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Analysis: It's Bad Now for Trump/GOP, But It Could Get Worse

Thursday Poll Roundup – It's Bad Now for Trump/GOP, But It Could Get Worse

new NYT/Siena poll confirms the central argument of our last Poll Roundup – to make the race competitive Trump is going to have to get up to 48.5/49, a place he’s never really been, and a place that just seems out for reach of him now.

Trump received 46% of the vote in 2016, and 44.8% in 2018. According to 538 Trump’s job approval has only been over 46% for a few days in his entire Presidency (his first week in the job), and most of the time it’s lived in the low 40s. He’s down in this race by about 10 points which would put the final margin at 55-45 – a familiar place for him, 44/45/46. Trump’s only got to 46% in 2016 with the extraordinary help of a massive Russian effort, and the Comey letter, and as this 538 analysis shows Trump was only at 46% for a very brief window in those final weeks. It was not a place he had sustained for a long period of time.

The big question on the table - is there any reason to believe that Trump can break beyond the percentage of the vote he’s been hovering at for this entire time on the national stage – 44/45/46? It matters for this time, without a third party candidate, he has to get up much higher, 48/49, to have a shot at winning the Electoral College. Our analysis last week using 538’s numbers showed that given current battleground state polling Trump would have to get 48.5/49 to have a shot at winning the Electoral College, and it is very likely he would have to get to 50% to lock it down. The NYT/Siena poll has similar findings. Looking at their battleground state polling, Trump would have to turn a 50/36 race into a three point race, 51.5/48.5, to have a shot at winning the EC. To assure his win he would have to go higher, 49, 49.5, 50. As the NYT’s Nate Cohn writes this morning: “And at the moment, there are limits to what Trump can hope to extract out of the electorate right now. 55% of registered voters said there was "almost no chance" they would support him.” There is that Trump at 44/45/46 number again. Winning the election will require Trump to win 3-4 pts in the electorate he has never had – meaning that to win now Trump has to keep everyone who voted for him in 2016/8 and pick up millions of new voters he’s never had. Yikes to that.

As bad as the race is now for Trump and the GOP, there are three ways it could get worse in the months ahead:

Biden still has room to grow – Biden has not yet picked his VP or formally won the nomination. It is very possible these events, coming soon, would allow him to pick up another 2-3 pts nationally. If his vote share starts to consistently hit 52/53/54, not the 49/50 number he is at now, he will start putting the race away. Keep in mind that in this NYT poll Trump was at 36%, meaning that 64% of the electorate was not supporting him. If that holds, Biden’s upper limit may not be in the mid 50s but in the high 50s. 

COVID – the clear failure of the Trumpian re-open fast strategy may have a significant impact on the fall election. It may not only reinforce broader Trump failures, making any future political recovery for him more challenging, but if it erodes the GOP brand by even 2-3 points in the states heavily impacted right now – AZ, FL, TX and potentially IA and SC – it would make the Electoral College and holding the Senate that much harder for the GOP. A 2-3 point shift in AZ and FL would almost certainly put those two must win states out of play for Trump. Given how close Texas is now a 2-3 pt shift could end up flipping Texas, which has not only would be an EC disaster for the GOP, but a redistricting one as well. 

Young Voters – In 2018 Democrats won younger Americans by enormous margins - +25 for under 45s, +35 for under 30s. Recent Trump job approval measures had suggested that this margin was holding, or even getting worse for Trump. The NYT/Siena poll has some pretty startling findings in this area – 

18-29 Biden 60 Trump 26 +34, 15% undecided/not voting

30-44 Biden 56 Trump 24 +32, 20% undecided/not voting

This would put the under 45 vote at +33 for Biden (OMG), and Trump at 25% (!!!!) with this portion of the electorate (which will make up around 45% of the total vote in 2020). But what should worry the GOP here is if this large uncertain vote that breaks along these current lines, going basically 70/30 for Biden, it will give the former VP another 2-3 points nationally on election day.

For an extended discussion of the under 45 vote do watch my new video presentation, “With Democrats Things Get Better.” It does a deep dive into this critical vote in recent elections.

Things are bad now for Trump, McConnell, and the GOP. But they could get worse in the days ahead. 

