Countdown to Victory ... But Whose?
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There is no question that Donald Trump has an enthusiastic base of supporters willing to risk the cold, the rain and even the coronavirus to cheer their president. But that base, in the low 40s, is falling just short — even in key swing states — to give the president enough votes to win reelection. Starting about a year ago, he needed to have cultivated a new group of swing voters but instead doubled down on his base, so his only lifelines now are so-called “shy Trump voters” and a massive Election Day turnout of his fans.
If you are Joe Biden, you are trying to get as many mail-in votes as you can, run tens of millions of dollars in ads, and run out the clock before there is a vaccine and big jobs numbers that are likely coming our way after Thursday’s big jump in Gross Domestic Product. This unconventional strategy has been working to keep the election a referendum on Trump — a referendum that Trump cannot win, with the virus raging and the deep-set perception he is just too divisive. Of course, it’s all with a little help from the media, as two-thirds of Americans see the media as hard on Donald Trump and two-thirds see the media as going easy on Joe Biden.
Trump was right to fear mail-in voting, as it appears that Democrats have a well-tuned effort to get their votes in early, and the polls show that the mail vote overwhelmingly favors Biden. It wasn’t about fraud; it was about making it easier for those already part of the political system to cast their votes no matter how busy. There is a reason — political interest — that Democrats are trying to push back every deadline for the receipt of mail votes and Republicans are insisting upon the letter of the law. Trump told his voters not to trust the mail — and so he needs some great weather and a finely tuned organization to get his voters to the polls, to make up for that massive tactical error.
Our Florida poll has Trump down 3 points, but the internals of the poll look somewhat more favorable to him than the top-line result. The state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has a 53 percent approval rating and Trump’s approval there is 49 percent, 3 points ahead of his national average. He is getting 43 percent of the Latino vote and has a lead of 9 points over Biden on the economy. His biggest problem is a 10-point deficit on the virus but, surprisingly, that deficit is more among younger than older voters. Obviously, the night is over if he does not win Florida — but I would give a better-than-even chance he pulls this one off.
In North Carolina, where he is down by 1, Trump is winning the white vote by 60 to 38 but getting only 6 percent of the Black vote there. He is polling ahead 1 point of Republican Sen. Tom Tillis and has 48 percent job approval. North Carolina had a big cultural disconnect with Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Biden is better received there than she was, with a 50 percent favorable rating compared to 46 percent for the president. Trump does have strong support on the economy there and receives 45 percent approval on the virus, compared to his national average of 41 percent. Trump would need to expand his Black vote to at least 12 percent to put him barely over the top in this hotly contested state.