August 9, 2020

Chickens Not Yet Hatched

By Stephen Tuttle | June 27, 2020

They should just slow down and take a breath. 

The Biden fans and the anti-Trumpers — they aren't necessarily the same — are all atwitter lately over President Trump's stumbling presidency. They see November hope everywhere, even believing the president's halting walk down a ramp after his speech at West Point was surely a sign of something. 

To be sure, these are not the best of times for Trump.

His late response to the COVID-19 pandemic now looks almost bizarre. It turns out the disease was not “totally under control” nor did it “go away like a miracle.” With 120,000 deaths and counting, and several of the states that reopened too early now seeing record spikes, hospitalizations, and deaths, it's clear the bug will be with us until a vaccine or cure is found.

According to the latest ABC/Ipsos polling data, fully 58 percent of the country disapproves of Trump's handling of the pandemic. It's worse among likely voters and much worse among women likely to vote.   

His response to the Black Lives Matter protests has been equally troubling. Always bellicose and rarely, if ever, conciliatory or empathetic, his appeals to his beloved base have served to further divide us. Polling indicates a majority disapprove of his response to BLM, as well.

Then there's the summary firing of four inspectors general and a U.S. attorney for insufficient loyalty — despite their positions, by law, being independent of political influence. Investigating the president or his pals will get you fired regardless of the rules, something many Americans don't much like. 

It's probably not helpful that turnover in his administration, through firing and resignations, is record-breaking. It grows tiresome to hear every new hire is the best person in history, straight from central casting, perfect for the job … only to be told a year later, as another person departs, they were worthless, incompetent bums.

General approval ratings for the president appear stagnant at around 42–43 percent. He successfully maintains the support of his base but is having increasing difficulty generating support beyond that. His incendiary tweets, red meat to that base, are less appealing elsewhere.

Things seem bleak in head-to-head polling against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, too.

According to RealClearPolitics, which averages many polls, Biden's lead is a solid 10 points; others have it as high as 13 points. Biden leads in all the swing states, including Michigan, and is closing in in some red states.

The better news for the Bidenites is that their candidate has made it to or over the benchmark of 50 percent support. And at least 51 percent of likely voters believe Congress, too, would be better off controlled by Democrats.  

Then there is the now-infamous Tulsa rally. We were told a million people had signed up to attend and the Trump campaign expected 100,000 to show up. The fire marshals on scene reported 6,200 people actually went through the metal detectors, not counting staff and facility employees. It likely wasn't the media, or protesters, or lack of support for the president that kept people away but common sense. It's just not smart to be in an enclosed space, shoulder to shoulder, with screaming, unmasked people.     

None of the above is good news for the president. So why aren't his numbers even worse? And haven't we seen this before?

On June 15, 2016, in a head-to-head polling matchup, Hillary Clinton led Trump nationally by 12 points, was up by 14 in Michigan, and led in every so-called swing state. But the trend lines would be changing soon enough.  

(A word about the national polls everyone still claims were wrong in 2016. Most final polling had Clinton winning the popular vote by 2-4 percent, and she won by 2.1. Michigan polls the day before the election had the contest a dead heat.) 

In today's political environment, it is a very long time until Nov. 3. The polling that's being done now is a snapshot of the day the poll is conducted and nothing more. The polls don't predict the future, they don't tell us if progressives will be willing to actually vote for Biden, they don't account for turnout, and nobody knows if the millions of mail-in ballots will alter anything, though you could bet your house they won't create widespread fraud. 

There will be large Trump rallies in the future, and it's more likely than not Biden will commit multiple verbal gaffes. The gap that now exists will narrow naturally as disgruntled Republicans hold their nose and support their party, and unaffiliated conservatives find themselves unable to vote for Biden. And we already know Trump doesn't need to win the popular vote to be reelected.

The Biden fans and Trump haters need to tend to their eggs carefully; the chickens they're now counting have not yet hatched.  


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