GOP skeptical of polling on Trump
Republicans are putting their mistrust in polls as former Vice President Joe Biden widens his lead over President Trump nationally and in battleground states.
Trump lags Biden in national surveys by almost 10 points and trails him in battleground states like Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Biden is making inroads in some GOP-leaning states like Georgia, where one poll has him running neck and neck with Trump.
With the realization that Trump is unlikely to change up his leadership style between now and Election Day, GOP senators are banking on a repeat of 2016, when polling suggested Trump would lose to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is up for reelection in a state where polls show Trump and Biden in a dead heat, said polls are likely off.
“I think they’re in all likelihood underreporting support for the president. That’s what we saw in 2016,” he said, noting that most polls still accurately predicted the popular vote.
“I’m always a little skeptical when I see a poll,” he added.
Trump’s approval rating stood at 40.5 percent on Monday, according to an average of polling compiled by the website FiveThirtyEight.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also voiced skepticism about a recent poll showing Biden and Trump in a dead heat in Iowa, a state the president carried by 9 points in 2016.
“Because of previous years’ poll being wrong, I think it’s legitimate to question. I don’t know whether they’re accurate or not,” he said.
A Des Moines Register poll published this month showed Trump leading Biden by only 1 point, 44 percent to 43 percent.
Polls around this time in 2016 also showed the presumptive Democratic nominee, Clinton, leading Trump in Iowa.
“I’ll just remind you what the polls looked like in the last presidential election,” said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who noted that surveys showed Clinton with a commanding lead over Trump at the same point in the election cycle four years ago.
An ABC News-Washington Post poll of registered voters nationwide showed Clinton with a 12-point lead over Trump on June 26, 2016.
The survey showed 51 percent of voters favored Clinton while 39 percent favored Trump — numbers that match a New York Times-Siena College poll published last week that gained widespread attention with Biden leading Trump, 50 percent to 36 percent.
“No one is going to win a U.S. presidential election by 14 points,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said of the Times-Siena poll.
“At the end of the day, my prediction is this race winds up where it was always going to be: a very close race with a very narrow margin in a handful of states,” he added. “You’ll see those numbers get closer.”
An NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll from early July 2016 showed Clinton with a 7-point lead over Trump in Florida. Trump went on to carry the Sunshine State by 1.2 points.
The fate of the Senate Republican majority is closely tied to Trump’s performance on Election Day, prompting some in the party, like Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.), to call for Trump to change his tone and reevaluate his messaging strategy. But their pleas have had little impact.
Asked if Trump needs to change up his strategy, Rubio said the president is unlikely to alter his approach.
“I think Donald Trump’s going to run like Donald Trump. He hasn’t really changed much since that summer when he came down the escalator, and I don’t anticipate he’s going to change now,” he said, referring to the launch of Trump’s first campaign in June 2015.
The New York Times-Siena College poll last week also showed Biden up by 7 points over Trump in Arizona, and the RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Biden ahead by 4 points.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said even though polls show Biden with a small lead over Trump in Arizona, he doesn’t think the presumptive Democratic nominee will ultimately carry the state.
“If Biden’s only ahead by 4 or 5 [points] in Arizona, Donald Trump wins Arizona,” he said.
Cramer noted that Trump “has obviously been presented with a very challenging situation” because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect it’s had on employment and the economy.
“You’d rather be ahead than behind, no question about that,” he said. “But I also know that Donald Trump has defied these odds before and I think is likely to do it again.”