Analysis: Democrats Begin The 2020 Election Where They Left Off In 2018

This piece is a live document that is updated with the latest polling data and analysis every Thursday.

As we enter the 2020 general election campaign in earnest this summer, NDN will be providing our latest thoughts on the structure of the race and how we believe the election will unfold. It is our belief that the central theme of this election will be continuity with the 2018 midterms that saw Democrats win the House by a historic 8.6 percentage point margin in the popular vote. That is to say, the struggles that Trump faced in winning suburban, college-educated voters in 2018 have continued in 2020, and if the election were held today the President would likely lose by a fairly wide margin. 

In particular, we like to focus on three major polling aggregates to measure the Presidential race: Trump and Biden head-to-head, Trump's approval rating among likely/registered voters, and the Dem-GOP generic Congressional ballot. As you can see in the chart below, each of these measures points to a similar "structure" of the election that currently favors the Democrats by about 6-9 points (and very similar to Dem's 8.6 margin in 2018) - Biden leads head-to-head by 5.9 points on average, Trump's net approval rating is -8.6 points, and the Congressional generic favors Dems by 7.6 points.

Furthermore, the gap between the national popular vote and vote shares in the battleground states that cost Clinton the election in 2016 doesn't seem to have expanded since 2016, which given Democrats' increased strength nationally means that they start the 2020 campaign with a fairly large lead. On aggregate, Biden leads Trump in Michigan by 5.5, Pennsylvania by 4.6, Wisconsin by 2.7, Arizona by 4.4, and Florida by 3.4. This battleground strength also carries over to the Senate battleground states (although polling outside of the AZ Senate race has been relatively minimal) - Kelly and Hickenlooper have wide leads in Arizona and Colorado, while Cunningham and Gideon likely have small leads in North Carolina and Maine.

Finally, it is important to note that the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting major recession that the US will continue to face over the summer will likely have large, but still uncertain, effects on the 2020 election. Trump briefly saw a small "rally around the flag" boost to his approval rating (it hit a high of net -3.9 on March 28th), but this effect both didn't seem to affect his head-to-head numbers against Biden and has since then completely eroded. It could be the case that the public's quickly souring opinion of the President's coronavirus response could see his numbers fall to all-time lows, or the hyper-partisan nature of the current era could cause his numbers to stay in the narrow band that they've been in since 2017. We don't really know at this point, but either scenario means that Trump has a lot of work to do if he wants to win a second term.

Below you can find an aggregate of the most important polling data (in our view) for understanding where the 2020 election currently stands. 

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