The last 48 hours has encapsulated the liberal tendency to unequivocally believe bad news and discount good news. Polling from Siena College and the New York Times show Joe Biden with a measurable lead in four key swing states, only a portion of which would give him the presidential election. The result of one poll in Iowa, a state that’s not entirely necessary for Biden’s path to victory, showed Trump pulling ahead after a tied race. Guess which one is getting more attention in my feeds and contacts. (There’s some weirdness in that Iowa poll, for what it’s worth, despite its gold-standard reputation.)
Even the split result in the ABC/Washington Post polling, with Trump and Biden within the margin of error in Florida (a 2-point lead for Trump) and Biden up by 7 in Pennsylvania, has seen the Florida portion highlighted and the Pennsylvania portion only occasionally referenced, even though a win in Pennsylvania would just about seal it for Biden regardless of what Florida does. And there are other polls released this weekend, including a healthy margin for Biden in North Carolina, a small Biden lead in Texas, and Minnesota off the map as a swing state, which would seemingly be good news for the Democrats.
Three things are preventing rapturous celebration or at least the prevention of despair. One is, simply, 2016. Liberals are simply not going to believe victory is in hand until it’s actually delivered. The polling error nationally was actually not that large in 2016, and an error at the state level of comparable 2016 size would not shift the states Biden needs to win, if it came to pass. But that doesn’t matter to scarred psyches, and actually that’s a good thing in terms of motivating people to vote and volunteer. You don’t have to tell a Democrat to act like they’re ten points down; they already think so.
Second is the expectation of the random shredding of Democratic votes in what amounts to a legislative coup. The situation in Texas, where 100,000 votes cast in Harris County by drive-through were challenged after the fact, despite approvals from the Republican secretary of state months ago, and assigned to a partisan conservative judge, designed to funnel up to a partisan conservative Supreme Court. This is a legitimate and serious concern, though I would add that finding 5-7 points worth of votes in Pennsylvania would be a superlative judicial effort. The goal here has always been to win big enough that it cannot be stolen.
Third is the very plausible fear that Mitch McConnell could keep the Senate in Republican hands, and here I don’t have many comforting words. It seems like Democrats will pick up Arizona, Colorado, and Maine, and lose Alabama. All year there’s been a question of where that fourth seat would come from. Iowa looked promising, but attached to that poll showing Trump in front was a bounce-back for Joni Ernst, who’s probably a slight favorite now based on polling. Democrats have a bunch of other spots on the board to potentially pick up a seat—North Carolina, both elections in Georgia, Montana, Texas, Kansas, South Carolina, and Alaska, even Mississippi if you believe Mike Espy—but none of them are a guarantee, and all of them could fall just short. The North Carolina and Georgia races are the likeliest, but Cal Cunningham is weathering a sexting scandal and clinging to a small lead, while the Georgia races both appear destined for a January runoff where there are some structural and historical Republican advantages.
A Biden presidency and a Republican Senate is really a scary outcome, if not the scariest. Usually, close Senate races tip in the same direction, and there’s a chance of that as well. But there’s plenty out there, including the probability of false voter fraud claims and insane concepts that only the vote counted on Election Night determines the result to make everyone hold their breath.
And yet, I have to segue now to what I think the forecasts and polls may not have fully picked up on…
It is likely that, once we get through the slower weekend reporting, the nation will hit 100,000 daily coronavirus cases on Election Day. We just about hit that number on Friday. The spread is so uncontrolled that people have no idea where they’re catching it. Everyone entering New York now has to be tested twice. The virus being spread isn’t a genetic mutation, which appears to have gripped Europe; it’s just the same damn virus we haven’t been able to manage for eight months.
Last night was Halloween, and if your neighborhood was like mine you saw a tiny trickle of kids. Maybe you didn’t get to go to the party you go to every year, or your children were upset about no trick-or-treating. Today is literally the Day of the Dead, and in states with heavy Mexican communities that will take on new significance. If you’re a Wisconsin Badger fan you didn’t have a football game yesterday because there’s an outbreak on the team. If you read your newspaper this morning in a swing state you’re probably reading about increases in your communities. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota and Arizona are generally uncontrolled. North Carolina and Florida are swinging up though mellowed out a bit, and Texas is a bit worse, especially for hospitalizations. Georgia’s relatively flat and that’s the best news in a battleground.
The psychological weight of 2020 is staring people in the face, many of whom are about to vote. And there’s probably a greater prevalence of swing in the late deciders; the 90 million or so who’ve already voted had their minds made up long ago.
Meanwhile, the White House has clearly and just about explicitly given up on any containment and is pushing either herd immunity or a fantasy that the virus doesn’t exist. The president’s rallies are now being studied for their death toll; at least 700, according to one paper out of Stanford. Areas Trump spoke at like The Villages, Florida are now having outbreaks. One of the most despairing messages of this entire pandemic came from Dr. Fauci yesterday, who certainly inferred the deadly implications of a Trump re-election.
Maybe I’m a completely bad read on the state of the electorate. Maybe I’m a biased, cloistered elite. But I have to think that if you’re filling in your ballot right now, the thing you’re going to have on your mind is the sickness and death around you, the lack of normalcy in your life, the fact that you might be wearing a mask or face shield while you’re making this decision, the fact that you haven’t been to a concert or a comedy show in eight months and you’re just sick of the routine of being scared. I have to think that you’re not going to vote for the status quo. And while there’s not a lot of swing to be had among those swing voters, there’s enough to make the polls off in the wrong direction than Donald Trump wants.
But maybe that’s me.
Days Until the Election
Today I Learned, Election Edition
- Two more election stories at our site today: Sierra Lyons on returning citizens in Florida and their difficulty securing voting rights, and Annabelle Williams on the Sunrise Movement’s voter mobilization for Biden in the final days. (TAP)
- ICYMI, your guide to when the polls close and when results will come in. (FiveThirtyEight)
- Where the contest is being waged in the important battleground of Pennsylvania. (Politico)
- How the architects of the National Popular Vote plan to win by 2024, so we aren’t looking at Erie and other bellwethers in Pennsylvania. (Los Angeles Times)
- Trump’s using a dark pattern to squeeze recurring donations out of supporters through to December, presumably for legal fights. (New York Times)
- This analysis of voter data in Texas is fascinating. (Ryan Data & Research)
- Biden waits until a holiday Saturday night to disclose his campaign bundlers. Pretty weak. (Politico)