All summer I have heard political analysts say that the presidential race will inevitably tighten as the Election Day comes closer. Indeed that is the usual course for such elections. As the months before the election become just weeks, wavering Democrats and Republicans go to their respective camps, narrowing the numbers between the candidates.
I was always skeptical of the conventional wisdom. I thought, considering the dynamics of this particular race, Vice President Joe Biden might well expand his summer lead as the Autumn leaves begin to fall. It turns out that is exactly what has happened.
Today, ABC News/Washington Post Poll released a poll showing Biden leading 54-42 among likely voters and 53-41 among registered voters. The key number is "54." Even if Trump were to sweep all the undecided voters and voter indicating a preference for third party candidates, Trump would still lose nationally by 8 points. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.1 points.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll is not the only recent poll to show a double figure national lead. Of the last 11 national polls listed by RealClearPolitics, seven show Biden with a double figure lead. The most recent polls of likely voters by the major networks - CBS (10), ABC (12), NBC (14), CNN (16) and Fox (10) - all show Biden with a double figure lead. All these polls are of the high quality type, phone interviews using cell numbers and landlines.
The RealClearPolitics national average says Biden's lead is 9.8. FiveThirtyEight has it at 10.4. Trump's chances of winning has sunk in the FiveThirtyEight presidential election model has sunk to 14%. (Trump's chances were at 29% in the FiveThirtyEight model when he pulled off his surprise win in 2016).
To bring home the significance of the difference in the 2016 and 2020 FiveThirtyEight models, Trump winning in 2016 was akin to the chances of a good-hitting baseball player (.290 average) getting a hit. Trump's chances of winning in 2020, as things stand now, are the same as a bad hitting National League pitcher (.140 average) getting a hit.
It should be emphasized that the FiveThirtyEight election model does focus on state polls and the Electoral College in coming up with its assessment. Certainly, in determining odds of winning the election, especially at this point, the focus needs to be on state polls. But national polls, particularly those sponsored by the media, often are backed by a bigger budget and better methodology. Looking closely at those polls are helpful in revealing voting and demographic trends.
Trump has used his handling of the economy as his, well, Trump card. But the ABC News poll only give him a 1 point edge on the economy. The edge he once enjoyed on this issue is all but gone.
The ABC News release has a helpful comparison of the poll results to the 2016 exit results.
Category Trump v. Biden Trump v. Clinton
Men 48-48 (0) 52-41 (+11)
Women 36-59 (-23) 41-54 (-13)
Whites 49-47 (+2) 57-37 (+20)
Moderates 25-69 (-44) 40-52 (-12)
White Catholics 45-51 (-6) 61-37 (+24)
Age 18-64 40-56 (-16) 45-49 (-4)
The ABC News poll also shows that while 4% of Democrats will vote for Trump, more than double, 9% of Republicans indicated they would vote for Biden. According to 2016 exit polls, only 4% of Republicans voted for Hillary Clinton. I have long said that more Republicans will defect to vote for Biden than Democrats will vote for Trump.
OOP's short takes:
- This week the Trump campaign cancelled TV ad buys in Iowa and Ohio, which the campaign touted as confidence they are in good shape in both states. However, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling averages, Trump narrowly trails in both Iowa (1.1 points) and Ohio (.7). So I'm guessing the real story is the Trump campaign is short money and reallocating resources to states that are likely to be the "tipping point."
- Yesterday, Indiana broke a record, reporting 1,910 cases of Covid-19. Today's total is 1,570 which is a record total for a Sunday. It should be noted that Indiana reports fewer cases on weekends, which tend to show up in the Sunday and Monday reporting. It will be interesting seeing the Tuesday through Saturday totals next week. Indiana could be going into a surge.
- Driving downtown Indianapolis on Michigan Street yesterday, I notice that the outside bar seating was packed with customers. Few had masks on and most were sitting close together. I know it's safer being outside, but common sense would suggest this is not a safe situation, even though most of the patrons looked to be in their 20s or 30s.