As usual, this shows the 538 probability of Trump winning in 2016 and 2020. Three key points I’d make:
- Trump is at much the same probability three weeks out in 2020 as he was in 2016, which is good for Trump as he won in 2016.
- However in 2016 his odds doubled from 13% to 29% after the Comey letter. Will there be an event as helpful to him this time? Seems unlikely.
- He has been on a decline since August, going from 31% to 14%
Also Harry Enten makes the case that Biden is the most well positioned challenger since 1936:
Former Vice President Joe Biden is dominating President Donald Trump in the latest polls. No, the election is not over yet, and Trump still has a non-negligible chance of winning.But a look through history reveals that Biden is in a better position at this point than any challenger since 1936, when the first scientific polls were taken in a presidential race.
In the 21 previous presidential elections since 1936, there have only been five challengers who led at this time. Of those five, only one (Bill Clinton in 1992) was ahead by more than 5 points. None of those five were earning more than 48% of the vote in the polls.
In other words, Biden is the first challenger to be above 50% at this late juncture in the campaign.This also continues to mark a massive difference with the 2016 campaign. While Hillary Clinton was ahead of Trump by as high as 7 points in October 2016, she never came anywhere close to approaching 50% of the vote. Trump merely had to win the lionshare of the undecided or third party voters (who would bolt their candidate) to earn a victory in 2016.
This is a key point. If both candidates are under 50%, then you can win by grabbing the undecideds. But if one candidate is polling over 50%, you have a much harder case.
Even if every undecided or current third party voter went to Trump now, he’d still be down about 5 to 6 points nationally. That’s never been the case with an incumbent since 1936 at this point.Of course, it’s the Electoral College that matters. There are very few universes in which Trump could win the Electoral College, if he were to lose nationally by 5 to 6 points.
If the gap is 4% Trump has a non-trivial chance of winning. The current gap is 10.5%.
The three challengers in the polling era (Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Bill Clinton in 1992) who defeated incumbents have all been trusted more than the incumbent to deal with what Americans thought was the nation’s most important problem. None, however, were trusted by more than 50% of the voters.Today, Biden has a huge advantage over Trump when it comes to the pandemic. The clear majority (59%) of likely voters in the last CNN poll said Biden would better be able to handle the outbreak. Just 38% said Trump would do a better job than Biden.As I noted in July, the only issue that really matters is Trump’s handling of the coronavirus. He’s failing in the minds of voters right now.
Trump needs to pivot away from Covid-19, but that is difficult to do when you have many of your senior officials have been infected with it, and 220,000 Americans have died from it.