Electoral College may save Trump

Just over two months before the November 3 election, the gap between Biden’s national lead and the likeliest tipping-point states widens to about three points.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 42.2% approve, 54.3% disapprove (net -12.1%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.3% approve, 53.4% disapprove (net -10.1%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump’s net approval has improved about one point, continuing a recovery from July lows.

In FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate of Joe Biden vs Trump polls, Biden’s lead has slightly increased to a 50.6% to 42.2% margin, from a 50.0% to 42.5% margin three weeks ago. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.6% in Michigan, 5.9% in Wisconsin, 5.3% in Pennsylvania, 5.1% in Florida and 3.7% in Arizona. FiveThirtyEight adjusts state polls to the current national vote trends.

On current polling, Pennsylvania and Florida are the most likely tipping-point state. If Biden wins either of those states, and all other states more favourable for him, he wins the Electoral College. Trump wins by winning Pennsylvania, Florida and more pro-Trump states.

The problem for Biden is that the gap between the national vote and the vote in the tipping-point state has widened from 1.5% three weeks ago to 3.1%. That makes the scenario where Trump loses the popular vote by up to five points, but sneaks a win in the Electoral College more realistic. In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.1%, but won the tipping-point state by 0.8% – a 2.9% difference.

FiveThirtyEight now has a model forecasting the election result, and that model currently gives Biden a 70% chance to win, down from about 72-73% a few days ago. Biden has received virtually no bounce from the Democratic national convention last week, while Trump could get some bounce from the Republican convention that concluded Friday in Australia.

Why has the national vote to tipping-point state gap widened recently? The Midwestern states have a higher percentage of non-University educated whites than nationally. Trump’s general behaviour has offended better-educated voters, and they are likely to vote for Biden.

Whites without a university education may have moved slightly back to Trump because new US coronavirus cases are slowing and the economy is improving. There are currently 30,000 to 50,000 daily new coronavirus cases, down from a peak of over 78,000 in late July. There are over 1,000 daily deaths on most days, but this is down from the April peak of well over 2,000.

On the economy, there is a clear downward trend in new jobless claims since their peak in April, and also a down trend in continuing jobless claims. As I wrote last time, the sharp increase in real disposable income in April owing to a stimulus explained Trump’s better economy ratings.

If the jobs situation continues to improve, and there is no resurgence in coronavirus, Trump could win another term in the same way he won his first term – by exploiting the greater share of whites without university education in the electoral battlegrounds than nationally. The swing to the right among such voters explained the Coalition’s win in Australia and the Conservative triumph in the UK last year. Will they be enough to re-elect Trump?

In the RealClearPolitics Senate map, Republicans currently lead Democrats by 46 seats to 44, with ten toss-ups. If toss-ups are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51 to 49, unchanged from three weeks ago.

NZ: Ardern has large leads over Collins on economy and coronavirus

Owing to the recent outbreak of coronavirus in Auckland, the New Zealand election has been moved from September 19 to October 17. Sadly, there have been no voting intention polls since late July, before this outbreak.

The only recent poll is a Horizon Research poll, conducted in late August, that did not ask voting intentions. Labour PM Jacinda Ardern led National leader Judith Collins by 54% to 26% on managing the economic recovery from coronavirus, and by 64% to 18% on managing coronavirus. Both leads were down from Ardern’s leads over Todd Muller in July.

44 comments on “Electoral College may save Trump”

  1. The last election was just won by trump. Just.
    He won because the black voter turnout was low.
    We just had 4 days of RNC energizing the black vote.
    No resurgence? The death rate has been pretty solid at about a 1000 a day for months.

  2. This looks more like a dead cat bounce from the part of Donald Trump.

    Too many variables are very different between 2016 and 2020 for rational supporters of Trump to hold any real hope for a victory:
    a) Foreign interference with the election has been contained (unlike the Putin, WikiLeaks affair in 2016).
    b) Trump is not a “Washington outsider” anymore (he never was, by the way).
    c) The current disaster the USA are in cannot be attributed to the Democrats.
    d) Many Republicans are openly campaigning against Trump.
    e) The economy is a disaster.
    f) Trump’s idiocy has caused tens of thousands of deaths by coronavirus.
    g) He has addressed the serious issue of violent racism by accusing the victims (of being violent).
    h) He lies like there is nobody watching and listening.
    i) He has been impeached by the HofR for being in cahoots with a foreign power with the objective of interfering with an election in the USA.
    j) Both Biden and Harris are likeable people, unlike the baggage that Clinton carried with her in 2016.
    h) The internet campaign of lies by Trumpist trolls has been largely neutralised by counter-campaigns.
    i) The African-American community will be massively for Biden-Harris and voters will be out voting, in spite of the anti-democratic campaign by Trump to steal the election, by interfering with postal voting.

