I spent much of the 2016 campaign season convinced that Donald Trump was going to lose to Hillary Clinton. The polls all said so. National polls gave Hillary a clear advantage. Battleground polls showed a bleak outlook as well. Even reliably red states were allegedly competitive. It was a long, tough year for me, as someone who, at the time, was not a Trump supporter and had wished he hadn’t run in the first place.
Of course, Election Day happened, and Donald Trump proved the skeptics wrong. So, when I see polls like the recently released Quinnipiac poll that shows Joe Biden beating Trump by four points, I’m not really sweating over it. According to the poll, “President Donald Trump is locked in too-close-to-call races with any one of seven top Democratic challengers in the 2020 presidential race in Texas, where former Vice President Joseph Biden has 48 percent to President Trump with 44 percent.” Trump beats the other 2020 contenders, but by slim margins.
One of the reasons I was particularly unhappy with Trump winning the GOP nomination were polls showing that Texas was a tight race. Texas! Texas? Yup. A Washington Post/Survey Money poll just two months before the election had Hillary Clinton up by a point in the Lonestar State. Of all the polls for Texas that year, that had the largest sample. Trump won Texas by 9 points. But, thanks to that poll, and other factors, there was much speculation that Texas was finally within reach for Democrats.
This is not to say that we should take Texas for granted. It’s widely accepted that Texas is slowly trending purple, and the Trump campaign needs to acknowledge this reality and not do what Hillary did with Wisconsin in 2016. Nevertheless, this Quinnipiac poll, more than a year before the election, is not worth panicking over. None of the Democratic candidates are getting the kind of coverage that Trump is, and the dynamic will change quickly as the election season moves forward.
The biggest loser in the poll that I see is Beto O’Rourke. Beto won’t win the presidential nomination, but his best play is to stick in as long as possible and hope for a VP slot. Beto’s seemingly competitive race against Ted Cruz in 2018 gave him a national profile and a large campaign war chest. As another white man, the only major contribution he has to offer at the bottom of the ticket is the potential to make Texas competitive for Democrats in 2020. As this poll suggests, he doesn’t bring anything to the table on that score.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in July 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis