Some More Numbers to Consider

Trump should be worried.

To add to my post yesterday and James Joyner’s post from Saturday, see Jonathan V. Last’s piece at The Bulwark: The 2020 Cake Is (Almost) Baked, which has several metrics relevant to the general election campaign for president.

While noting the caveat that it is still early (but getting less early all the time), Last notes that the numbers (Trump v. Biden, right direction/wrong direction, and generic congressional ballot) are all pro-D and also pretty stable.

For example:

He provides a pretty convincing case, worth reading in full, that Trump is in big trouble, noting,

So ask yourself this: If you remove the emotional influence of 2016 and just go by the numbers, what sort of odds would you have to get at this point in order to lure you into putting $100 on Trump?

He finishes off the piece arguing that finding a way up for Trump is going to be a challenge:

The entire idea of a Trump comeback is predicated on the assumption that over the next 20 weeks, there can be so much good news that voters will flock to support Trump in even greater numbers than they were back in the pre-pandemic days of early January.
But even during those relatively good times, Biden held a strong lead. (On January 1, Biden was . . . +6.)

Looking out at the horizon, it’s hard to see where good news for Trump is going to come from.

From unemployment numbers that are only in the mid-teens? If that’s your message to voters—Trump 2020: It could be worse! . . . Well, good luck. A figure people don’t like and whose job performance they don’t approve of selling bad results as a “comeback” against a better-liked opponent who’s been leading for a year seems unlikely to work.

And don’t forget that with each passing week that Trump doesn’t make up ground, the momentum pushing against him increases.

This is all fairly convincing, but we shall see.

At a minimum, multiple national crises, poor responses from the White House, and a popular challenger (all in the context of a president who has never had 50% support) should sum to one term for Trump.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trump is a one trick pony. He’s a nasty, stupid psychopath incapable of empathy or decency. Which works great if you mean to embody racism and misogyny and vague, inchoate anger. But that’s Trump’s one and only trick. What do you do when the zeitgeist shifts dramatically and demands empathy? You elect Joe Biden, that’s what you do.

    24
  2. Kathy says:

    I’m trying my best to stay pessimistic, and to keep pushing for Biden and against Trump. It’s the advice Solon allegedly gave to the Lydian king Croesus: count no one happy until they are dead.

    So let’s not count El PITO as done until the election results are in.

    18
  3. Lounsbury says:

    The news that technical recession began in the USA in February is helpful further – a drum to beat of Trump failure before Covid19.

    2
  4. Teve says:

    David Corn says the percent of Americans who ID as Republican fell from 33% to 28% since February.

    2
  5. CSK says:

    @Teve:
    I hate to bring this up, but how many of those people are too embarrassed/ashamed to admit to being Republicans? I know there are people who will tell you they plan to vote for Biden, but intend to vote for Trump.

    6
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    Let’s understand that Trump has not really lost support so much as Biden has solidified his position. The ~42% remains pretty firm.

    @CSK:
    I suspect that a person to embarrassed to admit he’ll vote for Trump is less likely to show up on election day. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find there are 1 or 2 points worth of dishonest responses.

    3
  7. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    I suppose it’s possible.

    But one trend in 2012 was that many people who planned to vote for Romney stated a preference for Obama because they were ashamed or afraid to appear racist. This persisted even into election day, and many were surprised that the polls had mostly been accurate.

    1
  8. senyordave says:

    National polls in 2016 were pretty accurate. It was the state polls that missed, in some cases by a lot. I think most polls for PA and WI showed Clinton winning the state comfortably. The Comey letter hurt her pretty bad nationally, it is possible that the hurt her a lot more in swing states. I do think it is Biden’s election to lose at this point. Trump has had two major crises in six months, and (IMO) would receive F’s on his handling both. The only reasons to vote Trump is you like the racism and/or to stick it to the libs. It is hard to even pretend that he is competent.

