DANIEL VAUGHAN: Biden's Polling Comeback Is Dead... Trump Is Winning

 May 15, 2024

Does anyone remember the "Biden comeback" narrative over polling? It was back in late March or early April when Newsweek and others ran headlines like "Joe Biden's Astonishing Polling Comeback." The polling averages were even between Trump and Biden, and we were told that Biden had turned his fortunes around post-State of the Union. That polling bump, which was more about Trump sinking than Biden rising, is over. We're back in the same spot we've been for the past year: Donald Trump is leading the race.

Instead of a comeback, Axios reports that the White House is in "denial." The report says, "The dismissiveness of the poor polling is sincere, not public spin, according to Democrats who have spoken privately with the president and his team. That bedrock belief has informed Biden's largely steady-as-she-goes campaign — even as many Democrats outside the White House are agitating for the campaign to change direction, given that Biden is polling well behind where he was four years ago. The public polling simply doesn't reflect the president's support, they say."

MSNBC and Vox are busy telling readers not to "freak out" about the polling numbers. Why all the freakouts? The New York Times dropped a bombshell on everyone: Biden is decisively losing five out of six swing states. "The surveys by The New York Times, Siena College and The Philadelphia Inquirer found that Mr. Trump was ahead among registered voters in a head-to-head matchup against Mr. Biden in five of six key states: Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Mr. Biden led among registered voters in only one battleground state, Wisconsin."

The critical sentence in that polling analysis is: "The findings are mostly unchanged since the last series of Times/Siena polls in battleground states in November." November is an important time frame because that's when Democrats first started freaking out about polls to the New York Times, and that position hasn't changed.

Joe Scarborough took to MSNBC's airwaves to declare the New York Times's polls slanted in Trump's direction. Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics had to pop that bubble, showing it was the opposite. The Times consistently overestimated Biden's chances in 2020.

Nate Silver wrote a piece to these Democratic pundits reminding them: "Your friends are not a representative sample of public opinion." If that seems like an obvious point, you may not be running around in Democratic circles freaking out about polls and saying they're wrong.

The truth is simple: Donald Trump is leading this race. In the RealClearPolitics average, Trump is holding around a one-point lead over Biden. That may seem slim, and it is. Still, Donald Trump has never led in the polling averages during a Presidential cycle. He had some brief moments in 2016, but throughout 2016 and 2020, Clinton and Biden led the polls.

In fact, at this point in the race in 2016, Clinton led Trump by 5.7 points, and in 2020, Biden led Trump by 4.5 points. Even more stark, at no point in 2020 was Trump seriously in contention with the polling averages. He outperformed the polling numbers in both elections, which helped explain his victory in 2016 and the slim margins that decided 2020.

The last time Biden held a lead in the RealClearPoltics average was September 11, 2023. That was when Biden broke with tradition and made comments about the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 in Alaska instead of one of the memorials.

Byron York puts it in harsh terms, "In the past six months, Biden has traveled the country, touting what he believes are his economic accomplishments. He has spent zillions of dollars on advertising, focusing specifically on the key states. And at the same time, Trump was either preparing to go on trial or, since April 15, actually on trial in New York, facing a maximum of 136 years in prison. And Biden is still unable to catch Trump."

The belief among Democrats is that the trials would sink Trump. You can throw a rock and find a piece on the internet wondering what Republicans will do if any one case hits Trump. But as those gets are increasingly getting delayed past the election, and Trump is in the same place he's been since last September, what more do Democrats expect? 

Biden is losing convincingly in several state polls. Critical battlegrounds like Nevada and Georgia show that Trump leads well outside the margin of error in the polls. Even if these singular-state polls are wrong, they all say the same thing as the national polls: Donald Trump is winning this race. 

Polls aren't everything, and I expect a lot of movement between now and Election Day. However, the trendlines are clear six months from the November elections: Donald Trump has the lead, and Biden has done nothing to change that reality in the past six months. Democrats are freaking out for a reason: they don't know what to do. Biden can believe what he wants, but the polls tell everyone the same thing.

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