Among all the zillion and one stories about how the 2020 election would turn out if it were held today (important note, it will not be held for 15 months), you may have seen one that must have been especially alarming to President Donald Trump, for two reasons.
Reason one: It showed Joe Biden, the current leading Democratic candidate, clobbering Trump in several states that Trump has to win to have a chance of winning a second term.
In several states that Trump either carried in 2016 or lost narrowly but hoped to pick up in 2020, the poll showed Biden currently polling ahead of Trump, in many cases by a wide margin, including in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
For example, in crucial swing state Ohio, which Trump won in 2016 by a surprisingly large 8 percentage points, the poll showed Trump trailing Biden by 1. In North Carolina, which Trump won by 4 points in 2016, it showed Biden leading by 8. Georgia: Trump won by 5; the poll showed him trailing Biden by 6. In Iowa, which Trump won by 10, the poll showed Biden ahead by 9.
To make this even tougher reading for Trump, the leaked poll numbers came from a pollster working for his own re-election campaign.
Trump took prompt, immediate action to rectify the situation.
It’s true that the stated reason for firing the pollsters was for allowing the results to leak into public view. They were meant to be for internal campaign use only. (One can be forgiven for suspecting that if the polls had shown Trump doing better, he wouldn’t have minded the leak, or would have leaked them himself.)
Of local interest, I’ll mention one more number from the leaked poll, although it doesn’t cover a state that Trump carried in 2016.
Trump lost our own dear state of Minnesota, but only by 1.5 percentage points, which shocked a lot of people. I have argued previously — based on several factors, including the blue wave that swept across Minnesota in 2018 — that Minnesota is nonetheless not a swing state heading into 2020. The secret internal Trump campaign poll showed that if the election were held today, Biden would clobber Trump in Minnesota by 14 points.
I wouldn’t attach any more importance to these numbers as predictive of any election still a year and a half away than to any others. Trump and his allies at home and abroad shocked the world in 2016 and may do so again. But the next time Trump claims, as he surely will, that everything looks great for him heading into the re-election campaign, please note, and don’t be shocked by this: He’s lying.