Can Donald Trump maintain new momentum until this November?
With just weeks until the election, Donald Trump is gaining ground on Joe Biden, whose average in the polls has shrunk to less than 6 points, according to Real Clear Politics, down from 9 points last month. The resurgence of Trump can be attributed to two core trends.
First, his strategy in recent weeks has shifted back to the economy and makes the case for his ability to once more build back the jobs numbers and growth that he enjoyed for the majority of his first term. His national approval on the economy has rebounded, a new mark that his campaign succeeds, at least in part, in sending the narrative of his business record to voters. A recent Fox News poll found that Trump is now more trusted than Biden on the economy by 8 points. The two candidates were rated evenly in a poll on the same issue done earlier this month.
A stronger financial outlook further helps Trump. The stock market is on the rebound, the economy added over 1 million jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell below 10 percent. Federal Reserve officials also projected a smaller hit from the pandemic than expected, with national output estimated to fall less than 4 percent, instead of over 6 percent, a dramatic difference of more than $1 trillion in the economy.
Further, in a move that may redefine the race, his campaign is fueling a $10 million advertising buy across critical swing states such as Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, according to Fox News. The advertising content will shift away from the “law and order” message and pivot back to the economy, featuring testimonials from voters on why they trust him over Biden on jobs and growth.
Indeed, the election could rest on which candidate voters believe is best suited to lead the national recovery. While Trump trails Biden overall right now, the president has a chance to move ahead with a robust narrative on the economy. Biden has switched to the economy, but it remains unlikely that a focus on populism and attacks on wealth will work for him, as this has tended to not be very effective with working class voters.
Second, Biden has trouble consolidating the Democratic base, notably Hispanic voters. According to Pew Research Center, Hispanic voters are projected to be the largest minority bloc in the country this year. Further, in the critical swing state of Florida, Hispanic voters make up 20 percent of eligible voters. Biden has an unclear approach with courting Hispanic voters. This creates problems for him in swing states with high Hispanic populations, notably Florida, as well as Arizona and Nevada.
While Biden loses ground with Hispanic voters, Trump has been making gains. A recent Equis Research poll in Arizona found that support for the president among Hispanic voters has increased by 8 points over last year. Indeed, his campaign has been investing heavily to reach Hispanic voters, especially in Florida, where he is now making gains with Cuban American voters, who are very receptive to his social conservative stances and his attacks on Democrats for supporting more socialist policies.
Biden still leads among Hispanic voters in Arizona and Nevada by double digit margins. However, in order to win, Trump will not need a majority of Hispanic voters. He just has to increase his margins among such voters in a few critical swing states, which he is doing to some measure. There are also challenges in surveying Hispanic voters, including language barriers and sampling issues. This means the overall support for Trump in states that have high Hispanic populations could be understated.
Lastly, with the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the enthusiasm among voters will likely now extend in favor of the president, unless suburban woman swing to Biden to resist an assault on abortion and civil rights. Ultimately, a second term for Trump, which over recent weeks looked entirely improbable, now seems very possible.
Douglas Schoen is a consultant who served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton and to the campaign of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His latest book was “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”