“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”
So asked the immortal John Bluto Blutarsky in “Animal House,” a movie which could never be made today.
That is the question that nervous Republicans pundits, like me, are asking themselves today.
The latest polls have President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE not just down, but way down.
These are big numbers, but are they accurate or even relevant?
Four years ago, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation MORE had a 12-point lead in a CNN poll on Oct. 22 and a 14-point lead according to an Associated Press poll on Oct. 26.
We know now that national polls, especially national media polls, had no bearing on the final race results in 2016. Why should we suddenly believe in their credibility today?
The answer is that we shouldn’t.
The Germans didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor and these polls are not necessarily a reflection of where the race for the White House stands today, any more than they did four years ago.
And so, what should we look for, to properly gauge where we stand on the election today?
First, which candidate generates more enthusiasm from his base voters?
Most polls show that President Trump’s supporters are more enthusiastic to vote for him than Joe Biden supporters are to support their candidate. But Trump detractors have much more of an interest in voting against him than Biden detractors have in voting against him.
Positive energy, if you can generate it, beats negative energy. Trump voters are pumped to vote for the president’s reelection. Biden voters? Not so much.
Second, which candidate has the best ground-game operation?
Despite the pandemic, Team Trump has invested serious time and effort building a real grassroots campaign. That effort is keyed off his monster rallies and is buoyed by thousands of supporters on the ground.
Biden’s team has shied away from launching a similar effort, mostly because they are concerned about COVID.
Never has an all-virtual campaign beat a real grass-roots campaign. I don’t think this will be first one.
Third, which candidate has more campaign resources?
The president got an early start and had a big lead when it came to raising money, much of which he spent building a national campaign infrastructure.
It is fair to say that the Biden campaign has caught up to the president and has now surpassed him when it comes to raising money. But it’s too late for the challenger to build a robust ground game, and he will most likely use those resources to buy television ads. Do TV ads matter like they used to? Can you remember even one ad from the 2016 campaign?
Fourth, which candidate is the incumbent?
Incumbency has its privileges, which is why most incumbents win, even when it doesn’t look like they will.
President Trump has used the power of his office to host the RNC from the White House, announce executive orders on preexisting conditions, prescription drugs and on extending unemployment benefits, as well as brokering the historic Abraham accords.
Trump is his own PR maven and his talents at framing a narrative and a photo op are as every bit as impressive as Ronald Reagan’s Mike Deaver. Trump’s ability to create his own earned media far exceeds that of Mr. Biden, who has been abundantly cautious.
Finally, which candidate is most trusted on the top issue on the mind of the voters?
According to a new Gallup poll, 9 in 10 registered voters put the state of the economy as the No. 1 issue they care about in this election. President Trump has consistently edged out Vice President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE on who can better handle the economy.
If the president can successfully keep his focus on getting people back to work and opening the economy, post-COVID, he will win this election.
Don’t believe the polls. This election is by no means over. The president has a unified base, an impressive ground-game, a track-record of winning elections despite being outspent, the ability and the desire to use the power of incumbency and credibility on the top issue that voters care about.
It’s not over. Not by a long shot.
Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).