“Trump hasn’t yet begun his reelection campaign in earnest; he has an absurdly large campaign fund, an organization that’s already trained upwards of a million grassroots organizers, and a whipsmart online presence. (The Trump campaign had t-shirts saying #YouAin’tBlack for sale within a couple of hours of Biden’s latest gaffe, for example.) I expect him to steamroller Biden.”
John Michael Greer
At the beginning of the year, I outlined the reasons why President Trump was likely to be re-elected in November 2020. Much has changed since then and this post will go on to explain why, on the balance of probabilities, I continue to think the Donald will win again on election night.
I would like to add that this FI blog tries, as far as humanly possible, to avoid taking party political sides. From a forecasting perspective, avoiding bias, remaining calm, objective and data-driven are key attributes to successfully forecasting future events.
A risk for me, having successfully forecasted Trump’s victory in 2016, is that I subconsciously double down again on the same bet when the political facts have changed. With that in mind, let’s review the data.
So, what does the polling data say? Well, currently Biden is clearly out-polling Trump in the majority of polls being conducted.
It is probably not surprising that Trump has taken a hit in the polling. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed over a 100,000 Americans, unemployment has soared and the economy is only just starting to recover since the lockdown measures were imposed.
Compared to other countries, the Trump Administration has performed poorly in the Covid-19 benchmark stakes. Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore have been far more successful in avoiding the casualties and economic damage seen in the United States. Of course, other countries have also handled it badly, but that does not change the facts that America has had a poor pandemic crisis.
Swing voters and independents are frustrated and are currently telling pollsters they plan to vote for Joe Biden in November. Nevertheless, what do voters actually think of Joe Biden?
At the top of this post are the findings from a recent American focus group exercise, conducted by Lord Ashcroft, into what voters thought on the two leaders. Words associated with Biden were overwhelmingly “elderly”, followed by “likeable”. The clear risk is that voters may like Uncle Joe but may not trust him to being Commander-In-Chief if they think he is too old for the job.
For President Trump, arrogant, dangerous, fake and racist were the top names coming up, with ruthless and smug following close behind. Voters consider Trump a strong leader but also deeply divisive and unlikeable.
It is probably fair to say that neither candidates inspire those voters in the broad middle of the US political spectrum.
John Greer, who successfully forecast Trump’s apparently unlikely bid for power in 2016, recently wrote that he expected Trump to defeat Biden once the election campaign is in full swing.
Polls suggest that a slim margin of voters think Trump is a better choice than Biden is to get the economy back and this is likely to be a major issue on the campaign trail. Moreover, the recent protests and, at times, violent unrest across America is also likely to play to Trump’s hand given his hard-line law and order message.
The writer Patrick Basham has written an excellent summary of a recent Democracy Institute polling, a section of it, I have republished below.
“Trump’s tough, politically incorrect “law and order” stance on the riots, vilified by the mainstream media, is actually playing rather well with ordinary Americans. The overwhelming majority were sickened by the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. They respect the right to peaceful protest.
But, as protest begat rioting, looting, and the loss of life, Trump sensed the rapidly shifting public mood and called out big city mayors and governors for failing to protect their citizens. Most Americans agree, including a good many Democrats. We find Black men, a cornerstone of the Democratic coalition, taking a serious look at Trump’s candidacy. Should one-in-five vote for Trump, his reelection is guaranteed.”
The specific poll suggests that one in four Black voters plan to vote for President Trump.
That is just one poll. It is also true that other polling indicates that far more Black voters plan to stick with the Democrats.
Still, from the polling I have seen, the numbers of confirmed Trump voters among the African-American community is significantly higher than the 8% he received in 2016. Some are as high as 15% and I’ve seen one poll where Trump’s approval ratings among African-Americans are over 40%.
The key fact is worth repeating: should Trump get a fifth of the African-American vote, his re-election will be guaranteed.
Interestingly, I have not seen any mainstream media coverage of these interesting polling findings on the rising Black support for President Trump since the 2016 election. It is probably because the media, overwhelmingly anti-Trump, cannot get their collective heads around why any minority voter would support a president widely considered a racist.
On specific policy issues, the average African American (and indeed Latino) is far more conservative than many commentators assume.
A recent poll showed that overall, 58% of voters supported Trump’s call for the military to help police control protests. Ah, some of you might say, that would be overwhelmingly white voters. True, but not the full picture.
The same poll also shows that 37% of African-Americans supported the policy. A similar to number, interestingly, to those polls suggesting that around 40% of African-Americans approve or may even consider voting for Trump in November. Coincidence or an underlying electoral pattern? I let you decide.
A separate poll shows that among African-Americans, 58% have a favourable opinion of their local police force.Defunding the police movement will find little traction with the majority of African-American voters, let alone Latinos and whites.
Whilst Joe Biden has come out against defunding the police, he risks being tarnished by association if he does not take a stronger line on what many voters would consider crazy ideas from the radical Left of American politics.
Therefore, to summarise, my forecast is that once the virus (slowly) burns out and recovering the economy takes centre stage in the presidential campaign, President Trump will rediscover his mojo once politics moves to the issues of jobs and law and order.
Voters will take a closer look at Joe Biden and the more they see him in their living rooms the less they will like him. Gaffe prone, mumbling and at times apparently senile, enough independent and swing voters will decide, reluctantly for some, that it will have to be the Donald again.
Many of those voters will not share their decision with family or friends. We know that because a recent poll confirmed that only 37% of Trump supporters want their family or friends to know about their decision. Shy Trump voters almost certainly had an impact in the 2016 election and I think closet Trump supporters will have a potentially bigger impact this election, particularly in those communities where social pressure is to be against Trump (e.g. African American and liberal white America).
It is possible that Trump may even win the popular vote, crazy as that idea might sound right now. It is certainly something that John Greer thinks is a very plausible outcome.
Should the GOP surprise on the upside with the African-American vote and claw back the white elderly voters that deserted him during the Covid-19 pandemic, a landslide victory could be the outcome.
Of course, there remains a scenario in which Joe Biden avoids any disastrous gaffes and takes advantage of the poor economy and Covid-19 handling to defeat President Trump in November. It is not impossible but, in my opinion, despite what the current polls are suggesting, it is the less likely outcome of this election.
Whether or not Trump narrowly wins in the Electoral College or pulls of a bigger win in the popular vote, I continue to stick with my forecast that the most likely outcome of the 2020 presidential election will be the re-election of President Donald Trump.