With Democrats Live Presentation - June 24, 2020

NDN is excited to release the first public version of our new deck, "With Democrats Things Get Better." It was recorded on June 24th, 2020 so all of the data you see will be current as of then.  The presentation, narrated by NDN's Simon Rosenberg, lasts about 25 minutes, and there is another 35 minutes of questions and discussion if you are interested.   

You can learn more about the thinking behind "With Democrats" here.

Analysis: Trump’s Emerging Electoral College Challenge

Every Thursday, NDN publishes its Thursday Poll Roundup, a deep dive into recent polling and political trends. You can sign up to receive it each week and feel free to review previous editions too. 

Thursday Poll Roundup – Trump’s Emerging Electoral College Challenge

The big trends we’ve been writing about of late – the across the board weakness of the GOP brand – is still very evident this week: 

Biden/Trump      50.2/41.7   + 8.5   Real Clear Politics

Dem/Rep            48.6/40.7   +7.9   538 Congressional Generic

Trump                 41.6/55.1    -13.5 538 Trump Job Approval (Registered/Likely Voters)

Senate polling continues to bleak for the Rs, with none of their incumbents in the 11 seats  they are defending (AZ, CO, GA/2, IA, KS, KY, ME, MT, NC, SC) holding a clear lead at this point.  New polls have Greenfield leading Ernst 46-43 in IA, Ossof leading Purdue 45-44 in GA, Kelly leading McSally 51-42 in AZ and Peters leading James in MI 47-35.  With Democrats holding consistent leads in AZ, CO, IA, ME, NC the Senate looks very much within Senator Schumer’s grasp this year.  

What should be worrisome to Republicans now is the growing evidence that the President is no longer strong enough to win essential arguments with the public.  This trend manifested earlier this year during the Impeachment debate, where on most aspects of the elements of Impeachment – Democrats handling it fairly, witnesses/documents, etc – the President lost the argument, sometimes by very large margins.  We are seeing that now with his handling of COVID, the protests and police violence – all of these issues are breaking dramatically from the President’s stated positions.  A recent poll by the Washington Post put the President’s approval of handling the protests at 35/61, and then there is this data from this morning’s excellent Corona Navigator

Support the protests   66/29

Approve of police response 37/50

Black Lives Matter Fav/Unfav  65/29

Trump COVID Approval  42/57

Over the course of these defining 2020 issues – Impeachment, COVID, the protests – it is common to find the President and his positions in the 20s and 30s, rarely in the low 40s and never in the 50s.  This data, consistent in poll after poll, suggests the President is becoming a spent force, unable to bend and shape the national political environment in a way required for him to win this year.  

Finally, we are starting to get enough high quality polls in the states to get a sense of how the Electoral College is looking.  Using 538’s latest averages, with the race today between +8.5 to 9 pts for Biden, and giving Trump both IA and TX, today it is Biden 368 Electoral College votes, Trump 170 Let’s look at what happens if we tighten the race

Biden/Trump 53/47 (+6) – Trump gets to 219 (GA, NC, OH flip to Trump) 

Biden/Trump 52/48 (+4) – Trump to 230 (AZ flips to Trump)

Biden/Trump 51.5/48.5 (+3) – Trump to 250 (PA flips to Trump) 

Biden/Trump 51/49 (+2) – Trump to 260, maybe 289 (MN, maybe FL flip to Trump).  

Biden/Trump 50.5/49.5 (+1) – Trump to 293 (FL, NH flip to Trump)

 In 2016 Trump got 46% of the vote, and in a high turnout midterm in 2018, Trump/GOP received 44.8%.  For Trump to make this race competitive at this point he will have to make it a 2 point race and get all the way up to 49%, 3-4 pts higher than he was in the last two elections.  This would require him to gain millions of votes from people who have not voted for him before, even if he retained everyone who had voted for him and the GOP in the last two elections.  With historically high unemployment and deficits, COVID untamed, a President seemingly lost in a new and changing environment, a sure footed and smart Biden campaign, what do we really believe the chances of that kind of comeback are this year? 

Spend time with the 538 job approval tracker.  You will find that Trump has only been about 45/46 job approval with likely and registered voters for a day or two in his entire Presidency.  So to make the election competitive in this scenario, Trump will have to get to a job approval level that he has only had for a day or two in the last 3 ½ years, and a level of electoral support he has never come close to.  

