The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: New Post-ABC polling shows Biden with big lead in Wisconsin, where coronavirus cases are rising

with Brent D. Griffiths

It's Wednesday. Six days until Election Day. Across the country, 67.8 million people have already voted  – that's 49 percent of the total 2016 vote 🎆 And I think we'll be hearing quite a bit today about the aftermath of the president's rally in Omaha last night where rescue efforts were required to help elderly supporters stranded in the very cold weather. Thanks for waking up with us. 

The campaign

HONEY BADGER DON'T CARE: Former vice president Joe Biden leads President Trump by 17 points in Wisconsin, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll out this morning. 

That's a stunning gap less than one week from the election in one of the states Trump picked off in 2016 to pull off his surprise upset over Hillary Clinton. It could herald a more substantial win by Biden than some Democrats are afraid to say aloud but are whispering about.

The survey showed the coronavirus pandemic which Trump claims is “ending”  is the albatross hanging around Trump's neck in Wisconsin in particular: Seventy percent of voters in the state say they are very or somewhat worried about the virus and 59 percent gave the president failing marks for his handling of the pandemic.

  • Our polling also showed Biden ahead by 7 points in Michigan, another battleground state key to the president's reelection chances.

Just last night, for the second week in a row, the president traveled to Wisconsin, one of the worst coronavirus hotspots in the country that set a record for 5,200 new infections and 64 deaths in what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported was the worst day yet of the pandemic there. 

  • The state's chief medical official called the situation a “nightmare scenario.”

But at an outdoor rally in La Crosse, Trump railed against Gov. Tony Evers (D), calling on him to reopen the state and falsely claiming again the country is “rounding the curve” on the virus. 

It’s a choice between a Trump boom and a Biden lockdown,” Trump told the crowd. “Speaking of lockdowns, let’s get your governor to open it up.” He again insisted that the media is exaggerating the severity of the virus that has so far killed 226,000 Americans to make him look bad and claimed that the virus will not be a topic of conversation after the election. 

  • The facts: “This past week brought the highest number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic started. Dozens of states have seen a seven-day average of more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people, with more than 700 per 100,000 in North Dakota — population-wise, that would be the equivalent of Florida reporting more than 20,000 cases during the same time period,” our colleagues Hannah Knowles and Jacqueline Dupree report. 
  • And in Wisconsin: The state “reported its most dismal coronavirus numbers yet Tuesday as state health officials urged residents to leave home only when absolutely necessary and warned the crisis would continue escalating,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Sophie Carson, Alison Dirr, and Mark Johnson report. “The state Department of Health Services reported 5,262 new cases and 64 deaths Tuesday, both records far above any previous daily counts. The death toll now stands at 1,852.”
  • The state is “experiencing a massive upsurge in cases that rivals the numbers seen in much bigger states. Hospital beds are at about 85% capacity statewide. The state just opened a field hospital near Milwaukee that can accommodate more than 500 patients,” according to NPR's James Doubek and David Greene. 

Nevertheless, Trump spoke before a crowd of thousands at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway in an area of the state experiencing some of the highest rate of infections. And over the weekend, thousands attended a Trump rally at the Waukesha County Airport – even after Anthony S. Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, warned the president against holding large rallies with the virus again surging in many parts of the U.S.

As the new wave of infections and hospitalizations begins to again climb, the trust deficit between the two candidates on the pandemic has widened, too: 

  • Wisconsin voters trust Biden more than Trump to handle the outbreak by 20 points, an increase from the narrow seven-point edge Biden held on this issue in September,” according to our colleagues Scott Clement, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin. “Among independents, trust in Biden has increased by 17 points, from 42 percent in September to 59 percent in the latest poll.” 
  • Voters judged Biden as a stronger leader than Trump by nine points in Wisconsin. 
  • Nearly 7 in 10 registered voters there support current Wisconsin mitigation efforts – including restrictions on public gatherings and mask requirements – which the president has also mocked. 
  • It's partisan, though: “In Wisconsin, more than 9 in 10 Democrats and about 7 in 10 independents back the rules while 6 in 10 Republicans oppose them,” our colleagues report. 

We should note that The Post-ABC news findings showed Biden further ahead in Wisconsin than Trump than in other public polls. Our last poll of the state, conducted one month ago, showed Biden with a six-point lead among likely voters but that shift “may be due to variation in random sample surveys,” per our colleagues. 

  • “Slightly more registered voters in the current poll report voting for Clinton than Trump in 2016, whereas the previous survey showed voters essentially split. If the survey is adjusted to match the 2016 election result, Biden maintains a 12-point lead,” they write.  

Breaking news from the Badger State might also affect the state of the play:the Supreme Court ruled Monday night that ballots received after Election Day cannot be counted, no matter when they were mailed,” our colleague Rosalind Helderman reports. 

