But none of that appears to have had any negative effect on his prospects of winning in November. At the same time, all available evidence suggests that congressional Democrats are in about as strong a position as they could hope for.
Some data points:
- A new national Monmouth University poll shows Biden leading Trump 50 percent to 41 percent. Other polls show Biden leading by an average of 5.5 points.
- According to FiveThirtyEight, Democrats lead the generic House ballot matchup by 7.9 points. In 2018, just before they won a historic election that netted them 41 seats and control of the House, they led by 8.7 points.
- As Axios notes, “A raft of new polls from states with competitive Senate races shows momentum veering away from Republican incumbents.” If these polls are right, Democrats will take control of the Senate.
Take the Senate, where Republicans enjoy a 53 to 47 advantage. There is only one seat held by a Democratic incumbent, Doug Jones in Alabama, that Republicans are favored to win. Meanwhile, there are three seats, in Arizona, Maine and Colorado, where Democrats are in a very strong position to oust Republican incumbents. Colorado looks almost like a lock; polls show former governor John Hickenlooper with a double-digit lead over Sen. Cory Gardner.
Other states look increasingly good for Democrats, such as Montana, where they successfully recruited popular Gov. Steve Bullock to run against incumbent Sen. Steve Daines. In states that looked tougher for Democrats, such as Iowa and North Carolina, it’s looking like the president is pulling incumbent Republicans down with him.
This is a key factor that could tip the Senate to Democrats: More than ever before, candidates for House and Senate find that their fortunes are inextricably bound to their party’s presidential nominee, no matter what they do. As Ron Brownstein puts it, “Senate elections are becoming more about the party and less about the individual candidates."
While in the past a senator like Collins or Gardner could pull votes from across the aisle, they won’t be able to any longer, at least not in significant numbers. Voters casting their ballots against Trump will vote against them, too, no matter what effort they’ve put into creating an image of independence.
Of course, it’s possible that the president will vanquish this pandemic and lead the economy roaring back in a month or two, winning him the support of a grateful nation and giving him coattails from which all Republicans will benefit. Much more likely, however, is that the virus will continue to kill thousands upon thousands of Americans and the economy will still be in dire shape by November. In which case Democrats will almost certainly win a dramatic victory.
But there are multiple reasons Democrats might think their party is screwing everything up and getting ready to lose an election they should win. First, they have plenty of experience with just that outcome, so it’s not at all hard to imagine. If you’re a Democrat, you have plenty of reason to think your party is run by idiots who will inevitably fail. Second, they turn on their TVs or check online every day and see Trump’s face everywhere, without much sight of Biden. We have a natural tendency to assume that if a politician is talking, then somebody must be persuaded by what he’s saying.
But with Trump, that just isn’t true. Democrats may find it infuriating that his approval ratings haven’t fallen to zero since the pandemic hit, but one should remember that he’s staying in place at a time when both governors and foreign leaders have all found their approval ratings shoot up. Consider this incredible fact: In every state in the union, Trump’s approval is lower than that of the state’s governor, whether they’re a Republican or a Democrat.
Yes, things can change. Over the next six months there will be campaign controversies, new developments in the pandemic and maybe even a foreign crisis or two. But right now, the 2020 election is looking a lot like the Democratic sweep of 2018.
That isn’t to say Democrats don’t have plenty to worry about. But they can’t yet say they’re losing.