Aides described Trump as in a particularly foul mood last week because of the polling data and news coverage of his administration’s response to the pandemic, according to two of the people familiar with the discussions. In one call, he berated Parscale over the polling data, the two people said.At one point in that call, Trump said he might sue Parscale, though one of the people with knowledge of the comments said he made the remark in jest. News of Trump’s eruption at Parscale was first reported Wednesday by CNN.Trump told Parscale that he did not believe the polling that had been presented to him, even though it came from the campaign and the RNC.“I’m not losing to Joe Biden,” Trump said at one point, both of these people said, adding that the president used profanities throughout the call.
Here’s the thing, though: He is losing to Joe Biden, and Trump didn’t need to look at internal data to see that. Those internal numbers only seem to affirm the crystallizing picture we’re seeing from public polling.
In the month-plus since Trump saw a momentary bump in his approval rating early in the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve begun to see polling in key states trickle out. And the numbers don’t just suggest that Trump trails in the three all-important battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — they also suggest that he might have to fend Biden off in some states that should be relatively safe. And if he is losing or even just struggling in these kinds of states, Trump will have a very difficult time piecing together the 270 electoral votes he needs.
Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than one point each in 2016, allowing him a reasonably sizable electoral vote margin despite losing the popular vote against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. But the most recent polls in those states have Trump down three points (albeit within the margin of error) in Wisconsin, down between three and eight in Michigan, and down between six and eight in Pennsylvania. Losses in all three of them would probably seal Trump’s fate, and winning just one of the three also would make a path to victory difficult.
While we will be training our focus on those states in the months ahead, they may not even hold the worst warning signs for Trump. Witness:
- A new poll in the only other state that was decided by less than a point in 2016 — New Hampshire — shows Biden up eight points.
- A new poll in long-red Texas, which Trump carried by nine points last time, is virtually tied.
- North Carolina, which Trump carried by two points, is either virtually tied or has Biden up by five.
- In ruby-red Utah, one poll even showed Biden within five points (though another has Trump comfortably in front).
- Arizona, a looming potential swing state that went for Trump by 3.5 points, has Biden up between three and nine points.
- An internal GOP poll in another state turning from red to purple, Georgia, has a virtual tie.
- Ohio, a former vital swing state that swung for Trump by a remarkable eight points, has Biden up four.
- In the other traditionally all-important state of Florida, which Trump won by just more than a point, Biden leads by between three and five points.
The picture in these states is relatively consistent. They show a shift of at least four points from the 2016 margins — all in the Democrats’ direction — and often significantly more than that.
If Biden is truly a slight favorite in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that says plenty. But if you give him a shot in some of these other traditionally red states, the number of electoral votes available to him dwarfs the ones available to Trump.
In fact, if you overlay these numbers on the 2016 map and assume that the other states would fall as they did then, Biden currently has the inside track on winning as many as 352 electoral votes — more than double the 132 for which Trump is favored.
(It’s important to note that many of these states are close enough that we wouldn’t necessarily characterize them as “leaning” toward one candidate or another, but the limited polling we have suggests Biden has a slight lead in many of them, so we’re including them for argument’s sake.)
Even if we allow that Arizona, Georgia and Texas aren’t about to go blue just yet and maybe Biden’s slight edge in Ohio won’t hold up — which seem to be legitimate assumptions — Biden is still winning in states accounting for 323 electoral votes, compared with 215 for Trump.
All of this is also bolstered by new data from the Public Religion Research Institute, which has been surveying a series of swing states and showed Trump’s favorability rating in them dropping from 53 percent in March to 38 percent today
This comes with all the usual caveats: It’s still very early, and plenty will change. Also, polls aren’t destiny, as we saw in 2016, when a few of the most important states had polls that just weren’t accurate. (Though we’d expect pollsters in those states to have learned a lesson for this time.)
But it’s worth noting that the growing volume of polling evidence we’re seeing suggests Biden is expanding the map and Trump is losing ground from his narrow 2016 win in just about every corner of the country. National polls are criticized for not reflecting the electoral college, but Biden’s edge in those national polls seems to be borne out consistently across the country in these state polls.
That doesn’t mean Biden is the clear favorite or this isn’t a close race. But it does mean Trump should probably be paying attention to and reacting to those poor internal numbers — even if he doesn’t want to.