Why Joe Biden is Going to Win
A loss would be the greatest general election upset in American history, sorry Harry Truman
(Note, if the article cuts out in the email—this is 5,500 words, so your email may not open the full article—you can read the full piece by going directly to my substack or checking the link I have on Facebook or Twitter).
We’re three days from the election, and Joe Biden is going to win. I can hedge and say “Well, we could have a catastrophic polling error,” or “Trump is going to steal the election.” I don’t see either happening. Biden has led since March, and before most of you wake up on November 4th, Biden will be president-elect.
Trump faces too devastating a situation to win. If he wins, the entire polling industry, and quite possibly empiricism itself, would be in a nearly unfathomable crisis.
The easiest explanation is that Trump barely beat a terrible candidate in 2016. Trump is less popular than he was in 2016, Biden is more popular than Clinton, and the electorate is less hospitable to Trump than it was in 2016.
For Democrats, the specter of 2016 has already shaken their belief in polling and nerds as soothsayers. But that misreads 2016. Nate Silver gave Donald Trump around a 30% chance to win. 30% events happen all the time. In baseball, we put batters that get hits 30% of the time in Cooperstown. Nate Cohn of the New York Times identified Trump’s surprising strength with white non-college educated voters before that election. And Dave Wasserman, the House Editor at the Cook Political Report, found Trump running surprisingly well in district level polling.
Some folks were certain Hillary Clinton would win in 2016. Sam Wang of Princeton said he’d eat a bug on T.V. if Trump won. He ate a bug on T.V. If you viewed Clinton’s lead in Midwestern states as independent events—instead of correlated with the chance that an error with a single group of voters would apply across the trio of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan—then you artificially inflated Clinton’s lead. The certainty those folks had that Clinton would win made the loss particularly difficult. As a result, many of those disheartened Clinton-Biden voters can’t countenance Trump’s defeat until Biden takes the oath of office.
Given the deep-seated anxiety so many feel about the election, the case Biden’s going to win requires more than the simplest explanation. While I believe that simple explanation is correct, going through the case that Biden will win runs much deeper than a couple sentences about a multi-billion dollar campaign in a polity with hundreds of millions of voters.
Trump voters have some counters too. And it turns out most of those arguments, in contrast to his case in 2016, aren’t true.
We’ll start with Biden’s lead in polling—both state, national and why fewer undecideds than 2020 matters—and why you should trust the numbers. Then we’ll look at how Biden’s been a much better candidate/how Trump’s failed to define Biden negatively. Finally, we’ll close with how Biden hasn’t faced a “Comey Letter” and the Hunter Biden news hasn’t resonated.
Then we’ll turn to the arguments for Trump. We’ll dispense with the “Shy Trump” theory. And we’ll discuss the Trafalgar poll, and why it’s not anywhere close to what Trump’s supporters believe. Then we’ll look at why the “Who you think will win?” question doesn’t have much predictive power. After that we’ll deal with “The GOP has registered more voters in certain states” being irrelevant when Biden’s winning more Trump voters than Trump’s winning Clinton voters. Then we’ll look at why Trump’s gains with non-white voters aren’t enough because there are more white voters that Biden has flipped. I’ll also address why Trump can’t rely on getting even more white non-college folks than last time because polling doesn’t show it. I’ll also address why the “Trump/the Supreme Court/the GOP steals the election” doesn’t work with Biden’s lead.
After looking at everything, the Clinton-Biden voter may still not feel secure until John Roberts swears Biden in. But barring the dumbest postmodernists being completely correct that science, math and evidence are social constructs, Biden is going to win.
Joe Biden has a 7.9 point lead in the 538 national average. He leads by the same margin in the RCP average.
National polling did well in 2016. Clinton led by 3.2 points in the final RCP average. She won by 2.1 points.
The claim “But what about the electoral college?” makes sense when the gap is three points. Clinton lost the tipping point state—the state that gave the winner their 270th electoral vote, and thus, the White House—by .9 points (Wisconsin). That meant the popular vote advantage was three points.
It’s unfathomable that Biden could win the popular vote by seven points and lose the electoral college. Pennsylvania and Arizona won’t be that far away from the popular vote margin.
