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BTRTN 2020 Election Snapshot: Trump Takes Desperate Gambles as Democrats’ Trifecta Odds Continue to Rise

Tom
with the latest BTRTN update on the state of all the national races.

STATE OF THE RACE

The political/election landscape has been rocked by four
legitimate “surprises” over the last 20 days:
 
the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (and its aftermath of GOP machinations),
the outing of Donald Trump’s taxes, the stunningly savage Trump performance in
the first presidential debate (universally polling as a clear Joe Biden win)
and, the absolute earthquake of them all, Trump’s contraction of COVID-19 and
the remarkably confusing spinning of his true condition over the weekend,
culminating with his ill-advised return to the White House.

We covered these events in our most recent article (http://www.borntorunthenumbers.com/2020/10/btrtn-three-september-surprises-and.html);
now we turn to the state on the various national races in their aftermath.  Voting has begun, of course, underway in 16
states as of today, and over 4 million Americans have already rendered their
verdict.  This is still a small number as
a percentage of the 140 or more million who are expected to vote by the time
polls close on November 3, but that early tally will grow, perhaps to as much
as 80 million.

Trump and his campaign advisers know they are woefully
behind in the presidential race, in polls, in money, and now in physical
vitality.  And so they are down to two
desperate strategies to keep Trump in the White House beyond January 20,
2021.  The first is to turn Trump’s bout
with COVID-19 into a giant (and wildly premature) macho recovery story, the
tale of a valiant president personally overcoming the scourge, proving the virus
is nothing to fear and thus should not stand in the way of America’s economic
recovery.  And the second is, of course,
is to delegitimize the election. 

The first approach flies in the face of logic (but what
else is new).  Trump has not in fact recovered
from his illness; by his own doctor’s admission, he is not out of the
woods.  Look no further than the terrible
timeline of Herman Cain (who felt better before he took a turn for the worse
and died) before you conclude he has recovered. 
The virus itself is still tearing through America, at a rate of roughly
300,000 new cases and 5,000 deaths per
week.  Americans should fear the virus – it is obviously lethal — and while it is
fine to emphasize that we do indeed have the talent, resources and will as a
nation to defeat it, taking unnecessary risks, like congregating without masks
and proper social distancing, is simply foolish.  But Trump knows that with his own affliction,
COVID has returned to the top of the news cycle down the stretch of the
campaign season, and he has to come up with some way of talking about it
different from his absurd “turning the corner” claim and his
all-too-transparent rush to approve a vaccine.

Which brings us to the second strategy.  Trump could very well be leading on election
night; Republicans are far more likely to be voting in-person, and those
ballots will almost all be counted by the wee hours of the morning, as usual,
while the Democrats are far more likely to use slower-to-count mail-in ballots.  Only 16 states allow election officials to
start counting mail-in ballots before Election Day, and only three of them are
swing states in the presidential race. 
Trump will attempt to invalidate the mail-in ballots based on his
specious fraud charges and hope the Supreme Court, jammed with conservatives,
upholds him.  Personally, I smell an 8-0
defeat, or even 9-0 if Amy Coney Barrett is seated to hear the claim.  No court will uphold such a claim without
material evidence.

These pathetic, last-ditch efforts have little chance of
success – they are each Hail Mary’s – and with their implementation goes
Trump’s last, best chance for historical sympathy or even the first stages of
some form of rehabilitation for his wretched term.  Imagine a chastened Trump, declaring he was
wrong about the virus, and, after dutifully turning the office over to Biden
when the results are tallied, then working feverishly in his final few months
in office to rid the country of the deadly disease.  That would hardly erase 48 months of
ineptitude, lies, ego and the loss of lives – but it might be a start.

On to the numbers and the state of the race.  Recent polls have largely absorbed the impact
of the Ginsburg death and its aftermath, the taxes and the first debate.  They are only now beginning to cover the
period beginning that began with the revelation that Trump had COVID, which, of
course, is an ongoing story with twists and turns every day.  There are a few polls that indicate Trump is
being hurt by this.  But let’s wait and
see for a critical mass of polling to develop over the next week.

One number to share: 
Morning Consult just did a poll to see how American voters felt about
Trump’s “don’t be afraid of COVID-19” video message:  60% disapproved of it, 28% approved.  Even 28% of Republicans disapproved, and they
usually support Trump by 90/10 margins on most issues.

Another dubious Trump strategy/message in the aftermath of his return to the White House was calling off the COVID aid negotiations, depriving him of a potentially helpful legislative win before the election.  It is hard to imagine the logic in these optics — he has quite obviously taken ownership of the issue, and thus the failure to help millions of Americans in need.  