    3
  9. Modulo Myself says:

    Writing off cities and bougie suburbs is great for Fox and worked in 2016 when he was just running a campaign, but you can’t actually do that in the midst of several crises and look good. Had Trump had some ambition he might have tried to unwind the concentration of finance, media, tech, and real estate in huge cities and their suburbs. But he didn’t care and his base doesn’t have a clue. The New Deal subsidized suburbs for middle class whites to flee the cities over the course of the 60s. Trump has done nothing like that. He’s not offered a single alternative to the Deep State Globalist world his dumb-ass racist base thinks has been condemned to the dustbin of history. You can’t just hate immigrants and go off about China and talk about shitty jobs moving back to America. You have to hint at a world people might want to live in.

    5
  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    @senyordave:

    …it is Biden’s election to lose at this point

    You beat me to it.

    The economy may improve, but it won’t boom and will likely dip again between now and Nov due to lack of demand on the part of the millions still unemployed, businesses closing, consumers being cautious and state/local governments slashing budgets to fulfill their constitutional requirements.

    There will be a second and perhaps third wave of Covid-19

    A cop will kill a black guy. Probably the easiest prediction to make.

    Tiny couldn’t adequately address any of these the first time and he’ll do an even worse job when he’s solely focused on reelection.

    Oh and let’s not forget the unknown foreign policy disaster that can crop up.

    5
  11. Gustopher says:

    According to the polls referenced in the Bullwark, 28% of people think the country is heading in the right direction.

    This is within the margin of error of the 27% crazification factor, and thus probably not worth investigating further, but I cannot help but wonder what that 28% — ok, let’s say half are just lying and go with 14% — what that 14% are hoping for.

    I assume that it must be a collection of Trotskyites believing that things have to get worse before they get better, and bugaboos hoping for a race war, and maybe some Covid-sympathizers?

    Even people who think that Covid is a Chinese-Democrat-Antifa Hoax to bring down El Presidente should recognize that things aren’t on the right track as the Hoax is everywhere and derailing El Presidente’s efforts to MAGA and that Antifa is taking over American Cities.

    1
  12. a country lawyer says:

    @senyordave: There will almost certainly be at least one more crisis between now and November 20th not including a COVID reoccurrence Hurricane season has just begun. Trump’s expected response will be no better than in the past. He can only throw so many paper towel rolls.

    3
  13. Jen says:

    @Teve: I’ll need to find it, but I’m pretty sure that political party self-identification of Republicans hasn’t been over the mid- to upper 20’s range for a decade.

    ETA: Here it is, from Pew. Republican party ID was at 33% in 1994, it’s at around 29% now. Has been as low as 25%. https://www.people-press.org/2020/06/02/democratic-edge-in-party-identification-narrows-slightly/

    1
  14. Kathy says:

    @a country lawyer:

    Trump’s expected response will be no better than in the past.

    Did something happen to his Sharpie?

    3
  15. EddieInCA says:

    Advice for the Biden campaign:

    1. Continue to focus on empathy and consoling those feeling raw.
    2. Don’t forget WI, MI, PA, OH, FL. Go there often. Mention them often.
    3. Expand the map. Put resources in NC, GA, AZ, TX, IA, SC.
    4. Don’t take anything for granted. You don’t want a win. You want an emphatic, can’t claim voter fraud, humiliating victory.

    14
  16. @EddieInCA:

    4. Don’t take anything for granted. You don’t want a win. You want an emphatic, can’t claim voter fraud, humiliating victory.

    And this is why I have argued for the whole of the Trump admin that people who oppose Trump have to vote D and not abstain or vote third party. The message needs to be as clear as possible.

    13
  17. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    The times do call for empathy and Biden’s strengths in that area make him extremely attractive in comparison to the Narcissist in Chief. I’m supporting Biden with donations, I’ll volunteer, and I’ll vote for him in the general without question.

    That said, as I’ve been watching the protests unfold over the last couple of weeks and as I’ve reflected on Steven’s uncomfortable comparison between the recent police response and authoritarian state actions, what I’ve come to believe it that the dramatic shift in the zeitgeist we are witnessing right now is offering our country an historic opportunity to make long overdue corrections to our failing system. And we’re going to epically fail to seize that opportunity.

