.

Bottom line: Biden still has room to grow with these voters when it comes to election interest and likeability.

And maybe that’s how he ultimately uses his looming VP pick, which is coming within the next month.

A failure to lead

Earlier this month, we attributed President Trump’s polling deficit to a failure to lead on the biggest issues that have rocked this country, particularly the coronavirus.

And over the weekend, the New York Times chronicled this failure in a 5,000-word investigation.

“Over a critical period beginning in mid-April, President Trump and his team convinced themselves that the outbreak was fading, that they had given state governments all the resources they needed to contain its remaining ‘embers’ and that it was time to ease up on the lockdown.”

“In doing so, he was ignoring warnings that the numbers would continue to drop only if social distancing was kept in place, rushing instead to restart the economy and tend to his battered re-election hopes.”

By the way, here’s how the president talked about the coronavirus in a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace released over the weekend:

On coronavirus fatalities:

Trump: "But when you talk about mortality rates, I think it's the opposite. I think we have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world."

Wallace: "That’s not true, sir. We had 900 deaths on a single day."

On spiking coronavirus cases:

Trump: "Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day. They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test. Many of them — don't forget, I guess it's like 99.7 percent, people are going to get better and in many cases they're going to get better very quickly."

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

3,793,444: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 195,896 more cases than Friday morning.)

141,450: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,117 more than Friday morning.)

45.73 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

Near 600,000: The global death toll from the coronavirus after a weekend that saw a record number of new cases worldwide.

15 percentage points: Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump in an ABC/Washington Post poll over the weekend.

8 percentage points: Biden’s lead in a FOX News poll also out over the weekend.

More than 32 million: The number of Americans who claimed some form of unemployment benefits at the end of June.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: The “Trojan horse” strategy

NBC’s Sahil Kapur looks at the Trump campaign’s latest attempt to go after Joe Biden — this time by painting him as a vessel for Bernie Sanders and socialists to exploit.

“Joe Biden would be nothing more than an auto pen, a Trojan horse for a radical agenda so radical, so all-encompassing that it would transform this country into something utterly unrecognizable,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday.

“The Trump campaign's efforts to paint Joe Biden as something he is not is nothing new,” the Biden camp said in a statement. “The only new development here is the increasingly deranged level of desperation they are showing in trying to sell another ridiculous theory.”

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch is about how, for the Democrats, it always comes back to health care.

A new spot in North Carolina by Majority Forward, a non-profit aligned with the Senate Majority PAC that’s backing Democrat Cal Cunningham over Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, is a good example of how Democrats are pointing to the current coronavirus crisis to prosecute the issue in North Carolina.

The new ad invokes the coronavirus pandemic before pivoting to hit Tillis for his vote not to expand Medicaid in 2013, when he was the state speaker of the House, with the Democrat-aligned group arguing the state would have been in a better place to weather the storm if not for that vote.

As Cunningham and his allies have made similar attacks so far this cycle, Tillis has defended his vote. But the ad is a good reminder of how, during a crisis where health care is top of mind for many Americans, the Democrats have been hammering the issue home to voters for years and aren’t stopping now.

Senate Republicans vs. Trump?

After reports over the weekend that the White House would be trying to block money for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, Senate Republicans are pushing back against the administration, NBC’s Hill team reports. “It’s a disagreement that underscores the worsening fracture between a president who wants to downplay the seriousness of the crisis and a Republican Party that sees its grip on power slipping away in the face of a failure to contain the virus, with testing and tracing key to any successful push to get the spread under control,” our team reports.

Republicans haven’t outlined how much money they want for testing and contact tracing — Democrats included $75 billion for it in the HEROES Act. But two sources confirmed to NBC News that it’s a clear priority for fighting the virus.

The disagreement comes after President Trump has continued to blame increased testing in the surge of coronavirus cases across the country — during an interview on Fox News Sunday, Trump said the testing “really skews the numbers.”

GOP Hill leaders are expected to meet with Trump today.

The Lid: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Don’t miss the pod from this weekend, when we looked at how Democrats have the slight intensity advantage about voting in 2020, per the most recent NBC/WSJ poll.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s full coverage on the death of Rep. John Lewis here.

Georgia Democrats will decide today who will replace John Lewis on the November ballot.

The son of a U.S. district judge is dead and her husband is in critical condition after an assailant shot them at their home. Judge Esther Salas was recently was appointed to preside over a lawsuit brought by Deutsche Bank investors.

Democrats say the White House is blocking CDC testimony on issues of safety in school reopenings.

Trump still wants a payroll tax cut in a coronavirus relief package, even though Democrats say it’s a nonstarter and some Republicans have warned against it as well.

Republican senators are coming under even more political strain as the president continues to see sinking approval amid the pandemic.

Kanye West held a campaign event in South Carolina.