Going into the final weekend before the election, the polling trends are all going one direction (with a few outliers) and the data trends are all going the other. Which is correct?
We have seen in recent days some truly remarkable (Incredible? Ridiculous?) polls. With a “shades of Andrew Gillum is up by 11 the week before the election” Wisconsin poll, having Joe Biden up by 17 (!!), it’s clear that pollsters are either saucing the polls or on the sauce. (In 2016 Wisconsin was the subject of the absolute worst polling, with the average error being six points). Many of the national polls have Joe Biden winning by five. The question at this point has to be, where do these votes come from?
In North Carolina, for example, Democrats—despite employing the pandemic panic on their voters to vote by mail—are actually trailing their 2016 pace when Donald Trump carried the state by three points. Florida looks ready to stick the fork into. Based on their torrid voting the last week, Sunshine State Republicans look poised to actually lead by election day, while in 2016 they trailed by 96,000 votes. Pennsylvania “looks” good for Democrats until you realize that half of them have already voted, but two-thirds of the electorate has not. In other words, there are a lot of Republican votes waiting for Election Day. Even in Nevada, the turnout from the rural areas is 40,000 ahead of 2016, and when adjusted for population, the D lead is far slimmer than in 2016 when Hillary Clinton won by just 26,000 votes.
All of these numbers, of course, presume one thing: Democrats will be voting for Joe Biden and other Democrats. But does anyone outside of CNBC or the DNC really think that more Republicans will vote for Biden than Democrats will vote for Donald Trump?
We continue to see serious weakness in the African-American vote, down almost 4% now in North Carolina (which pretty much seals that state for Trump). But many polls now are consistently pointing to very high black approval of Trump and there are warning signs (such as the New York Times story and Richard Baris’s polling I mentioned in the last “Eye on Politics” column) that suggest Philadelphia blacks are backing Trump at levels that would be deadly for a Biden victory there.
What is clear is that across the board, whether it is actual Democrat/Republican ballot returns or TargetSmart modeling or county analysis, Republicans are surging. In Colorado, after finding themselves down 30 points at the outset of early voting, by yesterday they were only down 6.7 points. It’s highly doubtful that Republicans, or Trump, will win Colorado but the state is right in line with the trend nationally.
There are, however, a couple of key indicators that virtually every pollster (even the friendlies) has been missing. First, in Florida and North Carolina numbers, the share of the vote by whites is up significantly. Now, if these were suburban Karens, Trump might be worried, but they aren’t. They are middle-aged to older white males. Second, non-college whites of both sexes are up big—anywhere from 3% to 10%). This is Trump’s home run group. Likewise, as mentioned across the board the black vote is down for Biden. In Colorado, for example, the black vote is -1.1% from 2016. If 15% of those voters vote for Trump, the real decline is nearly 2%.
Finally, there is that continued erosion of the black vote, moving steadily toward Trump. It didn’t hurt that rapper Lil Wayne met with Trump and endorsed Trump’s “Platinum Plan” for the black community. Wayne joins Kanye, 50 Cent, and Ice Cube as powerful black cultural influencers who either endorsed Trump or supported his policies. The Four Rap-eteers basically gave the black community, especially the young black community, permission to vote for Trump. That carries far more weight than an endorsement by an aging, plastic-laden Cher or an embarrassing concert by a washed-up Jon Bon Jovi (my band played bars where we had a bigger audience).
As this plays out, Trump is in Bullhead City, Arizona, which has media access to all of southern Nevada, and where a few thousand extra votes from Laughlin wouldn’t hurt. But Joe Biden is in . . . Minnesota? I thought this was in the bag for the Democrats? The fact is that they now not only stand to lose the electoral votes there but also Tina Smith’s senate seat and a House seat or two.
In short, the non-polling metrics are all moving in the same direction. They do not point to a Joe Biden victory.
Larry Schweikart is the co-author with Michael Allen of the New York Times #1 bestseller A Patriot’s History of the United States, author of Reagan: The American President, and founder of the Wild World of History, a history curriculum website that features full US and World History Curriculum for grades 9-12 including teacher guides, student workbooks, tests/answer keys, maps/charts/graphs, and video lessons accompanying every unit (www.wildworldofhistory.com).