Because of the shock and embarrassment following Donald Trump’s surprise win in the 2016 presidential election, experts and average citizens, are reluctant to predict the outcome of this year’s contest between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
If the history of political contests and polling is any guide, there is no need for all the caveats with less than 100 days before Election Day.
The most important polling numbers are not about the horse race, or even the state by state tabulations that will decide Electoral College votes. The most important numbers, at this point in this campaign summer, are the president’s disapproval ratings — which are hovering around sixty percent in most polls — and the right track/wrong track numbers which show most Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. These numbers are both strong signs that this will be a change year.
In any election, not just presidential elections, any candidate with President Trump’s approval ratings would probably drop out of the race and try to declare that he has accomplished all he set out to do while in office. Most candidates, given the circumstances, would be looking for a face-saving way out.
In the context of the 2020 campaign, which has been muted by the Coronavirus, the situation is even worse for the president. Social distancing and the need to avoid large gatherings has meant the Biden campaign has been almost completely virtual. The amount of news coverage the vice president’s campaign is receiving is far below what is expected, compared with previous presidential races.
Even heavy news consumers see the vice president once or twice a week, while President Trump continues to draw daily coverage, much of it negative. The context, is as important in this case, as the actual poll numbers, because when viewed in context, the numbers mean Trump is losing to a candidate who has not even begun to campaign.
Put another way, President Trump is not currently losing to Joe Biden. Joe Biden has not been officially nominated. He has not yet selected a running mate (as of this writing — the last full weekend of July). President Trump, it can be argued, is losing to a generic “other candidate.” He is losing to “anyone other than Trump.” The numbers are hard and unlikely to change in the dramatic fashion necessary for the president to pull off, what would be, an historic come from behind win.
The president is his own worst enemy. By the time Biden becomes the official Democratic nominee, and his running mate is known, at least 150,000 Americans will be dead because of the Coronavirus. It is widely agreed that many of those deaths could have been prevented if President Trump had taken tighter federal control over the response. By Election Day, based on current trends and expert predictions, the number of dead in this country could easily reach 200,000. That’s 200,000 Americans who were alive at the start of the year. The president has shown he is willing to accept these deaths as an unavoidable reality. But the voters know better. Other countries, and a few American states, have demonstrated that the unmitigated COVID-19 disaster, could have been mitigated, and lives could have been saved.
On the other great issue of 2020, race relations, the president is also on the wrong side of history. He is the only significant politician in the country still defending the Confederacy. Even the military has turned against him on the issue.
His latest effort to pit Americans against each other involves the use of federal police forces to crack down on fictitious anarchists, he says, are taking over America’s cities. All the cities he has targeted are led by Democrats, which proves the strategy is dishonest and purely about the politics of division.
So yes, it is wise to point out that current polling, which shows Vice President Biden leading President Trump by more than ten points nationally, reflect only the current mood. But it is also important to recognize that when an incumbent is so far down, and his challenger has not taken the field, it is likely that the majority of the American voting public has made its decision. And the decision is; it is time for a change.