“Fake news” might be a bit harsh. After all, the polls do actually exist. Useless news? That might be a better description for polling in June 2019 for an election in November 2020 — with maybe one small caveat:
…..The Fake (Corrupt) News Media said they had a leak into polling done by my campaign which, by the way and despite the phony and never ending Witch Hunt, are the best numbers WE have ever had. They reported Fake numbers that they made up & don’t even exist. WE WILL WIN AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2019
Politico supplies the requisite fainting couch:
President Donald Trump is reviving his attacks on the polling industry, denying reports that his own internal polling has indicated trouble ahead for his reelection bid, even as public polls show warning signs. …
The latest damaging numbers came Tuesday, in a national Quinnipiac poll that showed Trump losing to six 2020 Democrats by as little as 5 points to as much as 13. In the past several weeks, polls have shown the president trailing in two other states key to his 2016 election: Michigan and Pennsylvania. One Quinnipiac poll last week even showed Biden topping Trump in the GOP stronghold of Texas.
But while the president insisted there’s no cause for alarm, his campaign has begun scrambling to shore up his standing in the Rust Belt and even eyed blue states in an effort to expand Trump’s path to victory in 2020.
Did any editor at the publication realize that this last paragraph is contradictory, even if one buys its premise on the value of polling at this stage? If Trump is attempting to “shore up his standing in the Rust Belt,” then that might be a sign of worry. However, if he’s “eye[ing] blue states” to expand his reach, that’s not a sign of concern, it’s a sign of potential confidence.
That last part isn’t “fake news,” by the way. CNN and other media outlets reported yesterday that the Trump campaign is “eyeing” a major effort to challenge the Democratic nominee in deep-blue Oregon:
The Trump campaign is considering putting resources into Oregon, CNN has learned, a state where Hillary Clinton beat the President by 11 percentage points in 2016.
In fact, Oregon is so blue that it has not voted for a Republican for president since 1984. But the Trump campaign is flush with cash and is looking for ways to spend its money and time wisely while Democrats duke it out for the chance to run against President Donald Trump.
CNN obtained a memo to the Trump campaign from pollster Tony Fabrizio about ideas for “expanding the map” to give the President more options for getting the 270 electoral votes needed to win the re-election, where he mentions looking at Oregon.
How meaningful is this news? Every bit as meaningful as polling at this stage, which is to say not at all. Team Trump is flush with resources and unburdened by any significant competition, so they can explore anywhere they please. It doesn’t mean Trump can win Oregon any more than polling at the moment means Trump will lose Texas.
Nate Silver intervened with some common sense about polling and news reports. Even if the polling is real, it doesn’t make it meaningful, especially in the manner they are being covered at the moment (via Twitchy):
No it's not. General election polls mean next to nothing this far out anyway. And if we don't know what the polls actually said & instead just get some vague characterization of them, readers lack the basic Journalism 101 information to put the story into any meaningful context. https://t.co/tiwL2M5ceC
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) June 12, 2019
It's June 2019. Campaigns' strategies for which states to compete in next November mean basically nothing right now. And if we don't know what those polls actually said, it's hard to know how much they're driving Trump's behavior, which is famously erratic anyway.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) June 12, 2019
Republicans will be investing in Texas regardless, as John Cornyn will run for re-election next year and Democrats will be certain to challenge him. Right now, they want Robert “Beto” O’Rourke to pull out of the presidential race and face off against Cornyn instead, but whoever gets the Democratic nomination will get well funded. The GOP won’t get handed a fourth Cornyn term in Texas easily, so the the RNC will have to work early and hard to build the same infrastructure needed to win both seats on the Texas ticket.
So what’s the one caveat? Trump’s persistently low numbers against individual Democrats at this stage might be a cause for some concern, even with Silver’s warnings in mind. With the 23 & Me field, one would expect polls to reflect sharp divisions of support among potential challengers that falsely underestimate their strength against an incumbent. Instead, nearly everyone’s running ahead of the incumbent, even those Democrats who are barely registering in polls for the nomination. That could still be explained by the heavy media coverage of Democrats’ attacks on Trump and the relative lack of campaign activity by the incumbent thus far. Maaaaayyyyybeeeeeeee.