The national polling tells us that Biden has a big lead, which translates to an electoral college edge.
b) State Polling
With four days until the election, Biden leads in states totaling 347 electoral votes in the 538 average.
Some might argue, “The state polls were well off in ‘16, I don’t trust them.” The state polls missed in the Midwest, in large part, in 2016 because many failed to weigh by education. Most major pollsters now weigh by education. So it’s not even an apples-to-apples comparison between ‘16 polls and ‘20 polls. If pollsters still used the ‘16 framework, Biden would have a much bigger lead.
If Biden holds the Clinton states—where he has bigger leads than Clinton did in ‘16— he has 232 electoral votes, which leaves him 38 short of winning.
Biden has a 98% chance to win Wisconsin in the Economist’s model. 538 gives Biden a 94% chance. In 24 Wisconsin polls since October 5th, Biden leads in 22. He’d tied in the other two, which are from Republican polling organizations (Trafalgar is one—and as will be explained below, I put no stock in their results). Jonathan Swan of Axios reported on Fox News Sunday on October 24th that Donald Trump’s campaign believes Wisconsin is lost.
Michigan is also a big issue for the president. The Economist gives Biden a 98% chance, and 538 gives Biden a 94% shot. Of the 39 polls in Michigan since October 5th, Biden only trails with Trafalgar and by a pollster that has polled the state one time called Zia (I am as nerdy as they get about that stuff and had never heard of that company. Their poll also showed a tie with Black voters, which nope).
If Biden adds Wisconsin and Michigan, he wins the presidency with any one of the following: Arizona (plus Nebraska 2nd which is the most likely flip in 2020), Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio or Texas.
Trump barely won Wisconsin and Michigan last time (less than a point in each). There’s also an easy explanation for why Trump is running so poorly in those states: COVID-19 cases are up in both (from NPR):
Pennsylvania is the most likely state to put Biden over 270. The Economist gives him a 95% chance, and 538 gives him an 85% edge. The Economist doesn’t use Trafalgar, which explains a large reason for the gap. Biden is over 50% in the seven newest non-Trafalgar polls of the state. His campaign is spending the final day there.
If Biden falters in Pennsylvania, he has plenty of additional paths. He leads in 538’s average in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina too.
Nate Cohn of the New York Times also looks at how the election would come out if polls were even as wrong as they were in the final week of 2016. Biden would still crush Trump:
It would take a catastrophic state polling error for Biden to lose. But if you’re still queasy about state polling after 2016, there are additional signs Biden will win.
C) District polls
Polls of congressional districts don’t draw the usual attention because so few are made public. But Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report used that data in 2016 to say the election was very close and Trump could win. This time he notes:
the scores of district and state-level polls conducted by the parties to make spending decisions in down-ballot races generally align with national polls showing Trump running behind his 2016 pace, including in key states. In 2016, these same polls had shown flashing red warning signs for Hillary Clinton, particularly in districts with lots of white working-class voters.
A few districts are instructive. In 2018, Sharice Davids knocked off four-term Congressman Kevin Yoder in a district heavily based in Suburban Kansas City. She won by nearly 10 points in 2018, portending the GOP’s collapse in Suburban America (she also won formerly reliably Republican Johnson County by 15,000 votes against a strong candidate in Yoder). Usually a party that lost a seat they held for eight years would ostensibly claim they could win that seat back. But in 2020, every major ratings agency has the race rated as safe/solid Democrat. An internal poll had Davids up 20 points.
The district polls were a phenomenal sign Trump had real strengths in 2016. That’s not happening in 2020. The GOP would release internal polling if they showed Trump doing as well as he did in 2016. Instead, Biden is running well ahead of Trump across the board, and that’s why Wasserman has been so bullish on Biden.
I’ve covered this before, but it’s perhaps the greatest failure of Trump’s campaign, and the greatest strength of Biden’s: his favorability.
Gallup released their final favorability numbers for 2020. They find Biden is +11. Trump is -4. In 2016, Clinton finished -5.
In 2016’s exit polls, 18% of voters had an unfavorable opinion of both Clinton and Trump. Trump won those voters by 17 points.
