Biden’s (probably) not going to win Ohio, a state that went for Trump by eight points in 2016. The significance of this poll comes from what it portends for more competitive battlegrounds that’ll decide the election. If Ohio is a tight race right now then all of the polls lately showing Biden ahead in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and even Florida begin to look more plausible.

Trump leads Biden, 32.2% to 31.1% among those who said they “definitely” would vote for one candidate or the other. But among others who said they “probably” would, Biden led, 13.8% to 12%.

That gave Biden an overall lead of 44.9%. to 44.2% in the poll, well within the margin of error. The rest said they were unsure.

There’s good and bad news for the president in terms of how he’s faring with senior citizens, a group that’s deserted him in some other recent polling. The good news is that he’s still ahead among that demographic in Ohio, leading Biden 47.7/44.5. The bad news is that he clobbered Hillary Clinton in the 65+ group four years ago, 56/43. He’s lost 10 net points over his Democratic opponent.

This data, which doesn’t involve Biden, may explain the dynamic in Ohio better than the general election match-up does:

* 75.1% gave [Gov. Mike] DeWine a favorable rating (11.8% unfavorable); fewer people rated Trump favorable (43.1%) than unfavorable (48.2%).

* 85% supported DeWine’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, well above Trump’s 50.3% on the same question.

* 89.7% viewed the coronavirus information provided by DeWine as accurate (either by a great deal or fairly so) in comparison to just 49.9% for Trump.

Trump’s favorable rating in Ohio is actually slightly higher than Biden’s is (his unfavorable rating is higher too) but it’s dwarfed by DeWine’s. The tacit daily comparison between how well their governor is handling the crisis versus how well the president is handling it may be hurting Trump. Likewise in other swing states, where approval ratings for various governors have climbed over the past month: Reportedly Trump’s campaign is increasingly “concerned” about Florida and Wisconsin and some advisors “have all but written off Michigan.”

Why is he having so much trouble lately? It’s too easy to say “the economy has collapsed.” The public triggered that collapse voluntarily by avoiding confined spaces like restaurants in mid-March; governors’ stay-at-home orders, not Trump’s, cemented the effect, yet governors are more popular than ever. It could be that the spectacle of the daily coronavirus briefing hurt him, but Trump’s style at those briefings has been priced into his political stock since he became a candidate in 2015. He hasn’t surprised anyone by turning information sessions into an opportunity to rant. In fact, his national job approval today is right around where it’s been for most of the year. He’s not in freefall.

I’ll float three theories for why Biden has the edge right now. One: He’s been lying low lately, and in an era of negative partisanship invisibility is a virtue. “A 2020 election about Trump is likely an election Biden wins,” writes Harry Enten. “We saw it in the 2018 midterms when feelings about Trump correlated extremely well with Democrats taking back the House.” Joshua Green flagged an interesting number in a new WSJ poll showing Biden leading Trump by seven points nationally: Among voters who have negative opinions of both Trump and Biden, the so-called “double haters,” Biden is crushing the president, 60/10. In 2016 a late break towards Trump and away from Clinton among the “double haters” handed Trump the presidency. They have less reason to hate Biden lately because he’s been AWOL. Hopefully for Trump their hatred will return once Joe’s campaigning again.

Two: Trump *is* suffering a backlash for how he’s handled the virus response but it’s nothing as superficial as his behavior at the briefings. Maybe he made an error by taking the “reopen ASAP” position too soon, before most of the country was comfortable with it. The Ohio poll found just 14 percent of Ohioans want to immediately resume regular activities once restrictions are lifted while 66 percent want to wait and see. Majorities or near-majorities oppose reopening restaurants, retail stores, hair salons, and places of worship on May 1. One hypothesis for why the president has suffered such a sharp reversal of fortune among senior citizens recently is that they may especially resent his attempt to pressure states to reopen before the risk has abated, despite the special threat the disease presents to them. He’s tried to undo that lately by publicly opposing Brian Kemp’s orders to allow some businesses in Georgia to reopen but maybe some of the political damage is irreversible. If so, it’d be a case of his Fox News addiction having bitten him in the ass by making him myopic. The anti-lockdown protests may have been popular on Fox and with Republican activists but they weren’t popular with anyone else.

Three: Maybe … there’s no explanation. That is, maybe the tight race in Ohio is just how a Trump/Biden match-up was destined to shake out regardless of Biden’s visibility lately or Trump’s enthusiasm for reopening soon. Look back at the national head-to-head polling between Biden and Trump and you won’t find many dramatic shifts over the last three months before and after the COVID-19 crisis metastasized. Biden’s been leading steadily by five to seven points. There’s been no sudden shift in Ohio either: An NBC poll taken between March 10 and 15, right around the time the magnitude of the crisis was beginning to set in, found Biden ahead by four. He’s actually *lost* ground there in the past six weeks if today’s Ohio poll is accurate. That is, maybe Biden’s just a stronger (or less weak, I should say) candidate than Hillary was and we’re seeing that in the form of small leads in midwestern states. That’s the worst-case scenario for Trump, that the polling lately isn’t a reaction to a freakish national emergency. Maybe it’s just the status quo.

Or maybe there’s nowhere to go but up for the president. If the death toll in New York and elsewhere continues to drop over the next few months and America gets a partial reprieve from a new surge thanks to summer weather, his numbers are bound to reflect that. Presumably we’ll also have more tools by fall to mitigate a second wave, in which case voters might reward him at the polls for averting a new spike. The economy should begin to recover over the next few months as well. As long as the grand national reopening doesn’t produce a new wave, he has more upside than downside. Although if it does, he’ll have questions to answer about why the feds continue to drag their feet on increasing testing capacity.