These early state polls will change of course, as will the national landscape.  But part of what has made the Electoral College far more daunting for Trump than it was a few months ago is what appears to be significant recent slippage in FL and WI.  If those states remain where they are relative to the other states, this race is going to be very very hard for the President this year.   

Daily Beast Column Gives High Praise to NDN's "With Democrats" Presentation

We are excited to report to you that our new presentation, “With Democrats Things Get Better,” is the subject of a new Daily Beast column by noted author Mike Tomasky (for those who would like to see the presentation you find the dates of future showings and register here).

Tomasky writes: “Simon Rosenberg heads NDN, a liberal think tank and advocacy organization. He has spent years advising Democrats, presidents included, on how to talk about economic matters. Not long ago, he put together a little PowerPoint deck. It is fascinating. You need to know about it. The entire country needs to know about it.

The presentation compares how the economy has performed by various measures under Democratic and Republican administrations, going back to 1989. That means that it fairly compares 16 years of Democratic presidencies (Clinton and Obama) to 16 (almost) years of Republican presidencies (Bush, Bush, and Trump). It uses official government numbers, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and so forth. There’s no cooking of any numbers. It’s just the facts.

And the facts are that it’s not even close. The economy does better—far better—when we have Democratic presidents. In terms of job creation, median income, health care, and yep, even the stock market, the economy does better—the American people do better—under Democratic presidents. By a mile.

“We’ve been making a version of this ‘Dems good, Reps not-so-much’ argument for a few years now, but decided to really lean into this year because the magnitude of Trump’s failures has just made the contrast that much more stark, and even more essential for Democrats to establish,” Rosenberg told me. Amen to that.”

Tomasky goes on to review some of the key slides and arguments from the deck, adding his own insights and observations.  Do read it all – it is a terrific and smart piece, and register for one of our future showings. Our next three will take place on Wednesday, June 24th, July 8th, and July 22nd. We are proud of this deck and are working hard to bring it to as many people we can in the months ahead. 

A big shout out to former NDNer Chris Taylor who contributed significantly to the deck, and current NDNer Georgia McLean who has worked hard these last few weeks keeping it current. Chris who did so much good work for us is now working on the staff of the very able Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, and we are sure he's helping out that great office as much as did ours.

On COVID, WTF Is the President Doing?

The data doesn’t lie. COVID here in the US, never tamedis spreading again at too fast a rate in too many states for the US govt to pretend it isn’t happening or for it not to act. Because the federal government has done so little to combat COVID (allowing us to have infection rates up there with exemplars Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Sweden), there is much the President could do now to help the country re-open safely – support a national testing and tracing regime, start a big conversation about the need to mask and physically distance, challenge America’s young people to do their part and avoid risky behavior all would be a good place to start.  Our strategy for combatting COVID has failed; the cost to the US in lives, jobs, and our well-being has been immense; it is time now for the President to recognize the magnitude of his failure and course correct.

For all the early mistakes the President made, the most significant mistake he may have made has come in recent days – urging the country to re-open without having the proper tools and protocols in place to lessen the chance of a new surge. The President has time now to correct that mistake and stop asking the entire country to, in essence, sign a waiver absolving him for responsibility for what is happening. The easiest way to do this is for the President and his team to lead a conversation with the American people about the need to maintain physical distancing and mask. These are inexpensive solutions which if widely deployed, could do a great deal to contain the virus and allow us to live “new normal” lives without returning to lockdowns. The President’s attacks on masking and prudent measures by the states have been dangerous, profoundly stupid, and reckless. 

What remains so hard to understand is that with the President and his party seeing truly ruinous 2020 polling numbers, why isn’t the President changing course on COVID? He has clear evidence that the GOP governors who’ve been tough on COVID saw their job approval numbers skyrocket. He has a smart, clear, and well-trodden path to follow. Why, for the good of the nation and for his party, won’t he follow it?

At this point, given the very carnage we’ve seen, and the collapse of the GOP’s brand this spring, we are running out of charitable explanations for the President’s refusal to mount a national campaign to tame COVID. One should note the contrast of the President’s recent intense mobilization of the US military and other federal resources to combat a “terror threat" which didn’t exist to his dogged refusal to mount such an effort to combat the virus. The President didn’t leave our economic response to COVID to the states, or the response to his invented terror threat. Why he thinks it isn’t the responsibility of the federal government to lead a response to a pandemic which affects every American will be the stuff of discussions, books and seminars for a very long time – for it may be the single most destructive set of governing decisions in all of American history.   

