All of the caveats must apply, obviously, to polls, and the biggest and most important one when it comes to President Trump is that if you believed the evidence of the polling in 2016, as yours truly did, then you’d have been shocked by the result (as yours truly, and many others, were). But still:
New NYT/Siena polls:
Trump is at 41 or lower in all of them.https://t.co/OE6yHJqoWB
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) June 25, 2020
It’s also important to remember, of course, that the polls in 2016 were not wrong, per se. The result was perfectly consistent with them: Final polls showed Mrs. Clinton leading nationally by about three percent, and she won by three per cent. They showed a much closer race in the swing states, and well, there was a much closer race in the swing states. If you’re someone who thinks the polls were wrong and showed a huge Clinton lead, well, you’re not remembering correctly.
The polls today, by contrast, show a consistent picture: A big Biden lead nationally, and a smaller, but still big, Biden lead, in the swing states. In none of those polls above is Trump above 41%, and remember, he can only really afford to lose one or two of those states.
And if you don’t believe the polls, well, here’s more compelling evidence:
Wow—Trump campaign is on the airwaves here in Texas.
Shouldn’t that money be spent instead on Wisconsin, Michigan, etc.?
— Josh Hammer (@josh_hammer) June 24, 2020
If the Trump campaign is on the airwaves in Texas, of all places, that probably means that they don’t think Texas is in the bag. And if Texas is not in the bag for President Trump, then it’s reasonable to ask: where is? You might not believe the polls, but the Trump campaign sure seems to, judging by where they are spending their money.
So what’s going on? This analysis, from former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, strikes me as on the money:
The name “Sleepy” Joe Biden should be retired. It’s not working for Trump, and after 3 1/2 years of red hot Trump, and now the pandemic, many voters may welcome a quieter, sleepier era, thinking Biden is the right anecdote, even if they think he’s kind of old and lacks energy.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) June 22, 2020
And this from Matt Bai in the Washington Post:
Of the 47 percent of voters who said Clinton wasn’t qualified to serve, only 5 percent voted for her. That’s about what you’d expect.
Of the 61 percent of voters who said the same thing about Trump, however, 17 percent ignored their judgment and voted for him anyway.
In Florida, where Trump won by just over a single percentage point, more than half the electorate found him unqualified, and yet 16 percent of those voters cast a ballot for him. In Pennsylvania, where he won by an even slimmer margin, a stunning 21 percent of voters who said Trump didn’t have the right temperament for the job voted to send him to the White House.
In other words, on the night that marked his apex in political life, Trump’s margin of victory came from reluctant voters who almost certainly thought they were voting for the losing candidate, and who felt confident he’d make a terrible president.
In other words: People who cast a protest vote the last time aren’t that keen on doing so again, and a big chunk of voters, per Fleischer’s analysis, just want a return to a quiet life and an end to all the drama.
That strikes me as Trump’s big problem, too: It’s not the virus, or the riots, or his tweets: It’s the combination of everything: The sense of never ending chaos. Give the voters the choice between four more years of this, and a sleepy old fellow in the White House who doesn’t cause too many rows, and lots of middle of the road people are going to pick sleepy Joe.
There are, of course, about 130 days left to the election, so nothing is decided yet. Biden might blow it in the debates, or the economy might come roaring back, or voters might start to worry that Biden will be controlled by the extreme wing of his party, and so on.
But if Fleischer and Bai are correct, and it’s not so much about policy, or culture wars, as it is about people just being tired of the drama, then there’s not going to be a whole lot that the Trump campaign can do. He’s not going to stop being who he is, after all. It’s gotten him this far.