WaPo/ABC poll: Biden up in MN by ... sixteen?

To quote the Democratic nominee himself: Come on, man. I’ve always been a little skeptical about Donald Trump’s prospects in Minnesota, despite the campaign’s optimism over its 2016 close call. That was a product of Hillary Clinton’s GOTV failure, not from any additional turnout for Republicans. Plus, the GOP hasn’t won statewide for any office in fourteen years.

However, the gap in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll here is ridiculous. Joe Biden’s likely leading here because Minnesota’s a blue state, but not by sixteen points:

Former vice president Joe Biden holds a wide lead over President Trump in Minnesota, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, with voters in the battleground state expressing greater faith in Biden than Trump to handle issues of racial equality, crime and violence at political protests.

The poll finds that Biden leads 57 percent to 41 percent among Minnesota likely voters, a 16-point margin that contrasts with Biden’s slight six-point edge in a Post-ABC poll conducted in Wisconsin over the same period.

Even the Post seems to think this outcome is not entirely reliable:

Biden’s big margin in the Minnesota poll warrants caution given his narrower lead in Wisconsin. Outcomes in these two states have been similar in recent presidential elections, differing by no more than four points in their vote margin since 2000.

Biden’s lead in Minnesota in the Post-ABC poll also exceeds that of other recent polls, including those released Saturday and Sunday by New York Times/Siena College and CBS News/YouGov, which both found Biden leading by nine points among likely voters. A Fox News poll of registered voters in Minnesota this July found Biden ahead by 13 points.

Consider this in thinking about these results: eight years ago, the Obama/Biden ticket won Minnesota by eight points over Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, 53/45. In 2008, when Barack Obama ran the first time, he won Minnesota by ten points, 54/44. In both cases, Obama ran a massive GOTV ground game to boost turnout and loyalty.

Now, Joe Biden’s running a third time with none of Obama’s charm, freshness, youth, vitality, or historical freight. Biden has zero ground game in this state or any other state, about which more in a later post. Does anyone think that Biden, with those deficits plus the meltdown in the Twin Cities this summer, will outpoll Barack Obama by six points in the gap in this election? Or outpoll him by three points in overall percentage, 57/41? Come on, man. 

This is so far off that it’s not even worth parsing the crosstabs, except to note that they curiously don’t include regional demos. How much of this sample came out of the Twin Cities, and how much of it came from western or southern Minnesota? Or the Iron Range up north? Or even the suburbs? With this kind of result, I’d guess that it was too heavily drawn from the Metro area.

That’s not to argue that Trump is winning Minnesota, either. The RCP aggregate of Minnesota polling shows a continuing advantage for Biden, widening this week thanks to this WaPo/ABC outlier and three other media polls showing Biden up nine. PPP, a Democratic pollster, only shows Biden up eight, while Emerson and GOP pollster Trafalgar show it within the margin of error. Minnesota will be tough to win for Trump, especially if Biden starts showing up here — but the fact that Biden will be showing up here on Friday demonstrates that his campaign doesn’t think he’s up sixteen in this state, either.

The WaPo/ABC poll showing Trump down six in Wisconsin might seem a bit more credible, except for the large MoE there too:

Former vice president Joe Biden holds a narrow edge in the key battleground state of Wisconsin as President Trump’s law-and-order message has so far failed to translate into significant support or change the dynamic of the race there, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Trump has seized on the protests that erupted after last month’s police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, denouncing the burning and looting that took place and warning of worse across the country if Biden is elected.

The poll shows Biden standing at 52 percent to 46 percent for Trump among likely voters and by 50 percent to 46 percent among all registered voters. Neither gap is significant, with a 4.5-point margin of sampling error among likely voters applying to each candidate’s support.

That’s a pretty large MoE for this stage of the race. That also underscores another problem — identifying likely voters. Even this close to the election, those models are not as reliable as one might expect, thanks to massive disruptions by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the urban unrest sweeping across the nation. If WaPo/ABC’s likely voter models led them to think that Biden’s winning Minnesota by sixteen, that should have been their first clue to rethink those assumptions entirely.

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