Let's start with a few reality checks: Overall, the polling has been heinously bad for Team Trump for weeks on end. There are only so many "he's getting creamed" posts one can write before it feels like flogging a mortally-wounded horse. The RealClearPolitics average of national surveys shows Biden leading consistently and comfortably -- and almost certainly beyond the range of polling error. Trump hasn't seen a head-to-head lead in a single poll since February, before the Coronavirus crisis started sweeping across the world. "But he was down in 2016, too" is something approaching a decent argument, but look at the trajectory of that cycle's polling (in which the final margin was within one point of the average, by the way) and compare it to this year's. The difference is striking. Relying on "The Polls Are Wrong!" is not a smart strategy, writes conservative analyst Henry Olsen:
Many of my Republican friends tell me that the polls either can't be trusted because of 2016 or that they are under sampling Republicans. Sorry, but neither explanation holds water. My latest for @PostOpinions -https://t.co/udFIcg7boR— Henry Olsen (@henryolsenEPPC) July 28, 2020
There's more: Battleground state surveys have been looking correspondingly ugly, and Senate Democrats are now favored to take back the upper chamber in the fall, given the shifts on the ground in multiple races. And even if you're inclined to dismiss the polls entirely, the Trump campaign's clear pivot on several fronts (high-level shakeup, new Coronavirus approach, axed RNC) strongly suggests that they themselves agree with what Karl Rove told me on my radio show this week. Namely, that Trump is now the clear underdog who needs to stage a comeback with fewer than 100 days remaining until election day. I strongly recommend listening to Rove's arguments and critiques:
But wasn't this supposed to be a post about some positive polling developments? We're finally arriving at that point, but I didn't want to paint a misleadingly rosy picture. People who want to see Trump re-elected, and who want to avoid hearing the phrase "majority leader Schumer" in the near future, need to take seriously the reality that the current status quo is grim for the GOP. The public's confidence about the virus and the economy will need to get to a significantly better place within the next few months in order to avoid what could be another blue wave election. With all that being said, are some glimmers starting to appear?
(1) Enthusiasm: "Supporters of President Trump are more enthusiastic about their candidate than those who back presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, according to a new poll. In The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, 42 percent of Trump supporters polled described themselves as excited heading into the election, while 31 percent of Biden supporters said the same." Don't get too excited; Biden still leads Trump head-to-head by double digits in the same survey, and the incumbent's approval numbers are poor. But intensity and excitement can make an important difference in a tight race.
(2) Minnesota movement: Morning Consult, amid a deluge of bad news for Trump, shows a swing toward Trump in Minnesota, the early epicenter of social unrest after the killing of George Floyd. And MC isn't alone in detecting similar movement: "Morning Consult isn’t the only pollster to find the race there close lately. Trafalgar, which famously caught Trump’s surge in the Rust Belt shortly before Election Day 2016, has him within striking distance...Within the last six weeks or so, at a time when most pollsters have watched Biden approach landslide margins in swing states, Trafalgar has had him up by one point in Michigan, Trump up by one in Wisconsin, and a dead heat in Florida. They’ve also put Trump within five of the lead in Pennsylvania and now Minnesota at a moment when virtually everything that could be working against him politically is working against him politically. If Cahaly’s right about the race, Trump is very much alive right now..."
(3) Shift in Democratic polling: Trafalgar, mentioned in the item above, is a GOP pollster. But a Democratic firm also shows Trump on the comeback trail. Granted, he's still losing in all six states surveyed (AZ, FL, MI, NC, PA, WI), but the margins have now within low-to-mid single digits. That's not where Trump wants to be, but it's a doable lift compared to what the same pollster measured a few weeks ago. It would seem as though Trump's more serious approach to the virus -- bringing back the briefings, strongly encouraging and wearing masks, etc -- may be helping his cause. But as ever, the question with this president is whether the "new tone" or fresh discipline can last. Early signs are, shall we say, mixed. The 2020 election takes place in 97 days.
UPDATE: Oh, this ain't it, chief. Deeply irresponsible and reckless:
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020