A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 52% to 43% in a general election matchup.
An average of all polls this month puts Biden’s advantage at a similar 7 points.
What’s the point: For all intents and purposes, the general election campaign is underway. Yes, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is still running, but he has no realistic path to winning the Democratic nomination. That means that it’s Biden vs. Trump.
And the President starts out in a very unusual place for an incumbent: behind. Trump is the first incumbent president to be trailing at this point in the general election cycle (i.e. late March in the election year) since Harry Truman in 1948.
As Trump's leadership is tested, he turns to states and the private sector
As Trump’s leadership is tested, he turns to states and the private sector
Now, we’re still more than half a year away from the election. It would be easy to dismiss Biden’s advantage as meaningless. To do so, however, would be a mistake in my opinion.
Polling at this point in the general election cycle when an incumbent is running is correlated with the ultimate outcome. A candidate in Biden’s position would win the popular vote about two-thirds of the time if historical trends hold.
Moreover, there’s something to be said about the consistency of Biden’s edge. Despite the ever-shifting news cycle, Biden’s lead in the average of polls has been between 5 and 10 points throughout the last year. In other words, Trump’s general election polling has stayed stable, just like his approval ratings.
This fits a pattern of general election polling being less volatile than it used to be. You saw it in 2018, when Democrats held a consistent edge on the generic congressional ballot, which translated to them taking back the House. The polling at this point in the last two presidential elections in which an incumbent was running matched the final result within 0.3 percentage points.
Trump will be judged on one thing now — and it won’t be impeachment
I can hear some folks saying, “It’s the states that matter, not the popular vote.” And indeed, Trump is probably in a stronger position in the electoral college than the popular vote alone would suggest.
Still, Biden, at this time, clearly has the advantage in the electoral college. Biden holds leads of 4 points or more in Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Add those states together with the states Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and Biden gets more than 270 electoral votes.
This reaffirms something that the 2018 midterms showed: it’s very difficult to overcome a 7-point deficit nationally even if you’re doing better in the electoral college. If all the states voted the way they did in the 2018 midterms for the House, Biden would easily defeat Trump in the electoral college.
Of course, we’re living in a new world now with the coronavirus pandemic. It’s obviously possible that public opinion will shift over the weeks and months to come in a way it hasn’t over the Trump presidency. (Many of those possible changes could be to Trump’s detriment.)
But when you look at the numbers, it’s pretty clear that Trump starts off the 2020 general election behind and should be considered an underdog (even if slight) for reelection. — Al Jazeera