Godfrey: Clinton never had the kind of lead over Trump that Biden does right now. And the president’s response to the pandemic and the George Floyd protests doesn’t seem to have endeared him to voters.
Dingell: I don’t trust polling. I don’t believe that Biden is 16 points up in Michigan; that’s a bullshit poll, and it’s the same people who said Hillary had it in the bag. I worry about polling suppressing votes. I don’t want anybody to think their vote doesn’t matter.
I’m seeing lots of Trump signs start to pop up. There are some very complicated issues that Trump is playing to divide this country. He is energizing his base, and we have to energize ours. If the election were held today, Joe Biden would win, but I don’t know what’s going to happen between now and November.
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Godfrey: Voters back in 2015 and 2016 seemed to have a knee-jerk hatred or distrust of Hillary Clinton. Is it the same with Biden?
Godfrey: Why do you think that is?
Dingell: Because Joe connects with working people. A lot of people took [it] to heart when Hillary used the word deplorable. They felt that she looked down on ’em.
Godfrey: You told President Barack Obama back in 2015 that these people in your district were not feeling better off, even though—
Dingell: While the president saved the [auto] industry, those workers hadn’t had a pay raise. They weren’t feeling better off. You need to understand this industry: If you played by the rules—if you came to work and showed up, you worked hard—you’d get taken care of for a lifetime. Then [industry] bankruptcy came along, and suddenly, nothing’s secure, nothing’s safe, and you’re scared. That anxiety still lives in their hearts and their souls. Trump understood that; Hillary didn’t.
Godfrey: So if you were advising Joe Biden right now, what would you urge him to do to make sure he wins these voters?
Dingell: Find a way to reach out to working men and women, and show the side of him that I know. I begged [Biden’s former chief of staff] Steve Ricchetti to bring him into Michigan four years ago [on Clinton’s behalf]. Workers needed to see somebody who understood.
Godfrey: But if Biden can’t be there in person now, how can he meet these voters?
Dingell: We’re trying to figure it out. They have talked about: Is it possible to have a town-hall meeting [at a UAW plant]? But the fact of the matter is that when you’re dealing with COVID in the plant, and you’re telling people that they need to keep their physical distance, you can’t do it. It would be irresponsible for the UAW to ask their workers to go.
So we’re trying to figure it out right now. Let me assure you, they’re working on it. Jill [Biden] did an event with the governor [over the weekend], with the bricklayers.
Read: How COVID-19 has already changed campaigns