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Swing State Polls Look Bad For Donald Trump

Trump loses most swing states to Joe Biden in current polling but fares better against Sanders and Warren.

A new round of head-to-head polling from the swing states came in yesterday and the results are somewhat encouraging for Republicans. While Donald Trump trails the leading Democrats in national polling, many of the swing state races are too close to call, particularly if Joe Biden is out of the picture.

Due to the large number of candidates and states to examine, for clarity, I will present each state separately and give Trump’s net poll rating with each candidate based on the Real Clear Politics average. A negative rating means that Trump is behind and a positive rating means that he is ahead. For reference, I’m also including the latest state-level Trump approval numbers from Morning Consult, which were taken as the Ukraine whistleblower scandal was breaking in late September.

National

Trump vs. Biden               -10

Trump vs. Warren            -7.3

Trump vs. Sanders           -7.9

Trump vs. Buttigieg         -4.5

Trump vs. Harris               -5.3

Trump approval                -13

Arizona

Trump vs. Biden               -1.7

Trump vs. Warren            0.7

Trump vs. Sanders           5.3

Trump approval                -4

Florida

Trump vs. Biden               -2.0       

Trump vs. Warren            0.3

Trump vs. Sanders           1.0

Trump approval                -2

Iowa

Trump vs. Biden               1.5

Trump vs. Warren            4.5

Trump vs. Sanders           1.0

Trump vs. Buttigieg         4.0

Trump approval                -14

Michigan

Trump vs. Biden               -7.7

Trump vs. Warren            -3.0

Trump vs. Sanders           -7.3

Trump approval                -10

North Carolina

Trump vs. Biden               -5.4

Trump vs. Warren            0.2

Trump vs. Sanders           -2.4       

Trump approval                -3          

Ohio (no recent polling)

Trump vs. Biden               -7.0

Trump vs. Warren            -1.5

Trump vs. Sanders           -5.0

Trump approval                -5

Pennsylvania

Trump vs. Biden               -7.3       

Trump vs. Warren            1.7

Trump vs. Sanders           5.4

Trump approval                -8

Wisconsin

Trump vs. Biden               -5.7

Trump vs. Warren            -1.0

Trump vs. Sanders           -2.7

Trump approval                -11

There are a couple of important takeaways from this polling, even though the election is still a year away. The first is that Joe Biden is a stronger candidate in the swing states than Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. In six of the seven swing states with recent head-to-head polling, Biden leads Donald Trump. Warren fares worst of the three top-tier Democrats, but Bernie Sanders is not much better.

Second, Trump approval is a pretty good proxy for how he stacks up in a head-to-head matchup in most cases, although this is dependent on individual candidates as well and the numbers don’t match up exactly. In only one of the states examined, Iowa, does Trump have a negative approval rating but leads in polling.

Finally, as we saw in 2016, it isn’t enough for the Democrats to win the popular vote and expect that to translate into an Electoral College victory. The Democrats must give Donald Trump a 5-10 point shellacking in the popular vote to be assured of winning enough swing states to secure the White House. This is especially true due to the difficulties of state-level polling in swing states.

Based on the current polling presented above (while assuming Ohio stays red), Joe Biden would win the Electoral College by 333-205 and Bernie Sanders would eke out a 273-265 victory. Elizabeth Warren would lose by 258-280, but many states are actually too close to project in a Warren-Trump matchup. Neither side could be confident of victory at this point, although Warren does seem to represent Trump’s best chance at reelection.

The election is a long way away and a lot can happen. In the current cycle, that is even more true than most years due to the breaking Ukraine scandal, impeachment, the slowing economy, and a number of other factors. While the swing states are not looking good for Donald Trump, they are looking much better than the national average, but that’s why they call them battleground states.

While many of the state-level races are not polled frequently, it will be important to watch them for trends over the next year. Significant movement in one direction or the other could represent a changing dynamic within the election.

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