    Trump’s only hope is that there are enough Voting Morons in the USA who will re-elect him in spite of his disastrous government…. He will be surprised to see that enough Voting Morons can in fact be De-Moronised!

  3. “RNC: Trump paints Biden as a ‘radical’ candidate and a danger to America”

    Hey, wait a minute, where has “sleepy Joe” gone?

    Trump is still hoping that the People of the USA can be deceived with total nonsense in 2020 as they were in 2016… as if nothing happened in the intervening 4 years…

    Trump is on his way for a very chilly cold shower…

  4. Biden/Harris will win Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and the fact that they’re competitive in Arizona a traditional safe Republican state proves this race is all over bar the shouting. In 2016, it was a vote against Hilary. The people won’t make the same mistake twice.

  5. Lars Von Trier says:
    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    And of course Resident Trump supporter supports trump.

    Trump isn’t going to win. Too much against, and the USA economy isn’t going anyway soon, for example….

    “It was the 22nd time in 23 weeks that initial claims were above 1 million”

    That is 1 million every single week for 22 weeks.


    “The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 8 was 27,017,232, a decrease of 1,042,323 from the previous week. There were 1,644,315 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2019. ”

    Trump won in 2016 when everything is going for him.
    Trump is going everything against this time around.

  6. ————
    The problem for Biden is that the gap between the national vote and the vote in the tipping-point state has widened from 1.5% three weeks ago to 3.1%.
    A 1.5pt change during a 3 week period of very little quality state polling – yet a slight rise in Biden’s national head to head lead. I am not seeing a headline here.

    Polls aplenty just around the corner. Trump needs a poll improvement – soon. If these polls in the coming week show a status quo, Trump will go spare.

  7. Noted earlier today:

    Medium Buying @MediumBuying
    TV viewers for final night/acceptance speeches of recent political conventions —

    Trump: ?
    Biden: 24.6M

    Trump: 32.2M
    Clinton: 29.8M

    Romney: 30.3M
    Obama: 35.7M

    McCain: 38.9M
    Obama: 38.4M

    Bush: 27.6M
    Kerry: 24.4M

    And now:

    Biden Had More Television Viewers for His Speech
    August 28, 2020 at 1:12 pm EDT By Taegan Goddard 3 Comments

    The Nielsen ratings across three broadcast and three cable news networks finds 14.1 million people tuned in for President Trump’s speech last night.

    In contrast, Joe Biden had 17.5 million viewers for his speech the week before.

    Which proves, I guess, that Biden will win. Not sure what happened in 2008 though — I guess Obama’s speech must have been on the same day as the Superbowl or something.

  8. Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s acceptance speech last week edged out President Trump’s lengthy Thursday night address in viewership, according to early Nielsen data. Among the six major broadcast and cable news networks, Trump’s speech brought in 19.85 million total viewers, the ratings firm announced Friday, compared with 21.8 million for Biden.

    Across their respective four nights of programming, the Democratic convention averaged more than 20 million total viewers per night in the 10 p.m. spotlight viewing hour, compared with 17.4 million total viewers for the GOP convention. These numbers, however, include only those who watched on the three major broadcast networks and three major cable news channels — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC — and not the increasing number who streamed convention coverage online.


  9. Ratings aren’t votes, of course – especially as it is the minimally-engaged who decide elections a lot of the time. Still, you know it will eat at Trump.

