And down the stretch we come! We’ve reached the two week mark, so I’ll be doing a few posts today, starting with this one.
The Economist is up to 92% on Biden winning. This might feel incorrect for a lot of people as they read “horse race journalism” about how Clinton lead too, or some swing states are actually close, or any other garbage. Let’s state the obvious though- Biden’s lead is 3.2% bigger than Clinton’s was at this point. What exactly does this mean though? On Election Day, Clinton’s polling average was about 2.9% on average in 2016, and the exit polls showed her up by 3.2% nationally. She won the popular vote by 2.1%. So in short, Clinton lost 2.5% from 14 days out until the end, then about another point on Election Day, totaling 3.5%. That 3.5% surge gave Trump an electoral college victory by 450k votes in the closest six states, 77k in the closest three. RCP has Biden up 8.6% today, clearing 51%. By this measure, Biden wins by 5.1% nationally, and unless you actually believe Biden gained 3% on Clinton entirely in reliably red and blue states, he wins. If we use 538, it’s a 10.3% lead, and with a Trump surge it’s 6.8%. Biden wins easily at that point. Of course if we applied a full 4% margin of error onto both of those numbers, perhaps Trump wins, but that’s at least double counting. He needs a much bigger surge than 2016.
What if the race is closer though? Most folks who believe so, do so on the basis that Trump has an intensity advantage. It doesn’t seem arguable that more people have strong feelings about him. An AI study recently said its a 3% race, 50-47%. They base this on internet mentions and comments. Still others cite Ronald Reagan’s late surge, which when you adjust for demographic movement, is actually probably comparable to 2016. Reagan was of course the challenger though, as was Trump theoretically in 2016- Trump 2020 is not. I’ve basically believed for four years that Trump would get his 46% he got in 2016, and he very well might. Biden simply needs to beat Hillary’s 48%, and probably even 49% under that scenario. The main point is that most theories of Trump over shooting his numbers are based on him having more intense support. Of course Biden has lead for months, early vote numbers among Democrats are super high, and he’s beating Trump’s fundraising numbers on the backs of small dollar donors- so does Trump hold an intensity advantage? The short answer is probably not.
The one interesting thing about this cycle has been the death and burial of the era of “identity politics”- or more directly, the death of “demographics are destiny” talk. Polling this year suggests Biden’s lead is largely because of dramatic improvements among men, whites, seniors, and independents, compared to Clinton. Meanwhile, Trump very well may out perform his 2016 self among African-Americans, particularly the men, and LatinX voters. This drives “professional DC nuts,” but it’s probably good for the country. Elections that simply resemble race wars aren’t good for unifying the country after, and honestly someone’s race shouldn’t define their politics. On a purely partisan level, this probably makes split popular/electoral college decisions less likely. This could be the biggest positive of the cycle for the country, if it continues forward.