THE ODDS

As of this moment, the Democrats continue to have a very
good chance of pulling off a “trifecta” – Joe Biden winning the presidency, the
Democrats flipping the Senate, and also maintaining control of the House (the
latter almost a certainty):

BTRTN ELECTION DASHBOARD AS OF 10/7

BTRTN Election Odds of Democrats’ Winning/Controlling

Presidency

Senate

House

83%

71%

99%

335 Biden/203 Trump

51 DEM / 49 GOP (D+4)

246 DEM/192 GOP (D +13)

For all the madness of the last month – indeed, the madness
of this entire year — these odds have been reasonably stable, though
unmistakably inching upwards for the Democrats over the last few months.
  That slight upward trend continues with this
latest update versus two weeks ago:

CHANGES IN ODDS

Date >>>

5/9

5/28

7/1

8/2

8/24

9/8

9/15

9/23

10/7

Presidency

n/a

73%

82%

82%

81%

79%

81%

82%

83%

Senate Control

59%

59%

59%

62%

62%

65%

65%

67%

71%

House Control

99%

99%

99%

99%

99%

99%

99%

99%

99%

Having delivered that favorable news, we at BTRTN again
reprise our “warning label” which should be read carefully and repeated as a
mantra by all Democrats:

 

WARNING:  No matter how good the numbers look
at any given time, the Democrats will not win any election unless they work
hard to earn it – registering voters, calling, texting, donating – throughout
the summer and fall, up to and including Election Day.

And remember, this is a snapshot,
not a
forecast.  We are down to 26 days to go until
Election Day, and you can rest assured much will happen between now and
then.
  Keep in mind, back in 2016, as of
this date then, the Access Hollywood videotape had not surfaced, nor had the
WikiLeaks dumps occurred, nor the twin Comey letters that revived Hillary
Clinton’s emails in the final election news cycle.
  Much can occur, even as millions vote every
day.
 

THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Biden’s lead in the national polls has actually widened in
the polls thus far in October; the 9-percentage point gap between him and Trump
is the largest of any month since Biden became the Democrat’s presumptive
nominee.  Keep in mind when you look at
national polls that, given the inherent GOP advantage in the Electoral College
make-up, Biden has to be up +4 points to be considered truly “ahead.” 

National polls are generally quite accurate.  In 2016, they had Hillary Clinton up by 3
points just before Election Day, and she did win the popular vote by 2.1
points.  It was a miracle that Trump –
greatly aided by GOP voter suppression tactics, the Russians and Jill Stein — managed
to win the electoral vote by finding 78,000 votes across Michigan, Pennsylvania
and Wisconsin, enough for less-than-one-point-margin wins in each of those
states.  It will be nearly impossible for
Trump to pull off the same with Biden ahead not by 2-3 points nationally, but rather
by 6-9 points.

TRUMP VS BIDEN HEAD-TO-HEAD NATIONAL POLLS

 

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

Biden

50

50

50

48

48

50

49

49

50

51

Trump

45

46

43

42

43

41

41

42

43

43

Diff

5

4

7

6

5

8

8

7

7

9

But the real action is, of course, not in the national
polls, but in the swing states, of which there are now 13, plus two districts
(Maine’s 2nd
 and Nebraska’s 2nd).   There have been 22 polls in October in these
states (nearly all of them in the six crucial ones:
  Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan,
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin), and Biden has led in
19 of them, with two ties, and Trump ahead in only one.  This was even better than his September
performance.
  In that month there were
126 swing state polls, and Biden was ahead in 97 of them, 19 for Trump and 10
ties.

At this stage, we see Biden with an 83% chance of winning
the presidency, up a tick mark since the 82% from two weeks ago.  That modest improvement is mostly accounted for
by two BTRTN rating changes in the last week, both in Biden’s direction.

PRESIDENT SNAPSHOT: STATE BTRTN RATING CHANGES

State (Electoral Votes)

As of 9/23

As of 10/7

New Hampshire (4)

D Likely

D Solid

Nebraska 2nd District (1)

D Toss Up (Flip)

D Lean (Flip)

Biden is ahead in states and districts that total 335
electoral votes to 203 for Trump, no change from two weeks ago.
  At this point, Biden could lose ALL SEVEN
“toss up” states/district and
still win
the election with 290 electoral votes.
  He
has 216 electoral votes in the bag in his “solid” states (California, New York
and the like), and is ahead materially in states that account for 74 more, and
those states alone get him to 290.

