Buddha bless us and Saints preserve us, two weeks to go! At a month to go, my read of prevailing evidence was that Biden was in a very strong position. What about now?
Let’s start with national polling. RCP’s average currently has Biden up by 8.6%:
538, which takes a more nuanced approach to their average, taking into account the accuracy track record and historical partisan lean of individual pollsters, has Biden leading by even more:
A couple of other national “looks” are worth discussing. It being two weeks to go, we might look back over the past two weeks, and see if there’s evidence of major changes that one might project forward to election day. The short answer is “no”:
To the extent that Biden seems to be solidly ahead, every day with no significant change benefits him. Especially given a factor that we’ll discuss in a moment… Another relevant “look” is comparing where Biden is with two weeks to go with where Clinton was at the same point in 2016:
The same factors we’ve seen all year show up here: Biden is ahead by more than Clinton was at the same point, has had a higher “ceiling” and better “floor” than her numbers, and has never led Trump by less than 4 points, whereas Clinton was frequently within 1%-2%, and twice even trailed Trump.
One additional factor to consider is that who’s been ahead in the polls is not an academic matter. In fact, the election is already 24% over. That is to to say, between absentee ballots and early voting, 33.3 million votes have already been cast, representing 24% of the total from 2016:
One of the reasons Comey’s October surprise in 2016 was so damaging to Clinton was that there were a lot of late deciders on the fence. There are far fewer this time, and almost 1 in 4 votes is already in. And these votes came in during a period when Biden was strongly leading. So even if something damaging to Biden (or great for Trump) arose, it inherently can’t have as much of an effect now as it did in 2016.
National polls and vote totals, especially compared to 2016, do give us an idea of how things are trending. But, ultimately, it all comes down to the states. According to RCP’s latest tallies of the most likely swing states, Biden is leading in all of them:
538’s more nuanced approach shows the following Biden margins for these states:
If we were to take the lower RCP numbers and only give Biden anything above 5% and assume the others are a toss-up, this is the map we’d get:
In this scenario, any one of Florida, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania takes Biden over the top, as would Arizona plus the split electoral vote from Nebraska. Trump, conversely, pretty much needs a full sweep to prevail. And this is before getting around to states that Trump won fairly handily in 2016, but which are toss-ups this time- Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Texas, and Maine’s split electoral vote.
RCP’s “no toss ups” map showing all current Biden leads looks like this:
Based on these state by state polling outlooks, 538’s model has Biden favored to win:
And the Cook Report and Sabato models both have the “lean Democratic” states alone totaling more than the needed 270 electoral votes:
“But the polls in 2016 were wr-” Okay. I know you all are too smart and too well informed at this point to pull out that tired old chestnut and re-roast it. But just in case, here’s a good discussion of what pollsters have done since 2016 to improve, and what areas they’re still worried about. And there are other data points we can examine…
To the extent that fundraising is another indicator of enthusiasm, the signs for the Democrats are very promising. Biden has been out-raising Trump by more than 50%, Act Blue is more than doubling the take of Republican activist platforms, and the Democratic candidates in the leading Senate races are all solidly out-raising their Republican opponents.
Speaking of those Senate races, they form an independent data point of their own. 538 currently has Democrats favored to recapture the Senate:
And the RCP “no toss ups” Senate map is showing the same thing:
Over on the House side, the generic Congressional ballot shows Democrats leading by 7.4%:
This is actually up about a percentage point from a month ago, and indicates the party is in no danger of losing the House. Indeed, the 538 model calls for it to slightly improve upon the 232 seats it currently holds:
One final thing to check in on is Presidential approval ratings. It hardly needs to be said, but, for the record, an incumbent being more than 10 points underwater with two weeks left to go isn’t a great sign for their re-election:
Looking back over the past 50 years of Presidential approval at this same point drives the point home:
Trump’s numbers look nothing like Presidents who were heading to easy victories. They don’t even look like Presidents who were heading to narrow victories. Instead, they most resemble Carter and Bush 1 when they were both on the edge of first-term defeat, and Johnson when he was so unpopular from Vietnam that he had decided not to run again.
To sum up: No matter what indicators you look at, with two weeks to go, Biden seems to be in a very strong position. Given the relative stability of this race throughout the year, I would be surprised if this changes drastically over the next week. But let’s meet back here in a week and see!