Another Shot of Optimism

Depressed about the upcoming election? Maybe you shouldn’t be. Mollie Hemingway, one of the best of the younger generation of journalist/pundits, has a piece at The Federalist comparing current polls in battleground states with those in 2016:

What is left out of the media’s discussions of whether this or the 2016 race is winnable for Trump is the Electoral College. And for that discussion, it’s worth a look at the states whose electoral votes will decide the election.

In 2016, Trump won by winning battleground states that few expected him to win. Right now, he’s polling slightly and relatively better in those states than he did four years ago.

One hundred days out from election day, Biden was up nearly 6 points in battleground states, at a time Clinton was only up 2.3 points. Now he’s up 4.9 points at a time Clinton was up 5.1 points.
Biden is averaging a 7-point lead in Pennsylvania, but Clinton was averaging a nearly identical lead there four years ago — before Trump won it narrowly on election day. Likewise, Biden’s Florida lead is very similar to Clinton’s lead four years ago. Trump won Florida.

Biden is not performing as well in Wisconsin as Clinton was four years ago. Trump won that state. Biden is doing less well in Michigan, according to the polls, than Clinton did four years ago. Trump won Michigan. Biden’s doing a bit better in North Carolina than Clinton did but Trump won that state by a 4-point margin.

So maybe it’s not over yet. A couple of additional thoughts: in a lot of states, including Minnesota where I live, polls are recording a lot of undecided voters. To cite just one example, polls in Minnesota are showing the faceless Democratic Senate incumbent Tina Smith with a substantial lead over conservative Jason Lewis, who is running, in effect, on the Trump ticket. A recent Survey USA poll had it Smith 44%, Lewis 37%, undecided 16%. Are there really that many undecided voters at this late date? I asked former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney that question earlier today. His answer: No. Most are lying, and the vast majority of them are Trump/Republican voters.

Finally, polls are a moving target that stops moving some time before Election Day. There is always a shift, one way or the other, in the last few days. Sometimes that movement is hardly perceptible. Sometimes, as in 2000 (after the Democrats leaked a record of George W. Bush having gotten a DWI many years earlier on the final weekend of the campaign) it is more substantial. There is no way to foresee which way the last handful of voters will break in the final days. But one way or another, this year’s presidential election will probably be very close, as will the contests that decide control over the Senate.