With Democrats Things Get Better

"With Democrats" is a live, always updated presentation. You can check our schedule for upcoming showings here, and review to check out our first release of a recorded  "With Democrats," this one from June 24, 2020. 

In 2016 Donald Trump made a big argument - that this new age of globalization ushered in after the end of the Cold War had weakened the United States, leading to in his infamous phrase "American carnage."

At NDN we always found that argument misguided and wrong.  When Trump came to office the US had a very low unemployment rate, record high stock market, declining deficits and rapidly growing incomes for American workers.  The uninsured rate was the lowest of the modern era, crime rates were half of what they'd been, and the flow of undocumented immigrants to the border was a fraction of what it had been.  The world was largely at peace, a great deal of the world was modernizing and growing, and a global effort to  address climate change was picking up steam.  While things weren't perfect, what the President inherited when he came to office were some of the best overall geopolitical, societal and economic conditions America had seen in decades.  It is something Simon discusses at length in this Medium essay. 

So over the past few years, we've been talking about just how wrong the President was about this great country and its achievements.  It has driven a great deal of research and advocacy.  This caused us to launch a big PowerPoint presentation called Patriotism and Optimism.  And now, as we enter the 2020 general election, we've begun to package this thinking and work into a project we are calling "The Asymmetry Project." The first product of this new project is a webinar we've been trying out over the past few months called "With Democrats Things Get Better."  This presentation is a data filled look at America during this age of globalization, and how each party has navigated its challenges while in the White House. 

Central to our work in The Asymmetry Project is the notion that the Democratic and Republican parties aren't mirror images of one another, but rather that they have followed separate, organic pathways in a big, diverse country like the US. The result of this differing evolution is that the Democrats have been a remarkably successful governing party since 1989, while the Republicans have presided over three straight recessions, disastrous disaster responses, and foreign policy failures.

One thing we discuss in "With Democrats" is how Americans who have grown up in this post-1989 era - those under 45 - understand this divergence, and view the parties very differently as a result. In 2018, voters under 45 voted for Democrats by a margin of 25 points, whereas in the seven elections from 1992 to 2004, voters under 45 (who had grown up in a fundamentally different political era) voted for Democrats by an average margin of just 0.3 points. 

We hope you enjoy this new project and do note that one of our existing programmatic areas, Countering Illiberalism's Rise, has some overlap with the work you will find here.  We are pleased that CNN Commentator Maria Cardona featured our work in her recent column in The Hill, and it got a wonderful rave from Mike Tomasky in a new Daily Beast column, writing  "It is fascinating. You need to know about it. The entire country needs to know about it." Amen to that we say!

Recent Recorded Presentations

You can view our most recent  "With Democrats Things Get Better" webinar from June 24th, 2020 here.

Background Readings

Crossing the Rubicon - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 1/29/20 - The GOP's increasing acceptance of illiberalism and actions at odds with our democratic tradition to gain/maintain power has become the most important political story of our time.

To Defeat Illiberalism, Democrats Must Embrace Their Success As A Governing Party - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 12/14/19 - Over the past 30 years, the Democratic Party has been the most successful center-left party in the developed world.   It is time it started acting like it, and begin to far more purposefully lead the fight against rising illiberalism here and abroad. 

Americans Under 45 Are Breaking Hard Toward The Democrats - And For Good Reason - Simon Rosenberg and Chris Taylor, NDN, 8/2/19 - Among the most significant political developments of the Trump era is the dramatic shift of under 45 year old voters towards the Democrats. From 2000 to 2016 D margin w/under 45s was 6 points. In 2018 it was 25. 

In New Global Age, Dems Have Produced Prosperity, the GOP Decline - Chris Taylor, Medium, 1/29/19.  Since 1989, Democrats have overseen strong and inclusive economic growth when in the White House, while the Republican Presidents have repeatedly seen economic under-performance and even recession and decline. 

The Case for Optimism: Rejecting Trump's Poisonous Pessimism, Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 6/2/17. In an essay that originally was published on Medium, Simon argues that the great rationale of Trump's Presidency  –  that America is in decline – simply isn't true, and must be challenged more forcefully. 