  • By the numbers: As of Tuesday, voters in the key battleground state had returned more than 1.45 million of the 1.79 million absentee ballots they had requested so far — a return rate of more than 80 percent. But that means that nearly 327,000 absentee ballots had not yet been returned. 
  • 🚨: “In Wisconsin, late ballots could be critical if the election is close. In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by fewer than 23,000 votes in the state, Roz notes. 

Last month, the Trump campaign told Power Up the president could win the election without any of the vital battleground states he flipped in 2016 to capture the White House — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — if he wins Minnesota. The campaign, however, cut back on its ad spending in Minnesota earlier this month and Biden currently leads Trump by an average of 6 points there, according to a RealClearPolitics. Trump's path to 270 is quite limited if he fails to win at least one of those three states key to his 2016 victory. 

  • But a reminder: “Clinton led by 4 points in Michigan and 5 points in Wisconsin in our final polling averages in those states in 2016, and then lost both states by less than one point. But Biden’s extra cushion means he could survive a 2016-magnitude miss,” writes Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver. 

In Michigan, the race is much closer:The surveys show Biden narrowly ahead of Trump among likely voters in Michigan by 51 percent to 44 percent, with Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen at 3 percent,” our colleagues report of the new polling. Among registered voters, Biden only leads Trump by five points. 

Likely female voters are carrying Biden by double digits in both Michigan and Wisconsin: “He leads Trump by 24 points among those women in Michigan and by 30 points in Wisconsin. Biden trails Trump among Michigan men by double digits and the two are running about even among men in Wisconsin.” 

  • Biden also held overwhelming leads among women with college degrees in both places.

Another demographic shift?: “ … majorities of older voters in both states are currently backing Biden. He has a wide 61 percent to 37 percent lead in Wisconsin and a slimmer 55 percent to 43 percent lead in Michigan among voters age 65 and above. Four years ago, Trump narrowly carried these older voters in Michigan and split about even with Clinton in Wisconsin,” according to our colleagues. 

The president, however, is viewed more positively than he is in Wisconsin: 52 percent of Michigan voters approved of his handling of the economy compared to 44 percent who disapproved. But a majority still rated the president poorly on his overall job approval (46 percent positive vs. 52 percent negative) and handling of the coronavirus (42 percent positive vs. 55 percent negative). 

  • And while voters see Biden as more “honest and trustworthy” than Trump in both Michigan and Wisconsin, the two are judged evenly in Michigan on who is a stronger leader.
  • “In Michigan, Trump is doing slightly better at holding his Republican base than in Wisconsin with 92 percent support, just a tick below Biden’s 94 percent support among Democrats. Also, Trump has 51 percent support among White likely voters but Biden has the support of 81 percent of non-White voters. Biden leads by 89 percent to 6 percent among Black registered voters, just shy of Clinton’s 92 percent support in 2016, according to network exit polls.” 

Today's polling suggests that if Trump is to close the gap in either state, Election Day turnout will be the key.

  • Trump leads among likely voters who plan to vote on Election Day with 65 percent support in Michigan and 70 percent in Wisconsin. Among voters who have already voted or plan to do so before Election Day, over 7 in 10 in both Michigan and Wisconsin support Biden,” according to Scott, Dan and Emily.

The people

VOTING NEARS HISTORIC LEVELS: “After weeks of early and mail voting, at least 69 million Americans have already cast their ballots for next week’s election, a historic figure that has upended expectations about Election Day and which states could decide the presidential contest,” Amy Gardner and Rosalind S. Helderman report.

  • We're on the verge of history: “The massive number equals roughly half of the total turnout in 2016 — all but ensuring, with early voting continuing through the weekend, that the majority of ballots will be cast before Election Day for the first time in history.”

There is a massive partisan divide: “For now, the early numbers overwhelmingly favor Democrats in 16 of 19 states that provide such data. But the gap between Democratic and Republican voters has narrowed in recent days in several battleground states, and Trump and Biden campaigns noted that more Republicans are expected to vote on Nov. 3,” our colleagues write.

  • Biden's camp concedes no lead is yet insurmountable: “On Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien told reporters that the president will win the Election Day vote easily, in part because of an extensive get-out-the-vote operation. A person close to the Biden campaign, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal thinking, said it’s ‘absolutely possible’ for Trump to catch up on Election Day.”

On the Hill

MCCONNELL GIVES EVEN ODDS TO HOLDING MAJORITY: “Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that control of the Senate is a coin-toss contest that could end his six-year reign over the chamber, even after the successful confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett that conservatives hoped would rally the base for GOP senators,” Paul Kane reports.

