Democrats are warning their voters not to become complacent as Joe BidenJoe BidenPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Pressure grows to cut diplomatic red tape for Afghans left behind President Biden is making the world a more dangerous place MORE builds up a formidable polling lead in the race for the White House.
Party leaders are seeing new polls that show the entire battleground map move against President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE with just more than three weeks to go before Nov. 3. Republicans are beginning to worry that Trump could face a landslide loss that costs the party the White House and the majority in the Senate.
But Democrats are still deeply scarred from 2016, when Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE was viewed as the heavy favorite heading into Election Day.
They say that despite Biden’s polling strength, the political terrain is extremely volatile and that even small changes in their projected turnout models could produce wild swings in the Electoral College.
Democrats are urging activists to keep their feet on the gas in the stretch run, saying they can’t afford to rest easy until the race has officially been called in Biden’s favor.
“I think we’re putting that fear [of another upset loss] to good use, and we’re being constructive in the way we’re approaching the election,” said Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC supporting Biden’s campaign. “Am I optimistic? Yes. But I do continue to have serious concerns and we need to continue to run through the finish line.”
Cecil’s own polling shows Biden would be in line to potentially win a massive victory in the Electoral College if the election were held today.
The Priorities USA data finds 319 electoral votes leaning toward Biden versus only 188 leaning toward Trump, with 31 up for grabs in Georgia and North Carolina.
Priorities USA has Iowa, Ohio and Texas all leaning toward Trump. Public polls in those states show tight races across the board, and some Democrats are dreaming about Biden potentially pushing past the 350 electoral votes mark if the toss-ups and a few right-leaning states break his way.
But while Cecil noted that Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes has widened in recent weeks as Trump has sunk dramatically in the polls, the map becomes a pure toss-up if white working-class voters and people of color turn out by 3 or 4 points less than anticipated.
That development would potentially cost Biden victories in Arizona, Florida and North Carolina while turning Nevada, Pennsylvania and Michigan into toss-ups.
“Despite that movement [toward Biden], structurally speaking, the race is still close,” Cecil said. “It’s still a competitive presidential race. If the election were on Tuesday, Joe Biden would win. But the election is not on Tuesday, and ... every day feels like an eternity, so we’ve got to keep working through.”
The potential for volatility in a deeply polarized and angry country is keeping Democrats awake at night.
Election Day cannot come fast enough for a party that has seen their nominee go nearly wire-to-wire as the front-runner in the polls.
“There’s so much instability in the country and so much frustration and anger about politics and politicians, we’d be foolish to believe that somehow a lead in the polls today means we’re guaranteed a victory on Election Day,” said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic pollster and strategist.
“Democrats need to be incredibly cautious and remember the ghosts of 2016,” he added. “Honestly, who gives a damn about the polls?”
Still, it’s hard to overstate just how strong a position Biden is in with Election Day around the corner. Biden is in far better shape than Clinton was at this point in 2016.
Nationally, Biden has racked up a 9.6-point lead over Trump in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average. Clinton had a 4.6-point advantage on this day in 2016, and she entered Election Day ahead by only 3.2 points.
Biden has been steadily pulling away from Trump in the former “blue wall” states that narrowly broke for the president in 2016. The Democratic nominee leads in the RCP average of all six core battleground states, and several states that Trump must win, including Iowa, Ohio and Georgia, appear to be pure toss-ups.
While Clinton lost seniors, independents and suburban voters to Trump, all of those groups have since gravitated back toward Democrats, helping the party win a majority in the House in the 2018 midterms.
The Trump-Clinton election was a battle between two deeply unpopular candidates. Biden is far more popular than either Trump or Clinton. Regardless, polls show that voters who dislike both Trump and Biden prefer the Democrat this year. Third-party voters are not expected to be a major factor in 2020, as they were in 2016.
Trump’s saving grace to this point has been his advantage over Biden on the economy. New polls show Biden cutting into that advantage. And the Priorities USA data shows a surge in enthusiasm for Biden in recent weeks as Democrats pull ahead of Republicans on the question of who is more excited to vote for their candidate.
The Trump campaign is cash-strapped and off the airwaves in several key battlegrounds. The president, who outcampaigned Clinton in 2016, has been sidelined by the coronavirus and reduced to calling in to conservative media outlets for phone interviews.
Republicans are hopeful that the extreme volatility ends up saving Trump and their Senate majority. But they increasingly acknowledge the possibility that the GOP could face steep losses on Nov. 3, barring another Election Day surprise.
“I am worried,” Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp The Memo: Biden's immigration problems reach crescendo in Del Rio Matthew McConaughey on potential political run: 'I'm measuring it' MORE (R-Texas) said on CNBC on Friday. “It’s volatile. It’s highly volatile. ... If people are going back to work, if they’re optimistic, if they’re positive about the future, we could see a fantastic election — the president getting reelected with a big margin, Republicans winning both Houses of Congress, and I think that’s a real possibility.”
“But I also think if on Election Day people are angry and they’ve given up hope and they’re depressed, which is what [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] and [Senate Minority Leader Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] want them to be, I think it could be a terrible election,” he continued. “I think we could lose the White House and both houses of Congress, that it could be a bloodbath of Watergate proportions.”
FiveThirtyEight’s polling model gives Biden an 85 percent chance of victory at the moment.
The same model gave Clinton about a 70 percent chance of victory in 2016, when Trump shocked the world and pulled off tight and unexpected victories in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
“Only a victory on Election Day is a victory on Election Day,” said Kofinis. “Models show Biden with a 85 percent chance of winning. Would you get on a plane that had 15 percent chance of crashing?”