Arnon Mishkin – Will it come out of a hole when the election results come up, or will it go down the drain?
Why improving economy isn’t giving Trump momentum in the election polls. After his debating appearance and hospitalization with COVID-19, President Trump continues to follow former Vice President Joe Biden in the national election in their presidential run. The latest Fox News poll suggests Trump is 10 points behind former Vice President Joe Biden, with Biden at 53% and Trump at 43% among the likely voters.
Many battlefield states in the race are closer, suggesting that Trump’s reliable performance ahead of election day on November 3 – or a fall from Biden – could put the president in jeopardy again.
But the news for the president can be even worse.
There’s an old saying in polls, “The incumbent gets what the incumbent is getting.” It means that when you analyze the polls, don’t look at the difference between the two candidates — look at the incumbent’s number. That’s essentially where voters will disembark on election day.
The adage is based on the belief that voters formed a reasonably reliable opinion about the incumbent party, usually the more famous candidate. People who say they are undecided have generally decided that they do not support the incumbent. But they haven’t strategized yet to make a final decision, however. Once they do, they probably end up picking the challenger.
Like all adage in polls, this is right, except when it’s not. It usually works best when the incumbent is particularly well-known, garners considerable media and public attention – and the challenger is a harmless and straightforward version of the out-of-power party.
If so, this year’s presidential race will surely be one of the races where the rule will work. This is essentially a referendum on Trump.
And if you take a peak at the statewide public polls, there are indications that Trump isn’t just in trouble nationally. He’s not doing very well in some of the “Republican safe” states where no one thinks he’s likely to lose.
The red states are those where the poll shows Trump at 60% or more in a match against Biden. Conditions in blue are the states where Trump is 40% younger. Other countries are shaded based on how close 40 (blue), 50 (white), or 60 (red) is to Trump. Trump’s number is displayed in every state. Poll data is not available in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
On Election Day 2016, Trump received more than 55% of the vote in 18 states. Currently, polls show that it reaches more than 55% in just five of the 18. Consider his top 10 states in 2016, where he got the support of six out of 10 voters:
The deep red states’ data show how much Trump must win over Biden in the coming weeks.
These were where Trump should be invincible, where his base should be dominant. But for one reason or another, either his base either feels less affectionate to him than expected, or he has lost more moderate voters that he will have to win back if he’s to make a good demonstration before election day.
The challenges Trump faces in these individual states show that he needs to do things quickly to ensure that his anticipated victories in those states remain easy – and that he is gaining support in the countries of the battlefield, where polls suggest he rapidly losing ground.
To be re-elected, the president must continue to try to increase the participation rate of his base. That means focusing on his central populist immigration and economic growth support messages that made him the surprise winner of the 2016 presidential election.
But Trump has to do it without alienating the more moderate group of center-right voters who I thought put him at the top in 2016.
A friend once said of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, “Some people fall into deep holes to show the world they’re smart enough to climb out.” It was the story of the two Clintons – until 2016.
And this was just as true of their nemesis, Donald Trump. He went from a New York City real estate mogul who went bankrupt to a casino mogul and then reinvented himself as a reality-TV star. After his grades dropped, he became a very successful politician and President of the United States.
The question for Trump is, will he come out of another hole when the election results arrive – or will he, like the Clintons, still find himself in the ditch?