Chin Up, Democrats, Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 1/20/17. In his column, Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics. This one is very relevant to the presentation itself. 

A Center-Left Agenda for the Trump Era - Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 12/9/16.  In the early days after Trump's election, Simon layed out a possible agenda for the Democrats centering on prosperity, security, shoring up the American led liberal order and ambitious efforts to reform our political system. 

Older, Related Work

An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade Jan 21, 2014 - The global system created by Presidents FDR and Truman has done more to create opportunity, reduce poverty and advance democracy than perhaps any other policies in history. 

TIME Features NDN Economic Analysis, Chart, Labels It "Most Important Chart in American Politics" Feb 5, 2013 - Michael Scherer of Time reports on the influence Dr. Rob Shapiro's analysis has had on shaping recent thinking about how the American economy is changing.

"Forward, or Backward?" - The Descent of the GOP Into A Reactionary Mess 10/25/12 - In a new magazine essay, Simon argues that the more the world moves away from the simplicity of the Reagan moment the more angry and defiant the Republican offering is becoming.  In both Spanish and English.

Crafting an American Response to the Rise of the Rest, January 21, 2010, Cross posted on NDN.org and Salon.com.  Simon argues that the second generation Obama narrative must be a strategic response to the most significant transformation taking place in the world today, the rise of new global economic powers, or what Fareed Zakaria has called the “rise of the rest.”

The 50 Year Strategy, November/December 2007, Mother Jones. Simon and Peter Leyden offer a landmark vision for how progressives can win and prosper in the decades to come.

Trump and GOP Struggles Continue, Under 45s, The Southwest

Every Thursday NDN publishes its Thursday Poll Roundup, a deep dive into recent polling and political trends. You can sign up to receive it each week and feel free to review previous editions too. 

Short entry today as the trends we are seeing this week are continuations of ones we discussed at length in our last two Thursday Roundups (here and here). Bottom line - five months out, the numbers for the President and the GOP incumbents in the Senate are about as bad as they can be. A few nuggets from new polling this week that stood out: 

Big Biden Numbers - Biden up 12 in Michigan, 9 in Wisconsin, 4 in North Carolina, 2 in OhioTexas and Iowa tied. In 2016 Trump won Ohio by 8.6, Iowa by 9.6 and Texas by 9.2, 

Biden up 14 in new CNN poll (55/41), which interestingly almost exactly tracks 538's Trump job approval aggregate, which today stands at 41.8/55, minus 13.2. 

More Bad Senate News for McConnell – In a new poll taken by a right leaning firm, Leader McConnell trails Amy McGrath in Kentucky 40-41. Using publically available polls no Republican Senate incumbent in any of these 11 GOP held seats - AZ, CO, GA (2), IA, KS, KY, ME, MT, NC, SC - has a definitive lead, and none has a recent public poll showing them above 45. As of today, all 11 of these seats may be in play – an incredible 2020 development. 

The Protestors Are Winning the Argument - We touched on this in our Tuesday email, but there has been a dramatic shift in America over the past few weeks on attitudes towards race and policing. Review these analyses from the NYTimes and the WaPo for more, and we will be tracking these developments closely in the days ahead. 

In the coming weeks, we are going to return to some of the demographic and political analysis NDN is well known for, and share some of our recent work below to whet your appetite a bit. Pay particular attention to the reports below on the under 45 vote, and the accelerating deterioration of the GOP brand in the heavily Mexican-American parts of this US. 

On Wednesdays, be sure to catch our weekly look via Zoom at the 2020 elections and US politics. We do it every week at 2 pm ET, with alternating topics each week. The data is always fresh and current, so if you join us each week, you will always learn something new.

2020 Background Analyses

Americans Under 45 Are Breaking Hard Toward The Democrats - And For Good Reason- Among the most significant political developments of the Trump era is the dramatic shift of under 45 year old voters towards the Democrats. From 2000 to 2016, D margin w/under 45s was 6 points. In 2018 it was 25. 

Dems Have Already Won Back Voters In The Rust Belt. It's Trump Who Needs To Win Them Back Now- It is a myth that Trump's anti-immigrant and protectionist policies have made it difficult for Democrats to win in the Rust Belt in 2020. Trump is trailing badly there now raising questions about Trumpism itself has become a grand failure. 