    That’s not a knock on Biden. He offers an important and stark alternative to Trumpism merely by being a decent human being. But, the times are calling for more and I can’t think of a single national leader who could rise to this moment and make something of it. Shame on us.

    3
  18. senyordave says:

    @EddieInCA: Here are some campaign themes I hope to see a lot of:
    1. Emphasize core competencies and how normal things were during the Obama years/ contrast with how incompetent and erratic Trump is
    2. “I take no responsibility at all” – I think this could be a feature of the entire campaign, it is always someone else’s fault
    3. Biden is a unifier, Trump is a divider
    4. Character, Trump’s lying has to be referenced. Does the country want an habitual liar as president

    I think you are dead on regarding empathy. Biden is REALLY good at that, he comes across like he can feel people’s pain. He has a middle class background, and he has gone through a lot of pain in his own life.

    3
  19. Kathy says:

    @Scott F.:

    And we’re going to epically fail to seize that opportunity.

    That remains to be seen, at least as far as police accountability goes.

    I doubt there will be a wholesale defunding of police, even in the blue cities and states, but some measures being put in place or proposed right now dwarf any of the meek, mild attempts at reform in the very recent past.

    BTW, I’d like to see data on this, but it seems to me that police killing unarmed African Americans and people of color, especially men, kind of took off after Obama was elected. I don’t think this is a coincidence, but rather a very deliberate reaction, even if in some cases it was an unconscious one.

  20. Mu Yixiao says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Add to that (and this goes for candidates in solid blue areas):

    Find common ground–not middle-ground, that will be seen as “having to give up something” on both sides. Find areas where left/right, R/D have similar goals (e.g., reduced crime, better economy, more jobs) and reach out to “the other side”.

    If Biden (with support from Congressional Democrats) can pull even 5% of conservatives away from Trump–just Trump, not the Congressional races– by showing he understands the needs and concerns of middle-right voters, he can lock the election and (possibly) steer things back towards sanity.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @senyordave: The pro-Biden people (maybe his campaign?) are running some really good spots in WI and PA, focusing on older voters who went for Trump in 2016 and are supporting Biden now. Powerful stuff.

    2
  22. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    But one trend in 2012 was that many people who planned to vote for Romney stated a preference for Obama because they were ashamed or afraid to appear racist. This persisted even into election day, and many were surprised that the polls had mostly been accurate.

    Huh? What you’re describing is called the Bradley Effect, and there’s a broad consensus among analysts that it didn’t happen in either 2008 or 2012. The 2008 polls in fact slightly underestimated Obama, though were fairly accurate. In 2012 Obama significantly outperformed the polls. (RCP’s average had him at +0.7%. He ended up winning by 3.9%–a difference of more than 3 points, a much greater error than the one in 2016, despite the myth that the latter was an unprecedented polling misfire.) Since Obama did better than the polling, that suggests there was no Bradley Effect (or at any rate if there was one, it was very small and strongly countered by other trends).

    The Bradley Effect is related to the theory of the “shy Trump voter,” which was offered as an explanation for why the polls underestimated Trump in 2016. In this case, at least this theory is consistent with the direction of the polling error, quite unlike the two previous elections. But 538 made a case against it shortly after the election.

  23. Kylopod says:

    @senyordave:

    National polls in 2016 were pretty accurate. It was the state polls that missed, in some cases by a lot. I think most polls for PA and WI showed Clinton winning the state comfortably.

    I would disagree with your use of the term “comfortably,” especially with regard to her lead in PA. Her final RCP average there was +2.1. That isn’t what I’d call a “comfortable” lead by any stretch. Trump ended up winning the state by +0.7, which is within the margin of error in most polls.

    The error in WI was more dramatic. RCP’s final average had her at +6.5, an error of more than 7 points, which is well outside the margin of error. It should be kept in mind, though, that there was very little polling done in WI in the final week of the campaign. RCP’s average included only two polls taken for the month of November, and only one of them covered after 11/1.

