The polling comes from ABC News, together with the Washington Post, and is very reputable. It’s more “eyebrow raising” than shocking in the case of Florida, but the Arizona numbers certainly justify the decision to break out the “Shock New Poll” headline:
President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden are locked in close races in Florida and Arizona, according to a pair of Washington Post-ABC News polls in two Sun Belt battlegrounds the president won in 2016 that are crucial to his hopes for reelection in November.
In Florida, likely voters split 51 percent for Trump to 47 percent for Biden, while registered voters split 47 percent for Trump to 48 percent for Biden. In Arizona, Trump’s margin is even smaller at 49 percent to Biden’s 48 percent among likely voters. Among Arizona’s registered voters, Trump is at 47 percent and Biden at 49 percent. All these differences are within the polls’ margins of sampling error.
The findings in the two surveys are better for the president than other polls conducted in the two states recently by other organizations. The Post’s average of polls this month shows Biden with a two-point advantage in Florida and a six-point margin in Arizona.
Florida, as everybody knows, is perennially close. Arizona is a usually Republican State, but up until this poll, Trump had been struggling there mightily, especially in public polling, so much so that many Republicans were writing it off altogether. And even with this latest poll, the overall picture doesn’t look great in Arizona for the sitting President:
The average poll in Arizona has Biden up by four, and this is the first one that Trump has lead in, well, ages.
Arizona is mightily important, too: If Biden wins it, then Trump cannot afford to lose Wisconsin, or Michigan, two states he won last time, but where he is trailing considerably. In Michigan, in fact, the Trump campaign has pulled nearly all its advertising, which is usually a sign that they’re giving up on winning a state.
If Trump can win Arizona, though, then he can win the Presidency even while losing both states, so long as he wins Florida and Pennsylvania, and holds on to the other states he won last time. That’s much more doable.
Looking at the polls, though, you’d much rather be Joe Biden, for the simple reason that he has many more ways to win. A surprise Biden win in any one of about ten states where he’s polling close to Trump would probably hand him the Presidency. Trump needs to win almost all of them, with no margin for error.
There’s also the fact that Biden’s people seem very keen to keep him behind closed doors, and away from the campaign trail:
This is every day so far in the month of September that the Biden Campaign has called a full lid before Noon pic.twitter.com/dqdJlqdjMc
— Alec Sears (@alec_sears) September 22, 2020
A “full lid” is American journalist speak for “doing nothing more that day”. In other words, the campaign shuts up shop for the day before noon. Why is that? The obvious explanation is that Biden’s ahead, and being out and about just gives him opportunities to screw it up, so it’s best to keep him hidden away.
And you can see why, too: The Trump campaign is taking the opposite approach, with him on telly as much as possible.
Sometimes, though, that backfires, like it did yesterday:
Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful transition of power after the election: "Well we're gonna have to see what happens." pic.twitter.com/UHQW7KdQj4
— The Recount (@therecount) September 23, 2020
How hard was it to say “the American people are in charge, whatever they decide, I will abide by. But I’m not going to lose”?
Both campaigns have the same problem, in reality: The best argument for their candidate is the existence of the other guy. Biden’s hiding away because his team seems to have figured that one out.
But then, Hillary Clinton thought the same thing.