Conventional wisdom says that along with killing more than 228,000 Americans, the coronavirus has killed President Trump’s chances of a second term. Virtually all the Beltway pundits believe it. Wall Street appears to be pricing it in. Vegas is betting on it.
Yet even as most national polls have Democrat Joe Biden ahead by a seemingly insurmountable margin, “America’s most accurate pollster” has crunched the numbers and found a number of recent developments that give underdog Trump hope for another upset.
“The race is on the cusp of entering the competitive zone,” said Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy and Politics, a New Jersey-based polling firm that partners with Investor’s Business Daily. (The IBD/TIPP Poll was one of only two polls to predict President Trump’s victory in 2016; and in fact, was the only national poll to show Trump ahead in a four-way race heading into Election Day 2016.)
Mayur filled me in on some very interesting trends his team is seeing that all the gloomy pundits are missing. For one, Trump has “room to grow” in garnering votes in red states, while Biden has “peaked” in blue states. And Trump is creating some “real momentum” every day barnstorming rural areas of battleground states.
Also, the local swing-state polls showing Biden stomping Trump in Michigan and Wisconsin are less sophisticated than national polls and can be wildly “unreliable,” the pollster said. They had Trump down by similarly wide margins at this point in 2016, and they turned out to be way off base on Election Day.
Mayur says Trump is gaining momentum every day, thanks in large part to his non-stop rallies, and is now within striking distance of Biden. While he doesn’t expect him to win the popular vote, he can still win the electoral vote by winning key battleground states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
“He is campaigning nonstop in all these battlegrounds and that is creating some real momentum,” Mayur told me. “And the race is tightening every day.”
He said Trump can lose the popular vote by between 3 and 4 percentage points and still win the Electoral College, just like he did in 2016.
Trump is now trailing Biden by 4.6 points in his most-recent national survey. But Mayur notes that Trump has almost slashed Biden’s lead in half over the last two weeks, while surpassing the “critical” 45% level. The latest IBD/TIPP Poll, which is among the 8 polls in the RealClearPolitics average, shows Biden leading Trump 50.0%-45.4% as of Oct. 28, compared with 51.9%-43.4% on Oct. 12.
“Trump has broken the 45% ceiling in vote preference,” Mayur said, which reflects growing job approval and momentum.
He also pointed out that the “intensity of support” for Trump is growing. The president’s intensity of support has hit a peak of 79%. That compares to 66% for Biden. This divergence may indicate more tightening in the coming days, Mayur said.
He says Trump’s “energetic” campaigning is working to gin up new votes in decisive red states among people who have never voted previously or never voted Republican.
According to his latest polling of registered voters, Mayur said Trump is up 13.0% in red states. He won red states by a 15.1% margin in 2016, which means “Trump has room to grow in red states” over the next five days. Meanwhile, the pollster said, “Biden is peaking in blue states.”
A lot of that untapped vote is in rural areas of battleground states, even though Trump is already routing Biden 57.0% to 35.1% in the countryside, according to Mayur’s sampling. Trump is capturing more of that country-folk vote by holding rallies in rural parts of battleground North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Georgia, for example.
Mayur notes that red states have a higher share of registered voters than blue states — 41.7% versus 39.9% — and the Trump campaign has been adding to totals in an aggressive registration drive since August. Republicans have out-registered Democrats in Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida by about 445,000 to 224,000 since the primaries, marking the first time since 2004 that more Republicans than Democrats have registered to vote in the final months of an election.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has tweeted that surveys conducted at Trump rallies show more than 25% didn’t vote in 2016 and almost a third are not even Republicans. That could have seismic implications for the election.
Mayur cites several other “catalysts” driving votes Trump’s way, including: the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court; revelations of shady Biden business dealings in Communist China; the report of a record 33% growth in real GDP in the third quarter; and civil unrest, looting and attacks on police in Philadelphia and other cities. A major headwind, however, is media-driven hysteria about a “resurgence” of COVID cases.
While local polling in some swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin show Trump way behind Biden, Mayur cautions that state polls “can be very wild.”
He points to 2016, when “the average of final polls in Michigan showed Clinton +3.4, with three final polls herding at Clinton +5.0. But the outcome was Trump +0.3.”
Added Mayur: “It was worse in Wisconsin — Clinton +6.5 vs. Trump +0.7.”
“These polls formed the input for forecasters who thought the Clinton win probability in 2016 was over 90%,” he said. “So I am highly skeptical of the models giving Biden a more than 90% chance of winning.”
Trump is predicting a “great red wave” will sweep him back into the White House. Question is, can it overcome a blue-state wave of pessimism over the coronavirus?
An Investor’s Business Daily alumnus, Paul Sperry is a senior investigative reporter for RealClearInvestigations, a division of Real Clear Media Group.