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There are reasons to believe that an anti-Trump wave is building

If you rely on out-of-focus photos of the recent past to predict the future, Donald Trump’s chances of winning a second term as president are small and shrinking.

I put it that way because I want to report on the recent polling on both Trump’s approval ratings, and the state of the race between Trump and Joe Biden. Both of these indicators look quite good for Biden and bad for Trump. But I want to encourage you (and me) to keep our shirts on, and, if you read to the bottom, I will tell you the origin of that “keep your shirt on” expression, which I just looked up and found amusing.

First, a reminder: The election is five months away. Plenty of time for the picture to change and change again, and that’s even more true in a situation where the combination of a pandemic and the aftermath of the recent killing-of-George-Floyd-inspired unrest in cities across create some factors that are difficult to measure or anticipate.

Second, I ask myself daily, and you should too, what measures Donald Trump might take if he thinks he’s going to lose the election, ranging from making it harder for people to vote, to postponing the election (I don’t think he legally can, but he might try), to refusing to recognize the result and participate in a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.

Approval rating going down

Setting those aside, and focusing on the recent polling, there are reasons to believe that an anti-Trump wave is building.

First, as measured by his approval ratings, Trump is bleeding support. As usual, to avoid relying overmuch on any one poll, I rely on the average of many polls maintained by the political numbers geeks at As of this afternoon, his average approval number 13.6 percentage points “under water,” at 41.1 percent approval/54.7 percent disapproval. All of the recent movement has been negative (for Trump). That’s the worst shape his approval rating picture has taken, for him, in about a year and a half.

Second, I would remind you of something I recently discussed, which is that a large share of voters don’t much like either Trump or Joe Biden, but, when asked by pollsters, those double dislikers say by an overwhelming margin of 60-10 percent that that they would support Biden as the lesser dislikable one. Trump’s 2016 election relied significantly on getting the votes of the majority of those who said they didn’t like either him or Hillary Clinton.

Third, which is really a reflection of the points in the paragraphs above, Trump is losing support among the key groups that have always supported him most, like Americans without a college degree, and evangelical Christians. He still leads among those groups, but the size of his margin seems to get smaller every time a new poll comes out.

But mostly, when I obsess on this stuff, I try to pay attention to recent polling in swing states. As happened in 2016, a candidate can lose the national popular vote and win the electoral vote by winning a few close states. 

Biden polling ahead in most close states

Biden is polling ahead of Trump in most of the close states that were key to Trump’s 2016 election-night surprise. I’ll give you three examples, and I choose them because the poll numbers come from Fox News. Fox pollsters have a much better reputation for fairness among those who rate such things than do most of the Fox opinion stars. Fox recently reported new polls from three swing states that Trump carried in 2016. They showed Biden ahead of Trump by 49-40 in Wisconsin, by 45-43 in Ohio, and by 46-42 in Arizona. Those are not the only states that Trump carried but where he now trails in the polls, but those three by themselves would be enough to change the outcome 2016, and those are Fox News polls.

Lastly, as promised above, the origin of the expression “keep your shirt on.”

Apparently, in early American history, a typical American man owned only one or two shirts. He would take off his shirt before they got into a physical fight so it wouldn’t get torn and ruined. Taking your shirt off was an indication that you were ready to get into a physical altercation, so keeping your shirt on was a way of indicating that you still believed the matter at hand could be settled short of fisticuffs. 

Comments (40)

  1. Submitted by Bill Lindeke on 06/08/2020 - 05:35 pm.

    That is a good origin story!

  2. Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/09/2020 - 08:24 am.

    Regarding “swing state” polling, no state poll gave Trump leads in any of the the Midwest states he won by 90,000 combined votes. So all this is wishful thinking. Given the certain chaos of the election in the pandemic, no one has a clue what will happen in WI, MI and PA. Ohio is a Repub-controlled Red State and far beyond the reach of a Dem prez candidate, polls be damned.

    If history is any guide, there is a significant white (and perhaps Latino) backlash building over the nationwide Floyd protests (which can in some locales be accurately characterized by rightwing media as riots) and now the Defund/Abolish the Police movement. These are not gonna be popular (to say the least) among suburbanites, let alone wavering Trump voters. Something always arises to save the *ss of the “conservative” movement at the critical moment. Obviously Trump will turn this into a “Law and Order” election, which no one saw coming one month ago.