The seven toss ups are worth another 123 electoral
votes.  Biden has a nominal lead in five
of them, and is dead even with Trump in another, while Trump is nominally ahead
only in Texas.  The fact that we are
talking about Texas is rather
shocking.  Trump’s solid states total
only 125 electoral votes – and frankly some of them – say, Missouri, where
Trump leads by only 6 points in the polls — could be in play if Biden put any
effort in them (which he will not).

PRESIDENT SNAPSHOT: ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Electoral College

As of 9/23

As of 10/7

BIDEN – TOTAL

335

335

Biden – Solid

212

216

Biden – Likely

14

10

Biden- Lean

63

64

Biden – Tossup

46

45

Trump – Tossup

78

78

Trump – Lean

0

0

Trump – Likely

0

0

Trump – Solid

125

125

TRUMP – TOTAL

203

203

Below is the state-by-state look.  You can see that Biden is rather comfortably
ahead in those famous three states, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, up by
six points on average in each (and there has been ample polling, with
consistent results).
  Biden also has a
decent lead in Arizona, which appeared to be narrowing at one point but Biden
has reasserted his lead.

PRESIDENT SNAPSHOT: SWING STATE POLLS

State by State (Electoral Votes)

Latest Polls

BTRTN Rating

CAL, COL, CT, DC, DEL, HA, ILL, ME, ME 1st, MASS, NH, NM, NJ,
NY, OR, RI, VT, VA, WAS (216)

N/A

D Solid

Minnesota (10)

Biden + 7

D Likely

Nebraska 2nd District (1)

Biden + 7

D Lean (Flip)

Wisconsin (10)

Biden + 6

D Lean (Flip)

Nevada (6)

Biden + 6

D Lean

Michigan (16)

Biden + 6

D Lean (Flip)

Pennsylvania (20)

Biden + 6

D Lean (Flip)

Arizona (11)

Biden + 4

D Lean (Flip)

Maine 2nd District (1)

Biden + 3

D Toss Up (Flip)

Florida (29)

Biden + 2

D Toss Up (Flip)

North Carolina (15)

Biden + 1

D Toss Up (Flip)

Ohio (18)

Biden + 1

R Toss Up

Iowa (6)

Biden + 1

R Toss Up

Georgia (16)

Even

R Toss Up

Texas (38)

Trump + 4

R Toss Up

ALA, ALASK, ARK, ID, IND, KS, KY, LA, MISSP, MO, MON, NEB, NEB
1ST, NEB 3RD, ND, OKL, SC, SD, TENN, UT, WV, WYO (125)

N/A

R Solid

Can Trump possibly win? 
Of course – he has a 1 in 6 chance at this point.  You can’t discount that, horses with lesser
odds win at Belmont with some frequency.
 
Trump has to win every toss up entity – which gets him to 248 electoral
votes — and then pick off two or more of the states in which Biden has a very
solid lead.
  Frankly, it’s not likely,
especially given so many events going against Trump of late, including, of
course, his own divisive leadership style.

But again, this is a snapshot
and not a prediction.  Trump has some
time.  He’s placed his bets on his
winning strategies.  Now we see if any
long shots come in for him.

THE SENATE

The Democrats, of course, need to flip a net of +3 seats,
along with a Biden win, to gain control of the Senate with 50 seats (including
the two Independents that caucus with them). 
With the prospects of holding Alabama looking exceedingly grim, the fate
of Senate control will come down to whether the Democrats can flip at least
four seats.

At this point, the Democrats can see those four seats, feel
them and taste them.  They have quite
decent, steady leads – 5 to 7 percentage points – in each of them:  Arizona (Mark Kelly), Colorado (John
Hickenlooper), Maine (Sara Gideon) and North Carolina (Cal Cunningham).  Kelly and Hickenlooper have been crushing incumbents
Martha McSally and Corey Gardner all along, while Gideon has been ahead by the
same 4-5 points over Susan Collins for months now.  Cunningham has been expanding his lead over
Thom Tillis, but this race has turned wild, with Tillis contracting COVID-19
and Cunningham now involved in a sex scandal (apparently “sexting” with a woman who is not his wife).

And that’s not all. 
For Democrats who dream not just of a Blue Wave, but of a Blue Tidal
Wave, Democratic candidates are putting tremendous pressure on five other GOP-held seats:  Iowa, Georgia (the regular election), Kansas,
Montana and South Carolina.  We consider
each to be a “toss up” at this point, though we have each in the GOP column.

Limited polling indicates Alaska is close, too, though we
don’t quite believe that yet.  And who
knows what will come out of Georgia’s special election, which will have a
jungle primary on Election Day, setting up a potential run-off in January.