Unfortunately for the MAGA folks, Biden doesn’t present the same opportunity. Biden’s at 51% favorable in the RCP average. He’s at just 44% unfavorable. Even if Trump won every voter that had an unfavorable opinion of Biden, he’d be well short of where he’d need to be for even an electoral college-popular vote split. Clinton had a 55% unfavourability rating in the exit polls. Trump could count on enough people saying, “I hate them both” in 2016. He can’t now.
f) Undecideds/2016 third-party
Under-polling non-college whites didn’t explain all the polling issues in 2016. Trump also benefitted from lots of undecided voters in 2016.
In 2016, 26% of voters made up their mind in the last month. Those folks went for Trump by eight points, per exit polls.
There aren’t many undecides this time. Biden is at 51.4% in the RCP average. Trump is at 43.5%. That’s 94.9% of the electorate that plans to select one of the septuagenarians. In 2016, 90.4% planned to vote for one of the two candidates. That extra 4.5% matters in a close race.
Trump also benefitted from lots of third-party votes in 2016. With Gary Johnson’s strong showing in the Badger State, Trump won with 47.2% of the vote:
Trump received fewer votes in Wisconsin in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in his losing effort in 2012:
Biden’s running better with third-party voters than Trump. Pew Research did a deep-dive of the 2016 electorate, and those folks like Biden more than they like Trump:
Biden also holds a modest advantage among those voters who say they supported Gary Johnson, Jill Stein or someone else in 2016: 49% say they lean toward or support Biden, while 26% say they support Trump. A quarter say they plan to vote for a third-party candidate again in 2020. Among those voters who did not vote in 2016, Biden also leads by 16 percentage points (54% vs. 38%).
In 2016, Trump could count on a bunch of third-party and undecided voters boosting his path. He had to win a disproportionate amount of undecideds, but that gave him an out. Biden doesn’t need to win any of the undecided vote this time. His current support is sufficient.
The final days of the 2016 race showed Clinton’s vulnerability. At the height of the backlash from the Access Hollywood tape, Clinton led by 7.1 points in the RCP average on October 18th. But four days before the election (it was later in 2016 than in 2020) she led by just 1.3 points:
Biden’s not suffered a similar valley:
Perhaps most telling is that Clinton trailed at multiple points in 2016. Trump hasn’t been within three points of Biden since COVID-19. If the race has been this stable all year, through a supreme court nomination, COVID-19, conventions, gaffes and billions of dollars in spending, why would things change in the final three days? They’re not going to, and Biden’s going to win.
H) 2016 isn’t even that great for Trump
Even with those giant differences between today and 2016, 2016 itself isn’t that great a case for Trump.
Trump had a narrow deficit in the polls, and his own campaign gave him a 30% chance to win.
In basketball if a team trails by 18 points in the fourth quarter, they might win. But only sarcastically would a team get down by 18 points in a future game and think, “Wow, we have them right where we want them.”
The reality is that Trump pulled off a highly improbable win. Rather than thinking, “Trump pulled it off once, why can’t he pull it off again?” the framing should be, “Trump got lucky to pull this off once, why would we think he’d even be able to pull off that scenario a second time.” Plenty of Democrats thought Trump could never win in 2016, which might explain why turnout was so low in key areas, or why people that despised both felt okay voting for Trump.
If you simulated the 2016 election 100 times, Trump would probably lose a majority of them. That he won it once shouldn’t give him solace he’d even win replaying it. But he’s facing a much better opponent this time, and he’s not quite what he was last time.
I) The electorate is worse for Trump now
Wasserman said it all:
A new interactive collaboration by NBC News and the Cook Political Report finds that if 2016's turnout and support rates were applied to 2020's new demographic realities, Trump would narrowly lose Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — more than enough to swing the presidency to Joe Biden. And, Trump would lose the popular vote by about four points, roughly double his 2016 deficit.
Beyond his high favorability ratings compared to Clinton, Biden has several big advantages in 2020.
a) Seniors- The Republican Party won seniors in every election from 2004-2016. Trump won the 18% of the electorate that was 65+ in 2016 by seven points, per the exit polls.
In Fox and CNN’s final polls of the 2020 cycle, Biden has double digit leads with seniors.
Cross-tabs are inherently difficult to parse. With a smaller subsample, you get wider errors with those groups, so it’s less reliable to make these comparisons. There are some surveys, like YouGov’s, that show Trump with a lead with seniors. But those polls show Biden with a comfortable lead overall.
