Polls show national lead for Biden, hope for Trump in battlegrounds
New polls show Democratic nominee Joe Biden opening up a wide national lead following the nominating conventions, but there are glimmers of hope for President Trump in battleground surveys that show a tightening race in some of the swing states that will determine the outcome of the 2020 election.
Neither candidate appears to have gotten much of a bounce coming out of the back-to-back conventions.
Nationally, Biden has a big advantage over Trump, with six polls released in the past 24 hours showing him ahead by between 7 and 11 points. A survey from USA Today and Suffolk University found Biden ahead by 7 points nationally. New Economist/YouGov and University of Southern California (USC) polls showed the former vice president with an 11-point lead. Surveys from Quinnipiac University, CNN and Grinnell College put Biden’s advantage in the 8- to 10-point range.
However, a Monmouth University poll of Pennsylvania found Trump and Biden locked in a statistical tie after Biden had opened up a 13-point lead in the Keystone State only six weeks ago.
Recent surveys from several other battlegrounds, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan, have found the race tightening, pointing to a fierce fight to the finish that will leave both campaigns and the country on edge over the final 61 days.
The flood of new data at times paints a confounding portrait of a presidential race taking place amid a backdrop of extreme political unrest. The campaigns have been reacting daily to new developments around the racial justice protests, the coronavirus pandemic and the economic slowdown.
Guy Cecil, the chair of Priorities USA, the top super PAC backing Biden’s presidential bid, said the contest remains “structurally close” but that he had not seen any signs of a significant shift in the dynamics of the race, especially in the most sought-after battleground states.
Speaking to reporters on a video briefing on Wednesday, Cecil acknowledged that recent public polling out of the core battleground states suggests a tightening race. But he said the narrowing margins are to be expected heading into the final two months before Election Day and that he has no expectations of a drastic change in either candidate’s support.
“We expect a tight race. We expect the race to remain relatively stable. We expect the map to remain relatively narrow,” Cecil said, adding, “I think a lot of this is just the normal course of the election and what happens in terms of consolidating base votes.”
The latest USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future survey found Trump’s support eroding among the key groups that powered his 2016 election, including white people, men and seniors.
That survey also found Biden with a 13-point lead in the suburbs, which have emerged as an enormous problem for Trump after he fought Hillary Clinton to a tie in the suburbs in 2016.
“Obviously it’s still early and we don’t know the full impact and future course of the ongoing racial strife and the two nominees’ reactions to it, but one thing is clear — Trump starts the fall campaign in a weaker position than any incumbent since George H. W. Bush,” said Robert Shrum, the director of the Dornsife Center.
While Biden’s national polling looks strong, his lead has shrunk some in recent weeks, going from 9.8 points in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average in late June to 7.2 points today.
Clinton led Trump by 3.2 points nationally in the RCP average on Election Day in 2016. She won the popular vote by more than 3 million but lost the Electoral College after Trump effectively ran the board in the battleground states and turned Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania red for the first time in decades.
Experts say Trump could lose the national vote by 4 or even 5 points this time around and still win a second term due to the GOP’s Electoral College advantage.
Cecil warned on Wednesday that even small variances to his projected turnout for people of color or working-class voters in the battleground states could produce enormous swings in the Electoral College toward one candidate or the other.
In Pennsylvania, a state that Trump carried in 2016 and one of the top battlegrounds of the 2020 election, a Monmouth University poll released on Wednesday painted a more concerning picture for Biden. Trump gained 9 points over the previous survey from July. Biden leads Trump by 4 points in the latest poll, though that’s well within the 4.9 percentage point margin of error.
That poll also showed Biden’s support among some key groups on the decline. Among men in the state, Trump leads by 19 points, up from 2 points in a July poll from Monmouth. And Biden’s advantage among voters under the age of 50 also narrowed to 9 points, down from 29 points in the previous survey.
Still, Biden appears to have advantages in most of the battleground states.
A new Morning Consult poll out on Tuesday found Biden ahead in nine out of the 11 swing states in the aftermath of last month’s Democratic and Republican national conventions. In Arizona, the former vice president saw a 7-point bump in support from where he stood prior to the conventions, propelling him to a 52 percent to 42 percent lead over Trump in the state.
However, the race is extremely close in most of the battleground states, and Biden’s big leads in Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida have shrunk. All three states are nearing toss-up territory.
Biden led by 8.4 points in Michigan in late July, according to the RealClearPolitics average. That advantage is down to 2.6 points presently. The same is true in Wisconsin, where Biden’s average lead fell from 5 points at the end of July to 3.5 points as of Wednesday, and Florida, where his average lead is now down to 3.7 points from 6.2 points in July.
North Carolina and Arizona have been toss-ups for months, with the candidates within 2 points of each other in most polls.
Trump also appears to have drawn closer to Biden in Minnesota, which hasn’t gone for the Republican nominee since 1972. Two recent polls showed the candidates within the margin of error of each other in the North Star State this year.
“We’re going all-in on Minnesota,” Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, told reporters this week. “We think it’s a state we can win.”
The president, however, is playing defense in Georgia, Ohio and Iowa.
A WSB-TV2 and Landmark Communications poll of Georgia released Wednesday found Trump edging Biden by only 3 points. In Ohio, a perennial swing state that the president carried in 2016, Biden and Trump are running neck and neck, with Morning Consult polling released on Tuesday showing Trump with a 5-point lead. And the FiveThirtyEight polling average in Iowa has shown an increasingly narrow race since June.
Cecil, the Priorities USA chairman, said on Wednesday that his group had seen “positive movement” for Biden in a handful of Republican-leaning states, including Georgia and even Texas. But he also downplayed the potential for a sudden shift in the 2020 electoral battleground, saying that the race still hinged on six states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“The reality is, structurally the race remains very similar to what the race was like five months ago, eight months ago,” he said. “That just structurally these six states will be close.”