Wisconsin poll: Biden 51, Trump 42

No need to panic. Maybe the GOP will get lucky again next year when the Democratic nominee forgets to campaign there.

Considering that the Dem convention is being held in Milwaukee, though, it seems unlikely.

Marquette is a respected pollster but if you want to throw this one out the window and forget about it, I won’t blame you. Their final poll of Wisconsin in 2016 had it Clinton 46, Trump 40. They’ve proved they’re capable of a big miss. This would be a really big miss, though:

“We can debate about electability in the abstract all day, but if the polls still look like this in March it sure seems like it could weigh on Democratic voters,” says the NYT’s data guy, Nate Cohn. Indeed. Imagine being an undecided Democratic voter on Super Tuesday, with Biden and Warren each having won a few early states, having to choose between them — and then this poll drops showing Biden waltzing away with the 2020 election’s “tipping-point state” while Warren is deadlocked with Trump there. Whom would you vote for?

If you were still open to Warren, how would you feel if a second poll dropped, this time a national one, that looked like … this?

In a head-to-head 2020 election contest of Biden vs. Trump, the IBD/TIPP Poll found a 54%-42% advantage for Biden. A month earlier, Biden led Trump by 13 points. Sanders had a narrow 49%-45% edge over Trump, while Warren and Harris had slimmer 49%-46% leads.

Independents preferred Biden vs. Trump, 55%-37%. Warren edges Trump with independents, 47%-45%, while Sanders has a 51%-42% advantage.

A blowout with boring Joe Biden or roll the dice on progressive hero Elizabeth Warren? Your move, Dems.

The proper response to implausible landslide forecasts like the ones out today is to shrug, point to the fact that there are 14 months to go, and rest assured that Trump is certainly going to do better than 42 percent on Election Day. Just don’t let the dubiousness of early polls blind you to the extent of the challenge he’s facing. Harry Enten noted a few days ago that we’re in uncharted waters right now in terms of an incumbent president trailing his would-be competition:

No incumbent president has ever polled this poorly against his likely challengers at this point in the campaign…

Only two of 11 incumbents in past years, Jimmy Carter in 1979 and Barack Obama in 2011, were behind at this point. They were down by 4 points and 1 point respectively to their eventual challengers (Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney). Carter went on to lose reelection. Obama went on to win with a small reelection margin — and there were many polls at this point that had him ahead. (Remember, I’m looking at the worst poll for past incumbents.)

Put another way, Trump’s worst poll against any of the top five Democrats at this point is 5 points worse than the worst poll for any incumbent since World War II against his eventual challenger. It’s 12 points worse against his most likely challenger, Biden.

Under normal political circumstances, an incumbent who’s polling poorly is likely to be stuck with an unpopular war or a poor economy. If conditions improve, his numbers improve with them. That’s how it worked out for Reagan, who looked for awhile like a one-termer during the recession of the early 1980s and then romped to victory in 1984 when the economy brightened. Trump already has everything in his favor on the war and economy fronts, though. The only obvious way for him to climb is to sell himself successfully as the lesser of two evils on the ballot on Election Day. Which, of course, explains why Biden’s polling so well against him: That’s a hard argument to make against a two-term VP who served with a popular president, a much easier one against ideologues like Sanders and Warren.