I swear to you, in spite of all the gloomy polls we’ve posted over the past two months, I’m open to the possibility that Trump wins. I think he’ll win Florida. He’s not very far behind in Pennsylvania. One would expect Ohio and Iowa and Texas, all of which he won easily four years ago, to come home to him. And then it’s a simple matter of him overperforming by just two or three points in Arizona and North Carolina. Last week I posted Trafalgar pollster Robert Cahaly’s prediction that Trump would win reelection easily. On Monday I posted USC’s analysis indicating that Trump will again win the electoral college based on the data they’ve gathered from people about how their social circles are leaning. This morning I posted Jon Ralston’s analysis of Nevada suggesting that Democrats might not be hitting their early-voting targets. (Although Ralston sounds a little more bullish this afternoon.)
The Trump upset scenario is real.
But Georgia is a problem. A much bigger problem than Texas too, even though Texas dwarfs it in terms of electoral votes. Texas has been (somewhat) more reliably red in recent years than Georgia has and its large Latino population is apt to be a few points more favorable to Trump this year than it was in 2016. And even if the unthinkable happens and Texas flips, it won’t be a tipping-point state. If Biden wins Texas, it’ll be his 380th electoral vote, not his 270th.
Georgia might be different. I’ve written about this in other posts this week, but a Michigan + Wisconsin + Georgia combo is enough to hand Biden the presidency, presuming that he holds onto all Hillary 2016 states. And given the polling lately, there’s no strong reason to think Biden has less of a chance there than he does in other nearby toss-up states like North Carolina and Florida. All three states are basically even. Monmouth has a new poll out this afternoon confirming that the state really is in play: Biden 50, Trump 46, assuming high turnout. (Lower turnout points to Biden 50, Trump 48.) And note that Monmouth hasn’t been bullish on Biden’s chances in the state this year. They had Trump up two points in the last poll there, published a month ago.
Trump maintains an advantage among Georgia voters aged 65 and older – leading Biden by 58% to 42% now, versus 61% to 36% in September. This is noteworthy because Biden has led among senior voters both nationally and in the other swing states Monmouth has polled in the past month. However, Biden is able to offset his deficit in Georgia with support from younger voters, who make up a relatively larger share of the electorate here than in other swing states. He currently holds a 54% to 40% lead over Trump among voters under 50 years old, up from his 47% to 42% lead with this group last month.
Biden maintains an advantage in 14 swing counties* where the vote margins were closest in the 2016 presidential election. He leads Trump among registered voters in these counties by 55% to 35%, similar to his 54% to 34% margin in September. He is also holding steady in counties that went solidly for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (71% to 27% now, versus 70% to 24% las month). Trump has a strong 64% to 33% lead in the counties he won handily four years ago, but this is not quite as wide as last month (71% to 25%).
Asked how likely or not they are to vote for each candidate, 47 percent said they’re not likely at all to vote for Biden but 51 percent said they’re not likely at all to vote for Trump. The good news for Trump is that, with one exception, no poll of Georgia has showed Biden leading by as many as four points this fall, which makes this a bit of an outlier. The bad news for him is that the GOP’s own polling is reportedly showing a Biden lead now as well: “A pair of internal G.O.P. surveys of the state indicate that Mr. Biden has established a small advantage, according to Republican strategists familiar with the data, speaking on the condition of anonymity. That’s in large part because of his wide lead in the metropolitan counties around Atlanta that Hillary Clinton narrowly carried in 2016.”
The site Inside Elections moved its forecast for Georgia today from toss-up to … leans Democratic:
🚨In the race for president, @InsideElections is making the following ratings shifts:
TEXAS moves from Tilt Republican to TOSS-UP
NORTH CAROLINA moves from Toss-up to TILT DEMOCRATIC
GEORGIA moves from Toss-up to TILT DEMOCRATIChttps://t.co/R3bnWoHLHn
— Jacob Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) October 28, 2020
You can read IE’s write-up here of why Georgia really might go blue this year. It’s well-suited to Biden’s strengths — a large black population, a growing number of urban voters, and a blue trend over the last few cycles among college-educated whites. Trump won that group in GA by 41 points four years ago, helping him to a narrow-ish five-point win statewide. If Biden cuts deeply into the president’s share of white college grads this time, which has been the case in national polling for many months, all bets are off.
In trying to assess the big picture of who’s ahead not just in Georgia but nationally, let me give you two things to think about. One comes from Dave Wasserman, who’s looking at polls of congressional districts all over the map. Here’s what he’s seeing in Pennsylvania, a must-win for the president:
So far, the pattern is consistent in scores of district-level polls that Trump is running well behind his '16 margins in Bucks, Harrisburg/York, Allegheny/Beaver, NEPA and the Lehigh Valley.
Where does he make up for that in the rest of PA? Answer: he probably doesn't.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) October 28, 2020
Those are all polls of different districts, all pointing the same way. How likely is it that they’re all wrong?
The other data comes from Trafalgar, the pollster on whom Trump fans everywhere are pinning their hopes. (Well, Rasmussen too, but Rasmussen has Trump up a point in the popular vote today, which, ah, no.) Trafalgar famously called Trump’s shocking victory in Michigan four years ago; he went on to beat Clinton there by three-tenths of a point. Here’s where they see the race in Michigan right now:
A lead of six-tenths of a point. The closest Trump has been to a lead in Michigan in any other poll this month was a six-point deficit. Typically he trails in the eight- or nine-point range. Here’s the key: Trafalgar actually has him winning by a (slightly) larger margin over Biden than he enjoyed over Clinton. Does that seem plausible? I’m not addressing that question to the hardcore MAGA types, who think the president’s about to put New York and California in play. I’m addressing it to the more grounded readers. Should we trust Trafalgar’s take on Michigan — and other states — knowing that their data is telling them right now that Biden’s a weaker candidate than Hillary was? Hillary lost the Michigan primary to Bernie Sanders in 2016; Biden destroyed Sanders in the Michigan primary earlier this year. That being so, what does logic tell us about the reliability of this data, and by extension Trafalgar’s prediction of another Trump win?