    If I were to guess the reasons that the Dem Convention outrated the GOP Convention (aside from it being a possible sign of general electorate support):

    1. Unknown vs. Known: Everybody knows who Trump is and what he stands for. However, they might not have known what Biden was about so they were more inclined to tune in.
    2. Convention fatigue: The conventions were back-to-back. Even the most politically-engaged can only take so much before they zone out.
    3. Dems put on a better paced show: While conventions are never the most exciting things in the world, the Dems at least paced their broadcasts with snappy interludes and interstitial breaks, to prevent the speakers from becoming too monotonous. Whereas the GOP one felt like it was just piling speaker after speaker. The latter kind of got a bit too boring.
    4. The core Democratic base is more enthusiastic: Dems are motivated to beat Trump and excited to hear what their side has to say. Whereas Republicans are less excited but still eager to vote and defend the current status quo. Should be made perfectly clear this last one doesn’t necessarily reflect at all on anybody’s electoral chances with the general electorate.

  10. The NBA and its players said on Friday the playoffs would resume after they agreed to have teams that own and control their stadiums turn them into polling places in November to allow for safe in-person voting in areas vulnerable to COVID-19 — an early initiative of James’ group More Than A Vote.
    pretty neat. -a.v.

  11. Trumps speech was over 70 minutes of boring diatribe riddled with numerous lies no wonder it rated poorly. The other factor at the last election was two independent candidates which soaked up 5% of the vote. At the margin this matters. Trumps parading of his family infront of the whitehouse like royalty was a bad look. The populous is looking for a way out of this madness.

  12. If the jobs situation continues to improve, and there is no resurgence in coronavirus

    Technically there can’t be a resurgence when the initial surge has never subsided. The US is adding ~40000 new cases and ~1000 deaths every single day. Takes a special kind of detachment from reality to consider that business as usual.

  13. This tweet from Dave Wasserman shows why there’s a discrepancy in Trump’s favour between the national vote and the EC tipping-point state.

    Dave Wasserman @Redistrict

    My estimates for 2016 vote share of non-college whites by battleground (broadly defined):

    ME 2nd CD: 72%
    ME: 64%
    IA: 63%
    WI: 61%
    NH: 57%
    OH: 56%
    MI: 54%
    MN: 54%
    PA: 52%
    NE 2nd CD: 45%
    NC: 44%
    AZ: 44%
    NV: 43%
    FL: 43%
    GA: 38%
    TX: 34%

    National: 44%


    And in the first two polls since the Republican convention, Trump narrows Biden’s national lead to six points, the narrowest lead for Biden in one of those polls for two months.


  14. Always found the non-college analysis interesting.

    I do not believe college grads are anymore able to smell the BS than non-college peeps. I suspect that going to college takes a person out of their tribe and forces some exposure to external influences.

  15. There does seem to have some degree of narrowing in the last week or so. But it’s only to the extent of narrowing Biden’s lead to 6 points (at best; other polls have it wider than that), which still equates to a big overall win to Biden. Trump ain’t gonna fluke an Electoral College win if he’s losing the popular vote by 6+%.

    There seems to have been a spate of “Trump’s going to win” pieces in recent weeks, but in truth the evidence for it happening is still pretty sparse. Biden has maintained an 8-10% popular vote lead since May, and comfortable leads in Michigan (5-8% on average of recent polls), Pennsylvania (5-6% on average), Wisconsin (6-8% on average), Florida (5-6% on average) & Arizona (6-10% on average). Biden is also competitive in places like Georgia, North Carolina, Iowa, Texas (Texas for God’s sake!), while Trump isn’t really ahead anywhere in the battleground states (though there is some muttering about Minnesota). It’s really hard to see where this finely nuanced Electoral College win is coming from.

    Can Trump win? Of course – it’s a two-horse race after all, and anything could happen in the next two months, not to mention the Republicans’ built-in advantages with things like voter suppression and other chicanery. The pandemic, too, is a wild card that’s hard to predict the electoral consequences of. But is it likely that Trump wins? Not as things stand at the moment.

  16. It’s also worth noting that this CNN poll is something of an outlier. There was a Politico/Morning Consult poll last Monday which had the race at 52-42 to Biden, and while Trump may well have got a small boost from the RNC Convention this week, history tells us that such boosts are fleeting. In truth, the polling hasn’t actually changed much for about 3 months now, averaging out to about a 50-42 lead to Biden, suggesting that a good many people have already made up their minds.

  17. It’s also worth noting that this CNN poll is something of an outlier.

    The YouGov poll has the Dems ahead by 11 pts on the Generic Ballot and Biden only ahead by 6 pts in Head to Head. That differential is odd. My recollection is that in most polls Biden matches or outperforms the Generic Ballot.

