Biden’s Commanding Lead Looks Different From Hillary’s Four Years Ago
Not willing or able to govern, Donald Trump is woefully unsuited for these times.
In its Sunday newsletter, the highly respected polling website FiveThirtyEight, not known to dramatize or casually speculate, led with these words: “The race between President Trump and Joe Biden is verging on a landslide. That’s not a word we use lightly.”
Recent polling nationwide and in battleground states has produced headlines such as “Republicans should be petrified by the polls,” a Washington Post opinion piece that also proclaimed, Yet the polls also frighten Democrats who, four years ago, got their hopes up amid favorable numbers for Hillary Clinton.
By their very name, “battleground states tend to skew more Republican than the nation as a whole.” Biden is doing very well in almost all of them, including, of all places, Georgia, where the Cook Political Report has designated the presidential contest a “toss-up.” The times, they are-a changin’.
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“Lean relative to nation” is how much more pro-Biden or pro-Trump a state’s polling average is than the national polling average.
A Different America
So is this election year so different from 2016? Well, a lot. Hillary Clinton never had the kind of numbers that Biden currently possesses. She consistently led Trump by an average of four points right up to election day (the worst day of my life).
In the words of pollster Stanley Greenberg writing in The Atlantic, “The lingering apprehension among Democrats fails to recognize just how much the political landscape has changed since 2016. We are looking at different polls, a different America…”
For three plus years, Americans have absorbed, with varying degrees of horror, Donald Trump’s outspoken racist, sexist and white nationalist vision. Except for his die-hard supporters, most Americans do not want such mean-spirited divisiveness and intolerance from their president. This rejection of Trump’s agenda is driving much of Biden’s sizable lead. It is also intertwined with the public’s broad support for the demonstrations in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd.
Greenberg: “While Trump claimed the mantle of the law-and-order president, two-thirds of the country supported Black Lives Matter, according to a June Pew poll…It has left the president isolated, as have his tweets supporting his white nationalist supporters.”
The Coronavirus Is Not Going Away
Up to now, the coronavirus pandemic has been an albatross tied to Donald Trump’s political future. Most Americans know instinctively that Trump fiddled while Rome burned. No amount of China-baiting or Fauci-blaming is going to change that.
The problem for the Trump campaign is that the virus is by no means over and done with. Worse, the coronavirus is surging in exactly the wrong places where electoral college votes were there for Trump’s taking.
In 2016, Donald Trump won all five of the large sunbelt states where current surges in the virus have positioned Biden and down-ballot Democrats in the lead or in striking distance (see battleground chart). It gets even worse for the Trump campaign: the large metropolitan areas in those sunbelt states–Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston and Dallas–have been slowly but surely trending Democrat as voters have become more suburban and educated.
Republican consultant and pollster Whit Ayres told The Atlantic: “The problem, of course, is that Republicans are trading larger, more faster-growing areas for smaller, slower-growing [rural] areas, and the math does not work out in the long run.”
Two ‘X’ Factors
There are two lingering issues that could loom large in the 2020 election, and both favor the Biden campaign.
The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was on the hot seat ever since the 2017 tax law set the individual mandate “tax” to zero. The Trump administration and a group of Republican attorneys general are arguing before a federal appeals court in Texas that since a lower court ruled the individual mandate of the ACA unconstitutional, the whole law should be struck down. Having COVID-19 is indeed a preexisting condition, and for 21 million people to lose their health insurance in the middle of a pandemic is sheer madness…a negative ad that can write itself.
Speaking of negative ads, woman voters will undoubtedly be reminded that the Trump administration was the driving force behind a recent US Supreme Court decision to deny women access to free birth control as part of their health plans (a provision of the Affordable Care Act) if their employer has religious objections to contraceptives. In the 2012 presidential election, “binders” of women deserted Mitt Romney over his opposition to birth control access. Down ballot, the issue hammered Todd “legitimate rape” Akin’s (MO) and Richard Mourdock’s (IN) Senate campaigns.
The Stage Is Set for Joe Biden
Of course it’s not over until it’s over. Each day, the president makes this election a referendum on himself. That’s pretty crazy for a guy polling at 40% approval, 55% disapproval, but we’ll take it. Trump’s negative ads about Biden wanting to “defund the police” don’t seem to be moving the needle; and of course they’re not true.
So, sure, Joe Biden will commit some gaffes that are offensive to women or to some other constituency. He’ll apologize. Then Trump will spout some white extremist ideology that will turn off almost everyone. Trump won’t apologize.
The virus isn’t going away and the economy will not come roaring back anytime soon. The dynamics of this presidential election will remain constant unless there is an occurrence we just don’t yet know about.
I like our chances.