Notes On The GOP's Erosion In The Southwest- The dramatic erosion of the GOP brand in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the country over the past two elections is one of the biggest stories in American politics. Trump's border extremism has cost the GOP dearly, and it hasn't kept the industrial north from slipping away. 

In All Important Florida, Democrats Lost Ground With Hispanic Voters- In a year when Democrats made gains with Hispanics across the nation, Florida Democrats saw their performance with Hispanics decline. Work has to be done to figure out why. 

$38 Million For Beto, And Why It Matters- Democrats have been raising a lot of money this cycle. This is not just about fear of Trump - it is about the broad adoption of a more authentic people based politics suited for the digital age championed by Dean, Obama, and yes, even Trump himself.

Out of Tragedy, Hope

Out of Tragedy, Hope – This has been an extraordinarily challenging and bitter time for America – a President impeached (and clearly guilty), the ravages of COVID19, Great Depression level job loss, repeated racial violence, protests marred by what DHS has been calling “violent opportunists,” and a shocking overreaction by the White House and law enforcement across the country.  It has been numbing, hard, an incredible period of struggle for so many. 

Then came this weekend, and somehow some of these spontaneous protests, born from such grief and pain, became joyous, warm, hopeful.  You could feel it in the air on Saturday walking along that big yellow Black Lives Matter mural painted on 16th street here in DC by Mayor Bowser.  You could see and feel it in the dancing, the peaceful crowds, the kids atop their parents’ shoulders, the pleasure of being around others after months and months apart.  Something changed in America these last few days. Bitterness, at least for now, was ceding to something more hopeful. 

New polling suggests things have indeed changed in recent days, and that those protesting are winning the argument with the President.  Clear majorities support the protests and are worried about police violence and systemic racism.  Concerns about looting and violence remain, as they should, but it is not hard to be for the protestors, upset at the police and White House violence and against the looting we saw.  The violent reaction we’ve seen from authorities to protests over exactly this kind of violence has helped push the American people into an unprecedented place on race and reforming law enforcement, as did, apprently, the experience of an overwelming majority of people who found the protests in their own areas of the country peaceful. 

Recent polling also continues to show that the public is very unhappy with how the President has handled both COVID and the protests, and together these governing and moral failures have taken a huge toll on the party of Trump and Mitch.  On Thursday we published a detailed review of just how bad the GOP’s numbers are now in both the Presidential race and swing Senate seats.  Since then the President’s numbers have continued to slide, and he is now in one of the worst moments of his entire Presidency.  We are starting to see unimaginable numbers show in up in reputable polls  –  Biden up 14 nationwide, 12 in Michigan, 9 in Wisconsin, Trump minus 13 job approval.   All this data suggests the desire to end this bitter, dark period in our history is swelling up into something powerful enough to alter the trajectory of the 2020 election and thus the country itself.

And that is welcome, and hopeful, news indeed.    

Analysis: 5 Months Out, Ds See Opportunity, Rs Trouble

This is the seventh piece in NDN's new weekly polling round-up, published every Thursday. You can find previous weeks' analyses here.

NDN's 2020 Polling Roundup - As we’ve written in our recent 2020 Polling Roundups, NDN has never been a subscriber to the Trump has magical powers school of political analysis.  Without the help of Jill Stein, Russia and the Comey Letter, Clinton would have likely beaten Trump by 5-8 points in 2016.  Trump’s job approval has been minus 10 or worse for more days than all other Presidents in their first term combined since polling was invented.  He’s led his party to three consecutive disastrous elections (2017/18/19) and he got himself impeached for trying to cheat in a crude and ridiculous way in the 2020 elections.  This is not the record of a political mastermind.  

The President received only 46% of the vote in 2016 even with lots of help from Russia and the FBI, and his party only got to 44.8% in 2018 losing a very high turn out midterm 44.8 to 52.4 (8.6 pts).  As there will be no third party candidate this time, Trump will have to get to at least 48% to have a shot at winning the Electoral College this year, meaning he’ll  have to win 2-3% pts of the vote he HAS NEVER HAD to be competitive. With civil unrest, Great Depression level unemployment, a still yet quelled pandemic, and Putin lite law and order bluster, is this likely? We don’t think so. 