Biden’s lead with seniors makes sense given Trump’s tepid ratings on COVID-19:
COVID-19 kills seniors far more than younger folks. Trump isn’t seen as taking the virus seriously. He couldn’t afford to lose much from his narrow 2016 win, and now he’s in deep trouble.
Biden is running much better with whites. Nate Cohn wrote on October 28th:
Over all, Mr. Trump leads among white voters by only five points in high-quality surveys conducted since the Republican National Convention in August, compared with a 13-point advantage in the final surveys before the 2016 election. Not only does Mr. Trump fall short of his own lead with that group from 2016, but he also underperforms every recent Republican presidential candidate since Bob Dole in 1996.
Mr. Biden’s gains among white voters are broad, spanning not only the groups expected to shift toward him — like white suburban women — but also the white working-class voters across the Northern battleground states who represented the president’s decisive strength four years ago.
Over all, Mr. Trump leads by 21 points among white voters without a degree, 58 percent to 37 percent, compared with his 29-point edge (59-30) in the final polls in 2016. His position with these voters is still strong for a Republican — in fact, that 21-point lead is the largest for a Republican in recent memory. But while he still runs ahead of Mitt Romney among this group, he faces a daunting deficit among the remainder of the electorate.
By contrast, white college graduates back Mr. Biden by 21 points in recent polls, up from a 13-point edge for Mrs. Clinton in the final polls four years ago.
Those gains with whites matter because whites make up much more of America’s electorate than minorities. While different estimates peg the electorate’s non-white share differently, whites have made up at least 70% of the electorate in every election. Winning back 8% of the white vote matters more because there are more white voters than minorities in America. Clinton couldn’t run up the score with Latinos as a path to victory in 2016 because there aren’t enough of them in America. But Biden’s gains with whites provides a durable map.
C) Lack of scandals
In 2016, Trump pinned Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state as an albatross. That scandal led to the FBI investigation, and James Comey blasted her at a press conference over the summer. Just days before the election, Comey sent a letter to a House committee letting them know he had to reopen the investigation because of Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
Trump’s tried to use Hunter Biden as a similar foil. Even if you believe the media has not fairly covered the story, it hasn’t resonated like the Clinton email scandal. Vox noted that a Columbia Journalism Review found that Clinton’s emails received as much coverage in six days in the New York Times as policy did over 69 days (nice or possibly not nice).
The Hunter Biden situation hasn’t received anywhere near the coverage. Maybe that’s because the scandal doesn’t make much sense. Regardless of the merits, Biden’s favorability rating has stayed sky high.
d) Not viewed as too liberal/a socialist
Bob Woodward wrote in his newest book, “Rage,” that Donald Trump wanted to face Elizabeth Warren. He would have gone after Warren for quite a bit, but he would have focused on her being too liberal (at least as much as Trump can focus on anything). He would have run a similar campaign against Bernie Sanders (yes, there’s a liberal/left distinction. It doesn’t matter for purposes of an election outside of a Current Affairs or Jacobin meeting).
YouGov’s most recent polling shows only 34% describe Joe Biden as very liberal. 33% see him as moderate. Even Trump’s own rhetoric isn’t about Biden being a socialist; his argument is that Biden will fail to hold the line against the left.
America’s comfortable with Biden in the oval office.
Trump Wins Theories are wrong:
a) Trafalgar/Shy Trump voters
Trafalgar takes credit for their 2016 results because they had Trump winning Michigan, Florida and a host of states the polling averages said he’d lose. Given they were right once in ‘16, the argument is they must be right again when they show Trump with a lead.
No. First, Trafalgar likes to pretend they’re unstoppable because they predicted the 2016 election in a few states. Instead of viewing their success as, “We knew” the reality is that they’re always biased toward Republicans. When the polls were off by favoring Democrats in 2016, Trafalgar looked right. When the polls are off by favoring Republicans, they’re trash.
