Let me start by saying that I don’t generally trust polls. Pollsters have been wrong too many times and no news organization is bias free, especially in the Trump era. Polls this far out of the election are even more suspect.
I’m not saying any of these news organizations deliberately fudge the numbers. What I am saying is that they can, and probably often do, make reporting decisions about the polls based on their bias. I’m also saying that they can, and probably often do, ask questions in such a way to get the result that they want.
Now, with all of that said, I don’t think that polls are entirely useless. This is especially true when you dig into the internals of a poll where the tea leaves that are worth reading are found. Two such polls have been conducted in recent days where we can dig deep and find information that will tell us the shape of things to come in the months between now and November.
One of these polls was conducted by Fox News. This poll indicated that former Vice-President Joe Biden is currently enjoying an 8-point lead over Donald Trump if the election were held today. Internally, though, we find a couple of interesting numbers that may flip the narrative come November. These are a 9-point lead by Biden on the issue of who will handle the Coronavirus better and a 3-point lead by Trump on the issue of who will handle the economy better.
So, why are these numbers important?
Well, I’ll answer the question with another question. Which of those two will be a bigger issue come November: the virus or the economy?
I think the answer is that the economy will be the bigger issue. Already the virus, and the associated fears of it, are starting to dissipate. States like Georgia, Florida, and Texas are starting to open up with relative success. Other states are loosening restrictions. Even in Michigan, the iron fisted Gretchen Whitmer is starting to relent.
In states that aren’t opening up like California and New York, the citizens are getting restless and starting to ignore their government overlords more and more. If states continue along this trajectory, then the virus will be just a memory come November, and things always seem worse when you’re going through them than they do when you look back on them.
The economic fallout from this virus is going to last a lot longer though. Unemployment will still probably be high. Many of the small businesses that closed won’t be reopened.
Come November, President Trump is going to likely remind everyone that it wasn’t he who issued so many restrictive rules, it was the governors. He will and should remind everyone that the most restrictive, long lasting, and economic damaging of these rules came from Democratic governors (coincidence?). Additionally, he will remind people of the eight years of economic stagnation that the country experienced under the Obama/Biden administration. He will remind them of the shuttered factories and the continuously high unemployment and underemployment numbers. He will remind voters of the warning from Obama that those jobs would not be coming back and that the stagnant conditions would be the new normal and people should get used to it.
Trump will then remind people that the factories did start coming back. he will remind people that the dreadful employment numbers were not the new normal, they did come down. He will remind them that this happened when he took office and cut taxes and slashed through red tape.
He will then ask the American voters who they trust more to lead them back from this economic crises: the one who led the way out of such a crises before, or the one who road shotgun to the guy who said the last crises was the new normal.
And while he is reminding people of those things, the virus will just be a bad memory.
Another poll that seems to bode ill for the former VP despite his leading in the national polls is a CNBC poll of several swing states. Specifically, these states are: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
In these states, Trump is enjoying a lead of 48% to 45% over his challenger. Internally, the poll shows an even larger advantage over Biden on the issue of the economy than the Fox News national poll showed. Even more telling, he enjoys an 11-point lead among independents in these states and, statistically, the two are tied on who would deal with the virus better.
One thing that caught my eye when looking at this poll was the absence of perpetual swing state Ohio and the state the Democrats hoped to turn blue this time around, Texas (this was always a pipe dream anyway). Is Trump’s lead in these states now considered insurmountable? Are they no longer swing states for this election cycle?
So, while its always wise to take polls with a grain of salt (or several dozen grains as the case may be), these two polls paint a decent picture for the President as the election approaches. They show that he has an edge on the issue that will likely loom largest in voters’ minds, and that this advantage is even more pronounced in the battleground states he will need for ultimate victory.
One more important thing to consider that polls don’t often show is how the two candidates arrived at their current positions. For Trump; he arrived here after months of being in the public eye, with marathon press briefings every day where he was continually making unforced errors before a press that is relentless in its criticism. For Biden; he arrived here after spending months in his basement, out of the public eye, and letting a favorable press paint a rosy picture of him.
One question we should ask; how is this going to change? How will this change when the campaigns start lobbing ads at each other? How will this change when Trump starts holding massive rallies in front of packed out stadiums again? How will this change when Biden emerges from his basement and has to start interacting with the public again?
I have long been of the opinion that Trump will beat Biden easily. This opinion is formed entirely by my past observations of Biden. He is a disaster on the campaign trail. He can’t speak, he gets confused, he’s combative with voters, he’s easily angered, he’s insulting, and for some weird reason he likes to challenge random people to push-up contests.
This is the third time he’s run for President. In the first two, he failed to win a single delegate in the primary. This time around, he only won the primary because the Democratic party decided Bernie Sanders was too big a risk and rallied behind him as the least offensive candidate.
When he is forced to start campaigning again, voters will see the real Joe Biden on full display. They will not like what they see and these national poll numbers will begin reflect the internals a lot more realistically.