    It will be a nervous wait for the weeks polling to roll in.

    Regardless… even if Trump loses, it is a sad and scary state of affairs that 40% of the population adore this corrupt psycho/clown. The Democrats must address the root causes – including their own failings.

  18. Has anyone put forward an idea better than “stop making the racists/homophobes/Muslim-bashers/immigrant-bashers feel bad” yet?

    That is not what I meant. 10% (ish) of Black voters and 35% (ish) of Hispanics are planning to vote for a this contemptible disgrace of a man rather than vote for the Democrat party. Obama won 53-47 against a highly regarded white war veteran. This is not all about race and bigots.

    The system is broke and has been falling apart for a long time. And the Dems have been in power for 16 of the last 28 years. How well have they used their power? Have they made a difference, a real difference to peoples lives? Have they earned respect and votes in broad demographics? Have they sold themselves to those demographics? Have they tried to undertake fundamental change in the broken foundations of democracy and the State? Or have they just scratched at the surface and been proud of their artistic endeavour of the possible?

  19. Simon Katich @ #31 Monday, August 31st, 2020 – 8:17 am

    And the Dems have been in power for 16 of the last 28 years. How well have they used their power? Have they made a difference, a real difference to peoples lives? Have they earned respect and votes in broad demographics? Have they sold themselves to those demographics?

    Fair points. The Dems seem to excel at a certain kind of disogranized incompetence, well-intentioned though it may be.

    Though also some of that (or perhaps a lot of it, depending on who you ask) was due to Republican obstructionism in Congress. It’s one thing to hold the office of President. To really hold power you need that plus a majority (filibuster-proof supermajority is better) in both chambers. Obama and Clinton combined only had 4 years of a House majority (haven’t checked Senate). The other 12 of those 16 years were deadlocked.

    Anyways, this seems like it would fix the distorted electoral outcome, at least at the presidential level, and doesn’t need any specific action from the Dems federally:


    It’s only a handful of EV’s away from becoming viable, too.

  20. ar
    Republicans have become ever more partisan in the house. And belligerent and norm defying. I get it is hard to deal with that – but deal with it they must.

    Eg.. Obama should have gone nuclear over Garland.

  21. It’s not strictly true to say that “the Democrats have been in power for 16 of the last 28 years”. That’s true as far as the Presidency goes, but both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama only each had control of Congress for two of their eight years, and then for the remaining six years of each term, they had to manage a feral, blocking Republican Congress, greatly limiting their abilities to really do very much.

  22. https://www.pollbludger.net/2020/08/28/electoral-college-may-save-trump/#comment-3473036

    The Republicans holding the House of Reps in 2012 was due to congressional gerrymandering and voter suppression, which the Democrats could have passed legislation to prevent/reduce when they had a majority. Then Congress (if the Democrats had gone nuclear on the Filibuster) could have been productive for the Democrats for half of Obama`s presidency, instead of a quarter.

  23. Tom TFAB,

    Even that’s not quite accurate. The Republicans retook the House in the 2010 mid-term elections, and then held it until 2018. The Dems had the trifecta of Presidency, House and Senate from 2009-11, and it’s true that they could have and should have been more aggressive in pursuing electoral reform, though that session of Congress was dominated by two very major pieces of legislation, the big stimulus bill of 2009, and the Affordable Care Act of 2010, so there wasn’t really time to pursue much else. Such were the sizes of the Dem majorities in both House and Senate, that I don’t think many really considered that the Republican backlash would come so quickly. They won’t make the same mistake if they win the trifecta this year, and we can expect some significant legislation on electoral reform, climate change, economic recovery, and health care. Indeed, the House has already passed bills relating to the first three of these already, giving a clear indication of what a Democratic-controlled Congress will pursue over the next two years.

  24. https://www.pollbludger.net/2020/08/28/electoral-college-may-save-trump/comment-page-1/#comment-3473085

    The only thing wrong with my comment was that I forgot to put an apostrophe on the end of “Republicans”.

    The Republicans gained the House of Reps in 2010 and held it 3 times (2012, 2014 and 2016), and I was specifically referring to their 2012 hold. At the Same time the Republicans gained the House of Reps, they gained trifecta control in lots of state legislatures, allowing them to gerrymander and engage in voter suppression. The Democrats won a plurality of the vote for the House of Reps, with a margin of over 1.2 million votes, so would likely have gained a majority in a fairer system. Said fairer system should have been legislated by the Democrats in 2009-10.