In 2018, they missed the Georgia governor’s race by 12 points. In Arizona they said McSally would win by 2 points. She lost by 2.3. In Nevada, they said Heller would win. He lost. They gave Cruz a 9 point lead in Texas. He won by 2.6 points. They said the Republican would win the Nevada governor’s race. The Republican lost. There is not a single race I could find in 2016 or 2018 where they predicted a Democrat to win and the Democrat lost. All of their errors in calling races were for Republicans, which makes sense because they’re a Republican based firm, and their pollster went on the National Review podcast that features Rich Lowry and proclaimed that illegals vote.
Trafalgar claims they’re correct based on a proprietary formula that tries to reach what they dub “Shy Trump voters.” The theory is based on a concept called social desirability bias. The idea is that people don’t like expressing their true beliefs when they view their opinion as counter to the prevailing norm. The theory posits that Trump is detested by a segment of society—especially polite company—so people feel uncomfortable telling a pollster they’ll vote Trump. But if you ask them who their neighbors are voting for, or some other question that Trafalgar won’t reveal (they claim part of their method is proprietary) then you can find out true beliefs.
This seems nonsensical for a host of reasons. First, plenty of Trump people have no problem telling you they’re MAGA. Second, several pollsters conduct their polls using recalled vote choice. That method asks voters who they voted for in 2016. In the New York Times/Sienna poll, they match up their 2016 recalled vote to the 2016 election result. So in Wisconsin, they ensure their sample of non-new voters is at least Trump +1. Why does that matter? Well, if someone is fine telling a pollster, “I voted for Trump in 2016,” why would they be afraid to tell a pollster, “I voted for Trump in 2020? Third, Trump is running ahead of Republican Senate candidates in Iowa, Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas and South Carolina. If Shy Trump were real, we’d expect the Republican candidates to poll ahead of Trump because they don’t carry the same stigma as Trump. Finally, minority voters have moved toward Trump in plenty of 2020 polls compared to 2016. If there were any group where maybe attitudes about Trump voting were secret it’d be minority voters because Trump still remains massively less popular than Trump among non-white voters. But they aren’t showing any concern about voicing their opinion.
Morning Consult also tried to see if they had different poll results between online and phone surveys. One theory behind Shy Trump voting is that maybe someone is afraid to tell a pollster their true feelings about Trump. But why would someone be afraid to click a button saying they’re voting for Trump? Morning Consult found out there’s almost no difference between the two methods for president:
Among all likely voters, former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump receive a similar level of support online and via phone. Biden received 55 percent support to Trump’s 45 percent support among those who took the survey online and Biden received 56 percent support to Trump’s 44 percent among phone respondents.
If you needed any more reasons Trafalgar is going to miss 2020, their results make almost no sense. They show Trump by 19 points with 18-24 year-olds in a Great Lakes survey. They also show Trump winning 31% of Black voters. Given Clinton won 81% of Black men and 98% of Black women, per Pew’s voter file examination of 2016 voting, it seems unfathomable that a Republican would win 31% of the Black vote. No Republican has come close to winning 31% of Black voters since Dwight Eisenhower won 40% in 1956. On Twitter, Trafalgar’s pollster said, “Doubt @trafalgar_group black support for @realDonaldTrump at your own risk. Thanks to @50cent and many others these “shy Trump voters” ain’t so shy anymore.” Maybe they’ll get rich, but I think they’ll die trying with those results.
Beyond that, Trafalgar’s founder/pollster said on Hannity on October 30th, “I think you need to win Pennsylvania by four or five to overcome the voter fraud that’s going to happen there. Wisconsin is really a toss-up right now. Minnesota, but for Kanye, he’d (Trump) have Minnesota. Kanye’s taking up the extra space that he needs.” This is the man you want to go down with?
B) Who wins isn’t predictive
There’s a paper from a few years ago that claims one of the best insights into who wins elections is to ask people who they think will win the election. The theory is that by parsing the wisdom of the crowd, you’ll get the correct result.
That question might have had some predictive power before the Balkanization of news viewership, but now it doesn’t. In 2018, voters expected Republicans to control the House. They lost it by a ton.
In 2020, 40% expect Trump to win and 36% expect Biden to win in YouGov’s survey. But 28% of liberal are unsure. It seems this isn’t some deep-seated knowledge liberals know their favorite candidate is screwed. It’s Democrats that are fearful of a 2016 redux.
