If The Polls Are Accurate, Trump Is In Deep Trouble

When women came forward alleging that Joe Biden touched them inappropriately, I was among those who declared his candidacy dead before taking off.  My colleague, David Smith,  took the opposite view. He declared that Democrats couldn’t care less about the allegations and confidently predicted that Biden would join the presidential race. I was wrong and he was right. Within a few weeks, the allegations disappeared from the headlines just as suddenly as they first appeared. Biden entered the presidential race and he has been enjoying growing support, if the polls are to be believed.

CNN published the first poll showing Biden crushing Bernie Sanders along with the rest of the field. My reaction to the poll was pure skepticism.  It seemed unfathomable to me that Bernie would be polling in the mid-teens. After all, he had performed extremely well against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Moreover, I have to admit that I had bought into the narrative that the Democratic Party had moved further to the left in recent years.

Bernie supporters were quick to dismiss the CNN poll. The progressive YouTube channel Status Coup provided a very convincing analysis that the poll’s sample failed to include younger respondents who tend to favor Bernie. However, the CNN poll was followed by three additional polls all showing Biden ahead of Bernie by more than 20 points. Two polls showed Biden ahead by 30 points! Is it possible that all are using samples skewed in favor Biden? Unlikely.

Let’s just assume that the polls are indeed accurate. Biden is pulling away while Bernie is languishing in the teens.  What does this mean for Donald Trump and the Republican Party?

First, Bernie performing so poorly shows that much of his support in 2016 was due to Hillary Clinton. In other words, Bernie was the only option Democrats had to register their disapproval of the Clintons. Now that Hillary is finally off the political stage, Bernie’s support has collapsed. The same phenomenon occurred in the recent mid-terms when voters, who grudgingly supported Trump in 2016 to avoid a Hillary presidency, felt free to  cast their vote for Democrats. Second, Biden outperforming Bernie by substantial margins means that the Democratic Party remains largely a center left party.  Again, if the polls are correct, the progressive wing accounts for about a quarter of primary voters (by combining the poll numbers of Bernie and Warren). 

The two aforementioned factors spell deep trouble for Trump and the GOP in the upcoming election. Hillary won’t be on the ballot to repel voters. The GOP’s entire electoral strategy, thus far, has been to frame the election as a choice between socialism vs. capitalism (so original). However, if the progressive candidates are crushed by a centrist like Biden, the strategy will fail. Do Republicans have a Plan B? They need it.

Again, my entire analysis is predicated on accepting the polls at face value. It is very early in the process and Biden has a history of verbally tripping himself out of contention.  Nevertheless, as things stand right now, the president and his party should be very concerned.  Trump has not been able to expand his support. His approval rating has been perpetually stuck in the mid-40s despite solid GDP and unemployment numbers. The president has also managed to alienate parts of his base by failing to build the wall and bring the troops home. It’s clear that Trump is betting on increasing his share of minority voters - he never fails to mention the low unemployment numbers for blacks, Latinos and Asians. - but that always turns out to be fool’s errand for Republicans.  If polls are to be believed, Trump and the GOP are in a very bleak situation.