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Polls, Fake News and Trends

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AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

We are more than a year from the 2020 presidential election. It is too soon to see much of anything. But there are some trends we should pay attention to at this point.

Last Monday, the national press corps had a moment of intense excitement because they thought they had finally succeeded in getting Elizabeth Warren the Democratic nomination. For months, the media has run reports about Joe Biden. He was either a racist or collaborated with racists. He was old and out of touch. He tried to keep Kamala Harris off a school bus as a child. The sensationalism of the stories intensified. Biden's debate performance became a big issue. And?

Biden's polling changed very little. Before Biden officially entered the 2020 presidential contest, his RealClearPolitics polling average had him around 28%. After all the attacks, his polling average had him around, well, 28%. But last Monday, the Monmouth University poll came out. It had Biden at 19%, with Warren and Bernie Sanders at 20%.

A basic rule of American politics these days is that you should pay no attention to individual polls. Instead, pay attention to the average of polls. The Monmouth University Poll got breathless attention from the press. Biden was finally vulnerable. Warren would finally dominate. But this was not true.

After the Monmouth poll, the Politico/Morning Consult poll, the USA Today/Suffolk University Poll, the Hill/HarrisX poll, the Quinnipiac University Poll, the Emerson Poll and the Economist/YouGov poll all came out. Every one of them has Biden ahead. Four of the six have Biden in double digits.

The media chose to focus on the Monmouth poll of 298 Democrats instead of the USA Today/Suffolk poll of 424 Democrats because the Monmouth poll had the media's preferred narrative, i.e., Warren is surging, and Biden is in decline. Undoubtedly, momentum is with Warren, but Biden is holding steady at 28% in the polling average, exactly where he started in February.

What happened with the media excitement for Warren is part of a larger trend Republicans need to focus on. The economy is, at this point, undoubtedly slowing down. Between the president's tariffs and the economic slowdown happening globally, the United States economy is starting to unravel. Presidents get credit for economic success and blame for economic decline. The trend lines look bad for the president.

And American voters are exhausted. They are tired of the drama. They are tired of the tweets. They are tired of the fighting. They are tired of the media sensationalizing everything. They want some semblance of normalcy. Americans, at this point, would love a president they do not have to think about, see or hear for weeks on end. President Donald Trump is stressing people out with his erratic nature, his constant squabbling and the press's amplifications of his daily behavior. At this point, polls suggest Americans would be OK with a cannibal for president so long as he promised to keep his mouth full, not talk and stay off Twitter. "Eat, don't tweet" could be his motto, and he would win.

Therein lies another trend line Biden and Republicans need to pay attention to. Trump consistently gets beaten by double-digit margins against Biden, Warren, Sanders and Harris. That will change as we get closer. But consider that only about 15% of people have not made up their minds yet. Historically, those voters break against the incumbent party. This is a real warning sign for Trump. It is also a warning for Biden. If any Democrat could beat Trump, Democrats do not need the safe option. They could have the bold option with Warren. As Trump looks more vulnerable, Biden becomes more vulnerable.

The polling was not wrong in 2016. National polling, however, failed to capture Electoral College nuances in a very close race. A 10-point lead in polling would keep the Electoral College with the popular winner. Right now, that isn't President Trump. His team needs a plan. They have some time, which is about their only good news.

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