Most of the “Who will win” is now controlled by partisan attitudes. A good chunk of the left thought Clinton could never lose, and now they’re afraid to believe any Democrat could win. A large chunk of Republicans believe Trafalgar and Hannity, so they think the election is over. 71% of Republicans think Trump is going to win the popular vote. Even Newt Gingrich would admit Trump isn’t going to win the popular vote. He’s given less than a 1% chance to do that by the Economist. 61% of Republicans think the party will take back the House. I will bet any amount of Raising Cane’s that the GOP will not control the House.
C) Party Registration
Some argue that because Republicans have registered more net voters in Pennsylvania, Florida and other states, Trump has an advantage in 2020.
The reality is that party registration is a lagging indicator. People take a while to switch their party ID’s to match the party they’ve been voting for. In West Virginia—a state Donald Trump won by 41.7% points in 2016—Democrats still outnumber Republicans in the October Secretary of State data release. The state was reliably Democratic until 2000, and people have not left their ancestral party.
In Pennsylvania and Florida, plenty of Democrats voted for Trump in 2016. Those voters are now at home in the party they’ve voted for.
The reason I’m confident the party ID switch is not some devastating moment for Biden is that Biden’s had a polling lead all cycle, and in the New York Times poll that uses voter confirmation to 2016, Biden wins more Trump voters than Trump wins Clinton voters. Party ID doesn’t tell us much about what someone will do. In Johnson County, Kansas, more Republicans will end up voting for Biden than Democrats will vote for Trump. If the GOP renominates Trump in 2024, then plenty of those Biden Republicans will switch parties.
d) Minority gains
There’s a good case Trump is running better with minorities than he did in 2016. Given there are fewer minorities in America, and in the case of Latinos, a large portion speak Spanish, there are concerns about how accurate polls are of minorities. But Trump has made gains.
The issue for Trump is mentioned earlier though. As Cohn notes:
In recent national polls, Mr. Biden leads by 42 points among nonwhite voters, 66 percent to 24 percent. It’s about nine points worse than Mrs. Clinton’s 51-point lead in the final 2016 surveys.
Mr. Biden has lost almost exactly as much ground among nonwhite voters as he has gained among white voters, but trading nonwhite for white voters is a favorable deal for Mr. Biden. White voters outnumber nonwhite voters by more than two to one, and by an even greater ratio in the most important battleground states.
e) White non-college surge
Pollsters try to get the electorate correct, and their likely voter screens assign a score based on how likely people say they are to vote. There’s not evidence that a ton of new non-college whites are voting, or that those folks that fit that demographic and chose not to vote in 2016 are now voting and voting for Trump. Unless someone offers affirmative evidence for that proposition, it’s difficult to substantiate it.
f) Trump/court steals it
Given Biden’s large lead, it’s hard for anyone to steal the election.
If Trump’s down 800 votes in Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court could issue a rule that stops the count or favor’s the Republican side.
Trump would like to use the tools of the presidency to take whatever advantage he can to stay. But if he’s down by a good margin, he can’t do anything to stop the vote counts. If he loses North Carolina, Wisconsin and Michigan on election night, he can’t do anything to hope Pennsylvania starts counting mail-in ballots differently. I don’t see the election getting close enough for him to use whatever process he might have an advantage in to squeak by.
G) Economy/Better Off
Voters have excused the economic downturn during COVID-19, and Trump’s polled well on the economy. He’s at 50% approval on the economy in YouGov’s poll.
The issue for Trump is that the economy is not the sole issue. While 25% describe the economy as their top issue, 27% pick healthcare (YouGov doesn’t offer COVID-19 as an option, so it might be contained within healthcare). And Trump only has a 41% approval rating on healthcare. He’s also underwater, as mentioned, on COVID-19..
Some claim the question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago” is a big advantage for Trump. Voters consistently say they’re better off in a host of polls. But when asked “Is the country better off than four years ago” just 35% say yes and 56% say no, per YouGov.
If Trump had made the economy the only issue, he’d be a big favorite. A generic Republican could have won this election. Andrew Cuomo had a terrible response to COVID-19. But because he could navigate a press conference and not say the dumbest things imaginable—injecting bleach!—the public had faith he worked toward the right solution even when he implemented awful policies.
