The “Trump can’t possibly win” narrative, popular in the media and on the left, has been wavering somewhat as it seems clear the president has been closing the gap in recent weeks. But few pundits are giving him much of a chance to be re-elected.
Much of that overconfidence on the left is due to what is clearly a Biden lead in the popular vote. That will probably hold true through the election.
But it’s largely because several big states are going to give Biden a huge percentage of their vote. California is likely to increase its margin for the Democrat, where Hillary Clinton received 4 million more votes than Trump in 2016. New York, New Jersey, and Illinois will give Biden similar margins of victory.
In essence, Trump begins the night down 8-10 million votes in the popular vote. But as we all know, a presidential election is made up of 50 state elections. Biden could win California by 50 million votes and still only get 55 electoral votes.
Noting this, data geek Nate Silver shows why Trump has Biden right where he wants him.
You'll sometimes see people say stuff like "Biden MUST with the popular vote by 3 points or he's toast". Not true; at 2-3 points, the Electoral College is a tossup, not necessarily a Trump win.
OTOH, the Electoral College is not really *safe* for Biden unless he wins by 5+.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 2, 2020
In 2016, Clinton won the national popular vote by just over 2.8 million votes or 2.1%. Her enthusiasm rating was just 12 points behind Trump at this same time in the election (early September) in 2016. Polls found that of Trump’s base, 58% were enthusiastic about voting for the now-current-President versus just 46% of the same voters for the now-defeated Clinton. In other words, despite the majority of her voters being less-than-enthusiastic about showing up to vote for her, she still won the national popular vote by 2.1%.
This is where the bad news for Biden comes in. Currently, Biden’s enthusiasm score trails that of the President by 17 points. Of the President’s supporters, 65% are enthusiastic about voting for him, a seven-point increase from his 58% at the same time in the race in 2016. Biden, on the other hand, enjoys a 48% enthusiasm rate, up just 2% from his 2016 predecessor.
As hated and despised as Trump is by Democrats, no one is excited about Joe Biden being in the White House. The radicals don’t trust him. Main Street Democrats are worried about his mental health and his being captured by the hard left.
That Biden hasn’t been able to generate more enthusiasm against a president whose favorability numbers are underwater is somewhat astonishing.
This simply means that Trump enjoys a much stronger support from his base than does Biden his. If history is any indicator, Trump will likely do better against Biden in 2020 than Clinton did in 2016, at a 2.1% margin of national vote victory. If we apply that to Nate Silver’s data, Biden would only have about a 22% chance of victory against Trump come election day.
No one knows if a mail-in ballot election will change that calculus. It doesn’t take much enthusiasm to mark and sign a ballot. On the other hand, it’s not like holding your nose in the voting booth and pulling the lever for Biden. The uncertainty is one more factor that is going to make Election Day (or week, or month) very interesting.