    2
  24. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    What you’re describing is called the Bradley Effect,

    Right, thank you. It was described as such back in 2012, too.

    and there’s a broad consensus among analysts that it didn’t happen in either 2008 or 2012.

    Again, right. But a lot of people on the Republican side were counting on it prior to the election, when the polls favored Obama.

    There was no Pauline Kael moment to misquote, but I know several people who, in essence, were very surprised Obama won reelection despite leading in the polls.

  25. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    But a lot of people on the Republican side were counting on it prior to the election, when the polls favored Obama.

    It’s true that a lot of Republicans in 2012 expected Romney to win despite his trailing Obama in most polls. But I don’t particularly remember any of them using a Bradley Effect argument. Some of them had used that argument in 2008, but since it didn’t pan out in that election, why would they expect it to four years later? They used other arguments. First, there was the “unskewed polls” idea, based on the premise that the polls were oversampling Democrats. They also pointed to the fact that Romney appeared to be beating Obama among independents. (He did in fact win that group by 5 points–putting to lie the popular belief that indies are a bellwether.) Romney himself apparently convinced himself he was winning despite his internal polls showing him behind; I think he believed the trendlines were in his direction.

    1
  26. An Interested Party says:

    @MarkedMan: Those ads are excellent, and they look like the exact right way to beat Trump, particularly in those two states…

    2
  27. Moosebreath says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Those are good spots. They are not from his campaign, but a well-known PAC.

    2
  28. Kathy says:

    Bunker Boy wants to hold rallies again, and he’s using the mass gatherings in protest against police brutality as an excuse.

    Fine.

    Going by past experience, he’ll have them in huge, enclosed buildings, and will ban anyone wearing a mask.

    1
  29. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    It’ll be interesting to see how many saps are willing to risk their lives by standing in line for 24 hours so they can be jammed into an indoor stadium for another 3-4 hours. Nothing like throwing yourself into a giant Petri dish.

    5
  30. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: I don’t know the numbers one way or another, but I believe I recently heard that police shootings were actually down. One of my usual podcasts, possibly Ezra Klein. But I could be mistaken. And my google-fu is failing me.

    I think it is likely that black activists have been getting much better at getting people to pay attention to police killings. Building relationships with the press, getting press releases on numbers killed prepared, etc — make the job of the press easier and you can get stories planted everywhere. This is America, so you can always count on a police officer killing a black man in and getting caught on a cell-phone video before too long.

    I don’t want to say that it’s a fake outrage, but I am willing to bet that there is a lot of hard work by a lot of people to make it a mainstream problem rather than a sad fact of life that we all live with and ignore. Hats off to the folks who made this change in society.

    4
  31. wr says:

    @Kathy: ” it seems to me that police killing unarmed African Americans and people of color, especially men, kind of took off after Obama was elected. ”

    That’s definitely a possible explanation. Another one is that the iPhone, with its ubiquitous video camera, was introduced in 2007…

    6
  32. An Interested Party says:

    That’s definitely a possible explanation. Another one is that the iPhone, with its ubiquitous video camera, was introduced in 2007…

    Imagine how many people that cops murdered or beat up before there was a means to record their actions…

    2
  33. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: I was going to mention the ubiquitousness of smartphones as well. How many of what we have seen that has gone viral on Facebook and YouTube would have been just totally ignored/blown off before?

    1
  34. Teve says:

    @An Interested Party: i just read the story of Isaac Woodard Jr. it almost makes me wish there were a hell those cops could roast in.

    1
  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: A sharpie only has so much ink in it. It will eventually dry out–especially as much as he uses his.

  36. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:
    @wr:

    Those are good points. Tons of people tend to overlook a lot when it doesn’t affect them, or when there is no evidence that cannot be rationalized away.

  37. Matt says:

    @grumpy realist: Indeed without video the cop’s story would of been taken at face value. After all who is going to believe the criminal?