Let’s look at where things stand five months out from the 2020 election: 

Job Approval – Using 538’s excellent tracker, the President’s job approval is 42.7% favorable, 53.8% unfavorable, -11.1 pts. On Election Day 2018 it was 44/52.4, -8-4, on a day where he was beaten by 8.6 pts.  So the President is significantly lower today than he was in a very high turnout midterm where he only received 44.8% and lost by 8.6 pts. 

Congressional Generic – On Election Day 2016 Democrats led in 538’s Congressional Generic tracker by 1 point, 45/44, and on Election Day 2018 it was 50.7/42.0, almost 9 pts. Today Democrats lead 48.7/40.9, 8 points.  This question – your Congressional preference – suggests the overall structure of the 2020 election is far more hostile to Republicans than in 2016, and remarkably similar to the 2018 outcome.  

Party ID – We tend to put a lot of stock in this number, as it is the answer to the basic question of what Party do you current affiliate with.  We are going to do a bit more work on this in the coming weeks as not every poll reports this number, and it is not tracked the same among all polls.  But today we will use a single poll as a surrogate for an aggregate, one that has been in the middle of the pack of polls recently, the daily GSG/GBAO tracker.  Today it has Party ID at 49% Dem, 41% Republican, 8 pts.  

Trump Biden Head to Heads – Using Real Clear Politics’ tracker, the current average is 49.9% Biden, 42.1% Trump, 7.8 pts.  Two polls, Monmouth and ABC/WaPo had Biden’s lead in the double digits this week.  

The Electoral College – Assuming MI and PA go to Biden, Trump must win all three of the next tier – AZ, FL, WI - to win, while also holding on to all of the next tier – GA, IA, NC, OH, TX.  In recent polling Biden leads in every one of these states except for Iowa and Texas, which are functionally tied.  Fox News polls released yesterday had Biden up by 9 in Wisconsin (!!!!), 4 in Arizona and 2 in Ohio. Trump is far below where he wants to be right now.  

The NYTimes has quite a story today which reports on how Trump world is coming to terms with how badly the election is going for him right now.  And don’t forget that all those elections Dems won in 2018 in these states – from Congress to governorships and in state houses – will make the collective Democratic voice in these states much louder this year, helping blunt the traditionally powerful Trump noise machine.    

The Senate – In our analysis last week we noted that Republicans are not performing well in any of the 10 seats they are defending this cycle.  Most of their incumbents are in the high 30s and low 40s, disaster territory for an incumbent this late in the cycle. The only state where Rs are even hitting 45 now is GA, and in one recent poll Senator Purdue trailed Ossoff, and Senator Loeffler was at 32%! 

As Simon was quoted in the NYTimes: “The Republican brand seems depressed across the board,” Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist and founder of the NDN, said in an interview. “A lot of time senators can insulate themselves from the vagaries of the national electorate, but that doesn’t seem to be happening this time.”

Key Takeaways - So putting all this together we see Republican incumbents for President and Senate now living at 41-42-43, and a margin across many different measures of 7-8-9 for the Democrats.  One can only find a poll or two taken in the past several months where ANY Republican in ANY competitive state is even at 45%.  Trump’s job approval is 42.7; his head to head w/Biden is 42.1; Party ID and Congressional Generic is 41; most incumbent GOP Senators are topping out at 42 right now.  When numbers line up like this, and it is not always the case in elections that they do, a clear structure has developed within the electorate, and that structure, that dynamic is as negative for GOP as any election we here at NDN can remember at this point in an election cycle.  

So for Trump to win he and his Party are going to have to travel from 41-42-43 today to 48-49 in November. That my friends is a very very heavy lift, and it is particularly difficult for what is in essence the incumbent party.  Looking back over the past generation of US politics, you will be hard pressed to find any incumbent in a Federal race who was able to come back and win from 41-42-43 this late in the cycle.  And as we said, we don’t believe that Trump has magical powers, can defy traditional politics physics. He has never broken 46% in a race, and he enters the summer with America more battered and challenged than perhaps in any time in the past 100 years.  

Where this election wants to be today is Biden winning 53-55 to 45-47, and the Senate flipping.  Where it will be five months from now we don’t know, but based on all this data we’ve reviewed with you we believe we are more likely to see a Democratic wave this fall than Republicans holding onto either the Presidency or Senate.    

