The story within the story: Three election plot lines to watch

The story within the story: Three election plot lines to watch

It seems that we can’t catch a break in 2020, even as it begins to draw to a close. Whereas we typically have an “October surprise” in a presidential election year, it is fewer than 10 days into the month and it feels like we’ve had a surprise a day, the most eye-popping being President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE’s COVIDd-19 diagnosis and short hospitalization

The breakneck pace at which consequential news is being hurled at the American public is downright overwhelming. It makes all of us, even those who work in the news industry, want to just turn away and power down our devices.  

The prospect of being able to do that is remote, and so as more officials in the White House and Congress contract COVID-19, new polling gives us plenty to focus on while trying to game how the election will turn out. 


Major headlines include Joe BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE leading Donald Trump by 16 points in the latest CNN poll and 14 points in the NBC News/WSJ survey after their debate. By a 2-to-1 margin, voters thought that Biden did a better job in the debate last Tuesday. This is consistent with various scientific snap polls taken in the immediate aftermath of the face off in Cleveland. On a national level — and in the key swing states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Biden is favored as the candidate better able to manage the coronavirus pandemic, the most important issue to voters, in the latest CNBC/Change Research poll.

For the past few months, the election preferences of three groups in particular have stood out for their potential impact on the race. The candidate choice among senior citizens, Latinos and suburban women tells the story of the 2020 election.

Older voters are fleeing Donald Trump — and have been for quite some time. Seniors are consistently the most reliable voters in American politics, with a strong preference for conservative candidates in the 2000s. But apparently no more. Biden has opened up a jaw-dropping 27-point advantage among seniors in the latest NBC/WSJ poll. That’s a 23-point swing in a month. CNN’s survey found Biden with a 21-point advantage.

Biden’s advantage holds up on the state level. In Florida, Biden is ahead 47-42 with voters over age 65, and in Pennsylvania he’s up by 7 points, at 53-42, in the most recent New York Times/Siena College poll. Keep in mind, Trump won the senior vote in Florida by 17 points in 2016 and by 10 points in Pennsylvania. In Arizona, a state where Democrats are focusing their efforts, Biden is up by 1 percentage point with seniors and 8 points among voters overall.

There is no path to the presidency for a Republican without support from seniors. It appears that gravely mishandling a health pandemic that disproportionately affects older Americans isn’t a popular approach with them.

Suburban women have been a political focus since the 2018 midterms, when their record turnout for Democrats blew up the GOP’s typical path to victory. Realignment of Rockefeller Republican districts occurred en masse. The Trump presidency “is making women physically sick. That is the word they use all the time — the word is ‘nauseous,’” Republican pollster Christine Matthews remarked after the 2018 election.

Well, suburban women are still nauseous. In the NBC News/WSJ poll, suburban women back Biden by an astonishing 25-point margin, at 58 percent to 33 percent for Trump. Biden’s lead with women overall expands to 37 points, a gender gap for the history books. But it is suburban women who hold the keys to the kingdom for Biden. That’s why surrogates such as Cindy McCain, widow of Arizona Sen. John McCain, matter. She has been blunt about her purpose in “hoping … to encourage suburban women to take another look, women that are particularly on the fence and unhappy with what’s going on right now but are also not sure they want to cross the line and vote for Joe.” With these voters disproportionately living in swing districts within swing states, suburban women could hold the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  

As for Latino voters, the picture isn’t nearly as rosy for Biden, but no less important. Latinos will be the largest group of nonwhite voters in November, surpassing Blacks for the first time. Latino voter registration is up everywhere that Democrats aim to win: Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio.

But Latino support for Democrats is down. Biden is underperforming Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonA year into his presidency, Biden is polling at an all-time low The Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness Second gentleman Emhoff acts as public link to White House MORE’s figures by close to 10 points on a national level. In Florida, a must-win for Trump, Latinos make up 15 percent of the electorate and a third of them are of Cuban descent. Trump is targeting these more conservative voters and Biden’s numbers are suffering. He’s up only 6 points in the Sunshine State with Latino voters, a margin so tight it could swing to Trump and help him secure 29 electoral votes. 

Biden’s Latino problem isn’t just about this election, though. It is a major blow to the Democratic Party’s electoral approach to miss out on widespread Latino support. If Democrats are the party of equality, empowerment and minority outreach, how do we explain Trump enjoying such high levels of support? There is much work to be done — for this election and beyond.

With less than a month to go until the election, there undoubtedly will be other October surprises to come. If the frenzy of it all feels like too much, following these three constituencies is a great way to stay in the heat of the election and also take a breath or two every once in a while. It’s good for the soul. 

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.