  • Republicans in conservative-leaning states were helped by the confirmation, he argued: But liberal donors have unleashed a deluge of cash against his members that has made some seats more competitive, he said. “You know, the other side has done a great job with ActBlue,” he said, name checking the Democratic donation platform. “We always knew we were going to have spirited races in Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina and Maine. They’ve been able to make it competitive in Kansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Alaska.”

He was always going to fill a vacant seat on the high court, if an opportunity arose: It was entirely premeditated,” McConnell told our colleague. “And my thought was, it was the closest thing we could possibly do to have a permanent, positive impact on the country, right of center.”

  • Planning for such an opportunity began early: “McConnell and aides drafted possible statements Aug. 13 for a potential vacancy, even without any retirement announcements or imminent signs of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health deteriorating.”

The long game of stacking the federal judiciary is now McConnell's proudest legacy: “At the risk of tooting my own horn, look at the majority leaders since L.B.J. and find another one who was able to do something as consequential as this,” McConnell boasted to the New York Times's Carl Hulse of the three conservative justices that are expected to cement a right-leaning majority on the Supreme Court for decades to come.

  • And he was always wanted Barrett: “Despite White House interest in others, such as Judge Barbara Lagoa in Florida and Judge Allison Jones Rushing in North Carolina, McConnell was insistent on Justice Barrett, arguing that she was a known figure because of her previous confirmation for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and that she was very popular in conservative legal circles.”

Some Democrats fired back: 

Outside the Beltway

INSIDE A WEEK: “Biden launched a closing campaign argument that sought to look in part beyond next week’s election, promising in a speech and two campaign ads to heal the nation and bring it together as he evoked the memory of Franklin D. Roosevelt and drew mostly implicit contrasts with Trump,” Sean Sullivan, Anne Gearan and Felicia Sonmez report.

  • His closing message: “With our voices and our votes, we must free ourselves from the forces of darkness, from the forces of division, and the forces of yesterday,” Biden said in Warm Springs, Ga., a town FDR, who was a polio survivor, regularly visited for therapy.

Back in Trump world: “The president is playing down the pandemic and raising unfounded concerns about the vote, seeking to energize his base and set the stage for a potential challenge to the election results,” our colleagues write.

He tried another new pitch to suburban women that seemed decades old:

In the media

NATIONAL GUARD RESPONDS IN PHILADELPHIA: “On the second night of mass demonstrations over the fatal police shooting of a 27-year-old Black man, about 1,000 protesters marched through the streets of West Philadelphia demanding justice for Walter Wallace Jr.,” Robert Klemko, Katie Shepherd and Maura Ewing report.

  • Gov. Tom Wolf (D) authorized the deployment of troops after protests turned destructive: “Monday’s demonstrations and looting left shops damaged and at least 30 officers injured, including one hospitalized with a broken leg after being struck by a truck. On Tuesday, police and protesters clashed again, but officers, aided by National Guardsmen, took a more aggressive tack, filling the streets with lines of riot cops who stopped marchers and made several arrests earlier in the evening.”

Wallace was experiencing an apparent mental health crisis when he was killed: “Police said Wallace 27 was wielding a knife and ignored orders to drop the weapon before officers fired shots Monday afternoon. But his parents said Tuesday night that officers knew their son was in a mental health crisis because they had been to the family’s house three times on Monday,” the Associated Press's Claudia Lauer reports.

Protests across Philadelphia continued on Oct. 27 for the second night in a row following the police shooting death of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Joshua Lott/The Washington Post)

How the campaigns responded: Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) released a lengthy statement expressing “shock and grief … especially for a community that has already endured so much trauma,” but the Democratic ticket also offered a vehement denunciation of looting calling it “not a protest, it's a crime.” 

Trump alleged Democrats “stand with the rioters”: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed those attacks in a statement late last night claiming the destruction is “the most recent consequence of the Liberal Democrats’ war against the police.” 

  • Wallace and his family were not mentioned in the statement: Instead, the White House offered “all lethal force incidents must be fully investigated.  The facts must be followed wherever they lead to ensure fair and just results."

Viral

Fans gathered across Los Angeles on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 to celebrate the Dodgers' first World Series title in more than three decades. (Video: The Washington Post)

MORE PARTIES IN LA: “Validation came at 10:37 p.m. Central time, wearing the classic home whites of the Los Angeles Dodgers and streaming out of the first base dugout for a dogpile near the pitcher’s mound of Globe Life Field. The World Series was over. The Dodgers’ tortuous, 32-year wait for another championship was over. The 2020 baseball season, bent and misshapen by a global pandemic, was over. And validation had arrived to drape itself on each and every one of them,” Dave Sheinin and Scott Allen report from Arlington, Tex.

Another reminder of how unusual this season is:

The triumphant Los Angeles Times's front page:

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