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.
With 13 days left until the November 4 AEDT election, the FiveThirtyEight national aggregate gives Joe Biden a 9.9% lead over Donald Trump (52.1% to 42.2%). Biden’s lead has decreased by 0.3% since last week. In the key states, Biden leads by 8.2% in Michigan, 6.3% in Wisconsin, 6.2% in Pennsylvania, 3.8% in Arizona and 3.6% in Florida.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are virtually tied now as the “tipping-point” state that could potentially give either Biden or Trump the 270 Electoral Votes required to win the Electoral College. If Biden is only up by six in Pennsylvania while leading by ten nationally, the popular vote/Electoral College gap is nearly four points in Trump’s favour, the highest gap I can recall in these reports.
A concern for Biden is that his strongest Pennsylvania polls were either from pollsters with Democratic house effects this cycle (Quinnipiac had Biden up eight, but has been good for Biden all year), or showed an unrealistic gap in Biden’s favour between likely and registered voters (CNN had Biden up ten with likely voters but just five with registered voters).
In FiveThirtyEight’s aggregates, Biden also leads by 3.1% in North Carolina, 1.1% in Iowa and 1.0% in Georgia. He trails by 1.0% in both Ohio and Texas. As I have said previously, if Biden wins all these states, he wins over 400 of the 538 Electoral Votes.
The FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Trump a 13% chance to win the Electoral College, unchanged from last week. He only has a 4% chance to win the popular vote.
Trump’s net job approval ratings have dropped over one point since last week. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his net approval with all polls is -11.6%, and -11.2% with polls of likely or registered voters. The RealClearPolitics average has Biden’s net favourability at +9, the highest it’s been, while Trump’s is -11.
In the FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate forecast, Democrats now have a 78% chance to win control, up 2% since last week. The most likely outcome is a 52-48 Democratic majority. Unchanged on last week’s projection. The 80% confidence range is 48 to 56 Democratic seats, also unchanged.
Biden is in a stronger position than Clinton was in 2016
Comparisons are being made to 2016, when Trump unexpectedly defeated Hillary Clinton. There are two key differences from 2016. First, although Clinton was consistently ahead of Trump nationally in 2016, she never reached 50% of the vote, while Biden is currently at 52%. US polls include undecided in their main voting intentions tables, and this makes it more difficult to reach 50%.
In 2016, both Trump and Clinton were very unpopular. The James Comey letter reopening an investigation into Clinton’s emails just 11 days before the election was probably influential in swinging late deciders behind Trump. In exit polls, he won those that did not like either candidate by 47-30. This year, Biden’s big lead is partly explained by his own popularity.
Trump is trying to revert back to 2016, when he successfully attacked “Crooked Hillary” by going after Biden’s son, Hunter. But the increase in Biden’s net favourability and the lack of change on voting intentions suggest that most voters do not care about Hunter Biden. Still, I expect Trump to attack Hunter at Friday’s final presidential debate AEDT.
Voters are far more likely to care about coronavirus, and Trump is perceived to have handled that poorly. Over 70,000 new US cases were recorded last Friday, the highest since late July. Over 1,200 deaths were recorded Wednesday, the highest since August. Coronavirus continuing to be in the headlines is not good for Trump.
Here’s a coronavirus hypothetical: imagine if Trump had at least pretended to follow scientific advice on wearing masks, not holding big rallies and advocating social distancing. There’s currently also a massive spike in new cases in the UK, but the Conservatives lead Labour by 42-36 in the latest poll.
Left wins Bolivian election after re-run
After the October 2019 election, left-wing Bolivian president Evo Morales was forced to resign over claims of vote rigging. Owing to coronavirus, a new election was delayed until last Sunday. Luis Arce, who was Morales’ Minister of the Economy, won outright with 54.5%, avoiding a second round.