A look at history reveals that while Biden’s clearly the favorite, his victory is not assured in an unprecedented election.
1. This is the rare election not about the economy
The fact that coronavirus is playing such a big role in voters’ perceptions of Biden, Trump and the presidential race means that for now Trump’s in big trouble. But it also means that if the coronavirus picture changes for the better by November, Trump could come back.
2. That said, Trump’s approval rating is really bad
As a group, the presidents (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush) who were not elected to a second term look eerily similar to Trump. Their average net approval rating stood at -13 points.
Trump’s net approval rating isn’t anywhere close to the average president who has earned another term, +23 points.
3. A Trump win is still within the margin of error
Biden is up by anywhere from eight points (including all polls) to 12 points (just live interview polls) in the national average, depending how you compute it. That’s a sizable edge.
If you look at the polling 100 days out from each election involving an incumbent since 1940, the average difference between the polls at this point and the result has been 10 points. If you look at the elections (seven) where we were not in-between conventions at this point, that difference drops to six points.
Trump would need an average to above average error to win the national vote. He would also need that error to go in his direction and not actually benefit Biden. That’s unlikely to occur.
Still, he can take some hope from Truman in 1948, who was down by about the same in the national polls right now. Truman would go on to win by five points.
4. Biden’s advantage in the electoral college is clear
If you were to average the polls in every state, Biden leads in states containing 352 electoral votes to Trump’s 186. He’s additionally within a point in Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Texas (38 electoral votes).
It’s quite conceivable that Biden would win over 400 electoral votes, if the election were held today.
Perhaps as importantly, there is little sign that the electoral college will doom him like it doomed Hillary Clinton in 2016. His average lead in key states like Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin look quite similar to his advantage nationally.
5. This election looks nothing like 2016
Biden’s at 52% to Trump’s 40% in the live interview national polls taken in July. That is, he’s over 50%, unlike Clinton, and has basically double the lead Clinton was holding after her convention.
Simply put, you’d much rather be Biden than Trump. But with some time to go, there’s still time for a Trump comeback.