For several days now we’ve been seeing reports of President Trump’s approval rating regarding how he’s responded to the novel coronavirus pandemic beginning to slip. I normally wouldn’t find such a shift surprising, given the relentless (and frequently contradictory) negative coverage he’s received in most MSM outlets. But even if that sort of ratings slide is real, it only makes the latest Fox News poll of the upcoming election all the more surprising. Joe Biden has been consistently leading Donald Trump well outside the margin of error nationally, but now, at least according to this single survey, that lead has entirely vanished and they’re basically tied.
The presidential race has tightened.
Joe Biden’s recent nine-point edge over Donald Trump has evaporated.
According to a new Fox News Poll of registered voters, the incumbent president and presumed Democratic nominee now tie with 42 percent support apiece.
Some 16 percent would vote for a third-party candidate or are undecided. Trump’s 42 percent support is, by a narrow margin, his highest ever against Biden, while Biden’s mark is his lowest by far.
We can never discount the possibility that the polling firms conducting this survey just happened to cough up an outlier and we’ll want to wait for a few more sets of results to come in before we call it a trend. But with that said, a look at the crosstabs as compared to recent events in the news hints at some trouble brewing for Joe Biden.
The first item of note is the fact that this is a survey of registered voters, not likely voters. Trump has traditionally done significantly better with likely voters and the enthusiasm among those supporting him remains very high. If he can reach a tie with Biden among registered voters, he could actually be ahead among likely voters already, but we won’t know that until late in the summer.
One remarkable feature of these results isn’t just Biden losing nine points overall. It’s the specific groups he lost steam with. He lost nine points with women since the last poll. Could that be some early blowback from the Tara Reade story? (Assuming the respondents ever found out about it, which would be amazing considering the media blackout on that story.)
Even more remarkable than Biden’s drop in support with women is the fact that he lost an even larger percentage (11 points) among non-white voters. It’s hard to point to any specific news items that would cause that, but the Trump campaign has been dumping massive amounts of money into an ad campaign targeting minority voters. The DNC generally just takes those votes for granted and doesn’t put in much work to keep their support, so perhaps the President’s tactics are starting to bear some fruit for him.
Three other factors that aren’t specific to any particular demographic might also be in play. First, there’s the pandemic. We’re in the middle of a national crisis, and at times like these, people tend to rally around the flag and whoever is currently in charge. The second factor could be Bernie Sanders’ recent decision to suspend his campaign, effectively handing the nomination to Joe Biden (absent some massive chicanery from the DNC). Could angry Bernie Bros be showing up in these new polling numbers?
And finally, there’s the issue of Biden’s increasingly frequent “senior moments,” which are becoming more obvious every time he puts out a new video or shows up for an interview on the Sunday shows. The guy is simply not sharp, to put it kindly. That’s not the sort of image that instills confidence in the voters, particularly when the world is in a state of upheaval like we’re seeing today.
One thing appears certain, at least to me. If a couple more polls like this show up between now and the middle of May, the DNC is going to be taking a hard look at their options. If Biden can’t deliver a commanding lead and act more consistent on camera, he might not wind up with the nomination after all.