Trump is not a generic Republican though. People are tired of him and don’t trust him outside of the economy, which is why people say the country is worse off and are ready to throw him out.
82% of Trump voters tell YouGov that their vote for Trump is primarily for him, while 52% of Biden voters say their vote is primarily against Trump. With that framework, maybe Biden voters aren’t enthused enough to vote.
Turns out hating Trump motivates Democrats. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t all in love with Biden. But Gallup finds Democrats are more enthusiastic than Republicans about voting this year:
I) Betting markets
The betting markets don’t even favor Trump. They list Biden at a 64% favorite.
Those odds are too low. The normal value in betting markets is that someone that sees the odds are far in their favor can bet a ton of money and win. With the incentive to become rich, smart folks bet the winning side. Eventually the lines adjust to entice equal betting, and the final lines end up close the result.
Unfortunately you can’t get rich on political betting markets. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission limits someone to $850 in bets. And you can only bet on the election once, since the event occurs once. This isn’t the NBA where you can bet on 82 games for 30 teams. The most someone can make betting $850 at 64% odds with a 10% fee (they charge a lot more than a traditional gambling site) is $489.60. People that know what they’re doing can’t come in and make any real money on these markets. Instead, someone that enjoys gambling can throw down a few hundred dollars and have fun. This isn’t a rational market. It’s the roulette wheel at the casino at 3 a.m. with Matchbox Twenty blaring as drunk patrons find the entertainment justifies the price.
J) Candidate’s final days
If Joe Biden is up by such a large margin, then why is he going to Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa? Shouldn’t he be in Texas or Ohio if he has a giant lead?
Biden needs 270 electoral votes to be president. He doesn’t need to win Texas or Ohio. If he’s won those states, he’s well on his way to winning the election by the time polls close on the West Coast, and the networks declare California and the presidency for Biden. Rather than focus on running up the score, the easiest explanation is that they’re focused on states that get 270 electoral votes. Those are also states where there are plenty of voters that haven’t voted by mail. Biden might hope to win them over.
Trump is also visiting North Carolina and Georgia in the final three days. One could counter, why is Trump in those two traditionally Republican states if he’s not in trouble?
The reality is that polling has held up well, and the polls show Biden has a big lead. There’s not any evidence campaigns final days show how they’re going to do. In 2004, the GOP sent Dick Cheney to Hawaii, and they lost it by nine points. In 2000, George W. Bush went to California in October.
Early voting also doesn’t tell us much. We don’t know how those people will vote, and there’s nothing in the past to show it correlates with actual vote results (the one exception is journalist Jon Ralston in Nevada. He said yesterday the Republicans are in trouble there with the early vote).
On July 15th, I had this map:
And while I could make a good argument that Trump is going to win Ohio, I am sticking with my map. I’ll say the desire to correct for 2016 in polling—and Biden running better in the Midwest—let him pull it off there.
I also think Biden wins Florida. Democrats are scared after the 2018 polling error for the Florida governor’s race. But Florida hasn’t always been a disaster for Democrats. Obama trailed in the Sunshine State for most of 2012, and then he beat Romney. Biden’s also running well with seniors, so I think he gets done.
This election resembles 1980, something I’ve argued all cycle. In 1976, the challenger won in a very close election, and then faced a national crisis that he failed to meet (Iran hostage situation). After that, America wanted the challenger to show he wasn’t too old or too extreme to be president. In 1980, Ronald Reagan met that moment in the debates, and Joe Biden has as well. In 1980, Reagan’s 9.7% victory translated to 44 states. With negative partisanship and the distribution of votes, it can’t today, but that election is a good parallel to 2020.
Donald Trump shocked the world when he won the 2016 election. It took a perfect storm to narrowly win, against a worse opponent, in a more favorable environment and with a more favorable electorate. Trump’s ultimate problem is what so many people that have relied on me to play defense recognize too late—you can only count on the white man for so long. With strong gains with white voters and seniors, and higher turnout, Biden will be elected America’s 46th president.
Kendall Kaut is an assistant district attorney, the editor-in-chief of Baylor’s SB Nation website, an election analyst and a campaign advisor. You can follow Kendall on twitter @kendallkaut. You can subscribe to the newsletter, which will publish at least weekly on the election and politics at https://kendallkaut.substack.com