So at this juncture, that net +3 the Democrats need seems
more likely than not – we now have increased the odds from 67% from 71%.  Those increased odds reflect positive
Democratic movement in three races that have resulted in BTRTN ratings changes
as follows:

SENATE SNAPSHOT: STATE BTRTN RATING CHANGES

State

As of 9/23

As of 10/7

Minnesota

D Likely

D Solid

Iowa

R Toss Up

D Toss Up

Alaska

R Likely

R Lean

With the Iowa flip (and note that it is still a tossup,
just now leaning the Democrat’s way nominally), our ratings now point to a
51/49 composition post-election, enough for the Dems to claim control with one
vote to spare, assuming a Biden win.
 
(Note that in the unlikely event Trump wins, the Democrat are unlikely
to pull off the 51-seat scenario, or even the 50 seat – some shock to the
overall electoral environment will have to have occurred that would likely
affect the down-ballot races substantially).

SENATE SNAPSHOT

Senate

As of 9/23

As of 10/7

DEM TOTAL

50 (+3)

51 (+4)

Dem Holdover

35

35

Dem Solid

9

10

Dem Likely

3

2

Dem Lean

3

3

Dem Toss-up

0

1

GOP Toss-up

5

4

GOP Lean

1

2

GOP Likely

3

3

GOP Solid

11

10

GOP Holdover

30

30

GOP TOTAL

50 (-3)

49 (-4)

Here is how each race is shaping up, in a nutshell.

 

SENATE SNAPSHOT:  STATE
BY STATE

Senate By State

Latest Polls

BTRTN
Rating

DE, IL, MASS, MN, NH, NM, NJ, OR, RI, VA

 

D Solid

Arizona

Kelly + 7

D Likely Flip

Colorado

Hickenlooper + 7

D Likely Flip

N. Carolina

Cunningham + 7

D Lean Flip

Maine

Gideon + 5

D Lean Flip

Michigan

Peters + 4

D Lean

Iowa

Greenfield + 6

D Toss Up Flip

Montana

Daines + 1

R Toss Up

S. Carolina

Graham + 1

R Toss Up

Georgia

Perdue + 3

R Toss Up

Kansas

Marshall + 3

R Toss Up

Alaska

Sullivan + 1

R Lean

Georgia (Sp)

n/a

R Lean

Kentucky

McConnell + 11

R Likely

Alabama

Tuberville + 12

R Likely Flip

ARK, ID, LA, MISSP, NE, OK, SD, TN, TX, WV, WY

 

R Solid

 

THE HOUSE

The Democrats already hold a large majority in the
House.  The current count is 232
Democrats to 198 Republicans with one Libertarian and four vacancies.  When you take the four vacancies and
apportion them back to their original 2018 holding party, and also assign to
the GOP the seat currently held by Libertarian Justin Amish (who was elected in
2018 as a Republican, is now a Libertarian and is not running for reelection),
then the effective split is 233 to 205.

By far the most important predictor of how many seats will
switch parties is the “generic ballot,” a question which asks voter preference
for a congressional seat without naming names (just parties).  For years we have come within a few seats of
predicting exact outcomes based on our BTRTN regression models that feature
that variable.  For instance, in 2018,
BTRTN predicted the Democrats would flip 38 seats from red to blue, and they
actually flipped 41 seats.

This year, the generic ballot continues to heavily favor
the Democrats.  The most recent set of
generic ballot polls, in October, continue to show the Democrats up by six to
seven points.  If the Democrats maintain
this margin through Election Day, they would be expected to flip 14 more seats,
give or take a few, according to our model, to get to a whopping 247 to 191
advantage.

This is one area where the GOP has made some modest inroads
of late.  In our last measure a few weeks
ago, the generic ballot was +8 for the Dems, which pointed to an 18-seat
pickup.  But perhaps the lack of a COVID
relief bill is starting to hurt Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in a few
marginal districts.

But, to be clear: there is simply no way the GOP can
possibly flip the House.  We are being
kind to put the odds of the Dems holding the House at 99%; we are simply
allowing for the highly unlikely threat of a meteor landing.

HOUSE SNAPSHOT

House

As of 9/23

As of 10/7

Generic Ballot

Dem + 8.0

Dem + 6.5

 

 

 

Democrats

251 (+ 18)

247 (+ 14)

Republicans

187 (- 18)

191 (- 14)

And always remember this:

WARNING:  No matter how good the numbers look
at any given time, the Democrats will not win any election unless they work
hard to earn it – registering voters, calling, texting, donating – throughout
the summer and fall, up to and including Election Day.

 

 

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