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Biden campaign advises caution, even as national polls favor Democrat

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden addressed a drive-in campaign rally at the Michigan State Fairgrounds on Friday in Novi, Michigan.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden addressed a drive-in campaign rally at the Michigan State Fairgrounds on Friday in Novi, Michigan.Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Joe Biden’s campaign is urgently warning against complacency in the final stretch of the race despite national and some state polling showing a wide Democratic lead over President Donald Trump.

In a memo that was to be sent to supporters Saturday, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, stressed that polls can be faulty or imprecise — as they were in 2016 — and warned of only narrow advantages in a number of key states. It is a message that appears designed to keep Democratic supporters focused and engaged in the last days of the race despite national attention on Trump’s challenges, and to motivate Biden backers to turn out and continue donating.

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“While we see robust leads at the national level, in the states we’re counting on to carry us to victory like Arizona and North Carolina we’re only up by 3 points,” she wrote, according to a version of the memo obtained by The New York Times. “We also know that even the best polling can be wrong and that variables like turnout mean that in a number of critical states we are functionally tied — and that we need to campaign like we’re trailing.”

A number of polls have shown Biden with a more comfortable lead, but O’Malley Dillon cited polling averages.

“This race is far closer than some of the punditry we’re seeing on Twitter and on TV would suggest,” she wrote. “In the key battleground states where this election will be decided, we remain neck and neck with Donald Trump.”

“If we learned anything from 2016, it’s that we cannot underestimate Donald Trump or his ability to claw his way back into contention in the final days of a campaign, through whatever smears or underhanded tactics he has at his disposal,” she added.

She wrote that the campaign had budgeted raising another $234 million from supporters — even though it entered October with a record $432 million in the bank. All of that money has allowed the campaign to advertise almost everywhere, “even with ads in salons and barber shops, on campuses and through gas station TVs,” O’Malley Dillon wrote.

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She made a similar pitch against complacency in a call with grassroots supporters Friday afternoon, saying that if there was only one takeaway she wanted them to remember from the call, it was that Biden was not as comfortably ahead as some public polls have shown.

“Please take the fact that we are not ahead by double digits,” she said. “Those are inflated national public polling numbers.” Still, she was particularly bullish on Arizona on the call: “I know we’re going to win Arizona,” she said.

She predicted that the Trump campaign would throw “the kitchen sink at us” in the remaining weeks and pressed supporters to volunteer and to continue donating.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.