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National election tightens as both candidates get bad news

Polls indicate the 2020 race to the White House is tightening, with both candidates finding good and bad news in the latest numbers.

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The national election, which will serve as a performance review for Donald Trump, is seven days away, with fresh polls providing worry for both parties. As of Tuesday morning, over 66-million Americans had already cast their 2020 ballots – almost equal to 50% of all ballots cast in 2020.

Bad news for team Trump came out of Iowa and Georgia. In Iowa, Trump hasn’t had a reliable poll indicating he has a lead since October 11. In Georgia, a recent series of polls are showing a dead heat. 

Although Texas moved for our forecast firewall state after a weekend of bad news for Trump, the polls have stabilized. The second-largest electoral college haul hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996. 

For Biden, the race in North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona have tightened. All three states are now polling within the margin of error. If the 2016 polling eras repeat, all three states will tip to Trump. In contrast, Pennsylvania still holds a safe margin for Biden. In contrast, Biden has firmed up his grip in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, while Nevada remains the firewall state. 

Analysts and pundits have spilled a lot of digital ink the last few days, attempting to read between the lines. The hateful rhetoric, COVID impacting in-person voting, and less interest in third-party candidates have made projecting 2016 onto 2020 a fool’s errand. There are some knowns and discovered factors that can be projected onto the numbers:

  • People waiting to vote on election day favors undecided and younger voters; undecided voters will likely break to Trump while younger voters are favoring Biden
  • Hilary Clinton in 2016 never polled above 50%; in contrast, Biden has consistently polled above 50% and held an 8% to 11% aggregate lead over Trump through October
  • 2016 third-party candidates Johnson (Libertarian) and Stein (Green Party) carried about 5% of the vote in both Michigan and Wisconsin; none of the third-party candidates have momentum in 2020 
  • With so many early ballots cast, an October surprise such as the 2016 Comey Memo would likely have less impact on either candidate
  • Polls in 2016 were off about 3%, but it wasn’t even across all states – repeating that same margin of error, Biden safely would win the 2020 election
  • Analysis of 2016 polls showed regional differences; the southwest under-represented Democratic support while over-representing support in the rust belt and the states of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida
  • The same analysis indicated that Georgia polls were accurate, along with Texas 

Neither candidate nor their supporters should be thinking the election is already over. By our analysis, the race has tightened to 298 vs. 240, a Biden win. Real Clear Politics no toss-up map paints a grimmer picture for Trump, 311 vs. 227, Biden. Hopefully, we’ll know on November 4. 

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