  25. Obama couldn`t have gone nuclear over Garland….

    Spoken like a democrat softy.

    I should have said he should have gone nuclear over the vacancy. Instead they stuck with polite norms while fighting thugs who play without any consideration to them.

  26. I though you were talking about using the “nuclear” option (changing the Senate rules at time of adoption, instead of just rubber-stamping the Filibuster and then trying to change Senate rules path the 2/3 Filibuster that applies to Senate rules) to scrap the Filibuster on the Supreme Court vacancy, that was not numerically possible due to the Republican Senate majority.

    Tough attacks on the Republicans for leaving the vacancy open and/or making a (short term) recess appointment should have happened.

  27. Everything you say is true, of course, though probably stated with a little too much hindsight. As noted above, the Dems haven’t controlled both Houses since the 2009-11 Congress, and they were actually quite productive in that session. In retrospect, of course, they should have passed strong voting reforms, but at the time it wasn’t one of their priorities, and they probably thought that the backlash would not be so fierce in 2010, nor did they probably realise just how unhinged the GOP was becoming. The Dems were clearly wrong in both assessments, but that’s not how it looked in 2009-10.

  28. The latest battleground polls post-Conventions suggest that there has been next to no change in the state of play – Biden is still on track for a comfortable victory, and Trump remains unlikely to fluke another victory via the Electoral College.

    Here is an overview of recent (ie over the last week) polling in the battleground states (pollsters in brackets), with a rounded average of results:

    Arizona (11 EVs): Biden 51-42 (Morning Consult + Fox)
    Florida (29 EVs): Biden 50-45 (Morning Consult + Opinium)
    Georgia (16 EVs): Trump 47-45 (Morning Consult + Landmark)
    Iowa (6 EVs): Trump 45-44 (Data for Progress – a month old)
    Michigan (16 EVs): Biden 50-43 (Morning Consult + PPP)
    Minnesota (10 EVs): Biden 5-43 (Morning Consult)
    North Carolina (15 EVs): Biden 49-47 (Morning Consult + East Carolina Uni + Fox)
    Ohio (18 EVs): Trump 50-45 (Morning Consult)
    Pennsylvania (20 EVs): Biden 49-46 (Morning Consult + Monmouth Uni)
    Texas (38 EVs): Trump 48-47 (Morning Consult)
    Wisconsin (10 EVs): Biden 51-42 (Morning Consult + Fox)

    Current polling suggests that Biden will win Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota & Wisconsin (the leads in those states are well outside the margin of error), and he will probably also win Florida and Pennsylvania (where the leads are smaller, but consistent and generally outside – though not by much – the MOE). Trump will probably win Iowa, Georgia, Ohio and Texas, while North Carolina remains impossible to call.

    Biden is certain to win 222 Electoral Votes from safe Democratic states, to which we can add Arizona (11), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10) & Wisconsin (10), giving us 269 EVs and victory if he can also take the Maine CD 2 EV. Biden will probably also carry Florida (29) and Pennsylvania (20), giving him a likely Electoral College score of 319. Trump would end up on 219 in that scenario, though it’s worth noting just how narrow his leads are in normally safe Republican states like Iowa, Georgia, Ohio and Texas. This election is probably more likely to end up a 400+ EV blow-out for Biden than it is a narrow Trump victory, though of course there remains some time for things to play out.

  29. Maine and Nebraska are the two states that award one EV to the winner of each of their CDs and two to the statewide winner. It’s far more likely that Biden wins Nebraska’s 2nd CD than Maine’s 2nd. According to Dave Wasserman’s tweet that I quoted above, the Maine 2nd has a far higher share of non-college whites than the Nebraskan 2nd.

  30. That’s true, but there’s precious little quality polling from Maine. The 538 average has Biden up by 10 points statewide (the most recent poll from mid-August had Biden at +7), and the two most recent ME-2 polls (both from early August, and both with tiny sample sizes) credit both candidates with a one-point lead each. However, you’d think if Biden is carrying the state overall by around 10 points, then he’s also going to win both CD EVs. Not that it’s likely to matter much if the current polls across the rest of the country hold as they are now.

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