We believe when we look back at this time in future years, we will view President Trump as having been both an incompetent President and political strategist; incompetent but also very very lucky. 

Notes on 2020, COVID, The Protests

Remember COVID, Be Smart - Elected and public health officials – including in the Administration - need to step up and remind the public that the US still has some of the highest COVID infection rates in the world, and we have not yet put the virus behind us. Protestors need to be smart, maintain social distancing and masking, or risk spreading the virus to their communities, friends, and family.   This is no ordinary time, and we cannot forget that.  

In a piece published a few weeks ago, Simon worried that the nation was facing a summer where tens of millions of young people would have nothing to do, and that trouble or social unrest could come.  He encouraged schools and communities to step into this void, and offer online courses and other measures to keep young people learning, active, and engaged.  Last we were proud when Simon’s alma mater Tufts University and the Tisch College for Civic Life there announced an innovative free summer webinar series for all Tufts students, “Navigating the Pandemic.”  Our hope is other educational and community organizations will follow Tufts’ lead, and keep talking and reaching out to our young people this summer, particularly in those communities hardest hit by COVID and incensed by the racial violence we’ve all seen in recent months.  Young Americans need our support and understanding in what has been a very difficult time, while we must also send a very loud and clear message that the looting and lawlessness must come to an immediate end. 

Focus on De-Escalation – As Joe Biden modeled yesterday our nation’s leaders must work now to de-escalate the violence and clashes we are seeing.  We were encouraged by the images of police across the country taking a new, or showing other forms of solidarity with the protestors – it was police violence that sparked these events, and it is on every police force in the country to lead de-escalation efforts now.  The many many images we’ve seen of continued use of excessive force by police in recent days – including dozens of direct attacks on journalists – will need to be addressed out in the open in the days ahead.  

The question of whether organized forces are sabotaging these events, or if the destruction we are seeing is homegrown and viral, is something the WH, FBI, and DHS must explain to us as soon as possible.  In his usual fashion when pressed, the President retreated to Foxlandia this weekend, the imaginary world he sees on his TV each day, and branded Antifa, an organization which has no ideological reason to be disrupting these protests and doesn’t really exist, a terrorist organization responsible for the lawlessness we’ve seen.  It’s critical we put pressure on Trump to do his job this week and work to effectively and maturely keep all of us safe – this is not an us vs them moment – and the President simply must raise his game here.   

What Comes Next? – To us, these last few days are just a huge, powerful reminder of what an utter failure Trump has been as President.  COVID protocols being blown across the country after months of hard work.  Outrageous police violence in city after city.  40m unemployed.  Looting and property crime spreading, with no answer from Trump other than Hannityish right wing babble.  The G7 and WHO spitefully and recklessly undermined.  It is a dark time.  

The public has had it with Trump.  As we’ve been reporting to you over the past few weeks, poll numbers for him and Republicans in critical Senate races are terrible.  The ABC/Washington poll released Sunday had Biden thrashing Trump 53-43.  In a moment of crisis these past few days the President seemed to shrink from the moment, not meet it.  And we all know he is unlikely to do so for a great deal of what we are dealing with is the result of his incompetence and extremism. 

What is clearly needed now is strong, steady, enlightened, and empathetic leadership.  The nation is beset with an extraordinary array of challenges, all at the same time.  There is no simple solution here, no magic wand.  The work ahead of us will take years, not months, and it will be hard. 

Something we’ve been promoting for some time feels appropriate now - the Vice President should begin acting like the leader of the opposition not just a Presidential candidate.  He should try to formally organize him campaign now not just to focus on winning the election but fashioning solutions with like-minded elected leaders of both parties below the federal level – governors, mayors.  The challenges we are facing need national not just federal solutions, and the VP should appoint someone now – perhaps Cory Booker – to take the lead in organizing a national council of state and local electeds to help guide us through this crisis in ways which address some of the clear long-standing inequities these last few months have laid bare for all of us to see. In the last few minutes, we’ve learned that VP Biden is holding a working session today with the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and St Paul.  Encouraging indeed.   

Stay safe all. And optimistic.  We can get through this and come out stronger. But we have a lot of work to do.  

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