President Donald Trump is down in the polls against former Vice President Joe Biden, and unlike in Trump’s 2016 race against Hillary Clinton, the gap doesn’t seem to be closing in the final five days of the 2020 campaign.
At this point in the last election, Clinton’s lead had suddenly shrunk to a near-tie with Trump after new revelations about her email server. But now, with Trump no longer a political novelty and in the absence of late-breaking bombshells, Biden’s polling advantage looks far more durable.
Here’s what national polling trackers said Thursday morning:
- The NBC News national polling average had Biden up more than 8 percentage points over Trump, 51.9%-43.7%. That spread, based on an unweighted average of the 10 most recent reliable public opinion polls, is roughly the same size as it was last week.
- The RealClearPolitics general election polling average showed Biden with a 7.5-point lead over Trump — the same gap as from a week prior.
- FiveThirtyEight’s national polling tracker gave Biden a 9-point advantage, 0.9 percentage points lower than where he stood a week earlier. But its models maintained that Biden is heavily favored to win the election.
While the national polls have slightly narrowed in recent weeks, Biden appears poised to hold onto his lead through Election Day next Tuesday. Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver notes that a majority of state polls show Biden’s position improving.
Some states, previously considered GOP strongholds, have become hotly contested late in the race. The Cook Political Report and NBC News both moved Texas from “Lean Republican” to the “Toss Up” column this week, for instance. FiveThirtyEight also projects Biden is slightly favored to win Georgia, which hasn’t voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 1992.
All of that is not to say a Biden victory is a foregone conclusion. While a series of October surprises in 2016 ultimately benefited Trump, Clinton still won the popular vote by more than two million votes — but she lost in the Electoral College following a series of close defeats in key swing states.
It’s still possible Trump could pull off the same upset in 2020. Biden holds an edge, on average, in the key battleground states that put Trump over the top in the last cycle, but by a smaller margin than his national lead. Polls show the candidates neck-and-neck in a handful of the most crucial battleground states.
The Republican incumbent has spent the final weeks of the race in a mad dash across the country, each day hosting at least one of his signature in-person campaign rallies and drawing large crowds of supporters. On Thursday, Trump is scheduled to deliver speeches in Florida and North Carolina, two of the most competitive races in the nation.
At those rallies, the president could focus on the economy, which has long been the area where he’s received the highest ratings from voters. The Commerce Department reported Thursday morning that the economy grew at its fastest rate ever in the third quarter of 2020, a figure the Trump campaign is surely eager to tout.
But that economic boom followed the worst-ever plunge in the previous quarter, when GDP fell by 32.9%. And that historic decline was largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, which voters have consistently said they think Biden would handle better than Trump.
The Covid-19 crisis, which gripped the U.S. early in the year and has yet to loosen up, remains a central issue in the election. More than 8.85 million cases, and at least 227,703 deaths, have been reported in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.
Trump has downplayed the threat of the virus, clashed with his own administration’s public health experts and declined to get personally involved in ongoing negotiations for additional government relief. He has hosted events at the White House and on the campaign trail that disregard guidelines on social distancing and other preventive measures, and he himself was hospitalized with the virus earlier this month.
His latest spate of rallies are marked by massive groups of supporters packed tightly together, many of whom refuse to wear masks. The events are being held even as the U.S. appears to be entering its third wave of rising Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations — a situation that his own experts, such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, had warned about months earlier. But Trump, in his closing argument for reelection, has complained that the media is focusing too much on the pandemic, accusing them of pushing the issue for political purposes.
Early voting is at record levels, and there are fewer undecided voters left to court than in 2016. Huge numbers of people have registered to vote since the previous election, which Democrats believe helps their efforts.
Trump, however, has doubled down on unverified allegations of wrongdoing by Biden related to his son, Hunter Biden. Trump hurled accusations about Biden and and his son in both of their debates, neither of which were followed by a boost in the polls for the president.
The issue might animate some of Trump’s supporters, but even some of the president’s allies in Congress are skeptical it will shift the race.
“I don’t think it moves a single voter,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Axios.
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