    So the situation is very fluid and Trump himself (leave aside the nation’s plutocrats) has over a billion dollars to use for his coming tsunami of lies. It’s also as clear as can be that the November elections will not only be chaotic everywhere, but that the Repubs that control the various swing states have already taken steps to aid (safe) voting by their demographics while denying it to Dem demographics.

    We also have no idea what Trump and his courtiers like Barr are planning as an explosive October Surprise, which will certainly occur, since Trump would declare WWIII if he thought it would aid his “re-election”.

    Once fascism has achieved power in a putative “democracy” (and its questionable that we merit even that label), it is very difficult to dislodge via election. Trump and Trumpism will be no different.

    • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 06/09/2020 - 09:35 am.

      While I suppose there is no official definition of “Defund the Police”, most descriptions I’ve seen are not the same as “Abolish the Police”. Those descriptions basically say to remove police from many of the social services they have been given as a default, and apply the resources given to the police for those services to other functionaries.

      The term “defund the police” has got to be dumbest choice of terminology possible. It will, as you noted, not be received well by many, even if the underlying approach is supportable by the suburbanites you mentioned.

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/09/2020 - 11:26 am.

        Agreed. “Defund the police” is a gift to Trump and Republicans. What they are actually doing seems fine, and maybe necessary. But the label put on it undermines the whole cause.

        • Submitted by Richard Owens on 06/09/2020 - 01:21 pm.

          “They’re just not doing it right.”
          “Better slogans! NOW!”

          • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/09/2020 - 03:49 pm.

            I realize you are being facetious, but yes. Good ideas are being undermined by bad slogans. If you have to explain, what you mean, you are losing the argument.

            • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/09/2020 - 07:55 pm.

              Two advantages the Right has are message discipline & Frank Luntz. They go hand in hand.

              If you don’t know who Frank Luntz is, and I’m sure Pat does, he named the estate tax the death tax.

            • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/09/2020 - 09:09 pm.

              And the labels, in a way, are reversed:

              Defund: Reduce the annual allotment of city dollars to the police. There by reducing cop headcount. Of course, this must be done in accordance with negotiated practice, insuring that the most senior and most unrepentant cops keep their jobs.

              Reform: Take apart and recombine in a new form. The take apart can include dissolution of the current force and rebuilding a new one with new work rules.

              I’m for reform…

              And, in a perverse sort of way:

              Bob Kroll will likely be responsible for more cops losing their jobs and more cop pensions being zapped in all of law enforcement history.

              Like his man, Donald Trump, we can see the significant negative impact of ill informed, cowardly, cater to the base, failed leadership.

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/09/2020 - 09:52 am.

      Speaking of October surprises cooked up by the likes of William Barr, the New York Times Magazine had an article about him on Sunday- “The Advocate.” Part of the article is about an investigation Barr has going by the US Attorney for Connecticut, a guy named Durham. This investigation is reviewing “potential criminality” in the decision to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Asked by the reporter if this might mean criminal charges against Obama or Biden, Barr said” “you never say never, . . . things could pop up that change the world.”

    • Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/09/2020 - 12:55 pm.

      I question the accuracy of this statement: “no state poll gave Trump leads in any of the the Midwest states he won by 90,000 combined votes.”

      I’m thinking it’s likely true that no polling gave him a lead outside the margin of error in those states. But it’s my recollection that it was very clearly going to be close & some prognosticators (i.e. Nate Silver & 538) explicitly advised that it could go either way.

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/09/2020 - 03:50 pm.

        This is correct. The polling was very accurate. Trump’s narrow victories in those states was within the margin of error.

      • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/10/2020 - 07:56 am.

        Well, I’m not gonna do a deep dive on this point because I think we are close to agreement: Trump was within the margin of error of quite a few of these swing state polls, but I can’t recall that he ever was accorded an actual lead in, say, a poll of PA.

        The problem, though, was that these swing state polls did not accurately catch the extent Trump’s white rural support in any of WI, MI and PA, and he greatly over-performed his polling in all those states, by over 5% in a couple of them. Those voters apparently refused to talk to pollsters, lied to them or couldn’t be found.

        As one pollster commented in 2016, it may be that polls cannot reliably predict elections any longer. That’s certainly now the case with the (anti-democratic) American presidential election.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/09/2020 - 08:06 pm.

      The polls were not wrong. For one, they predicted a Clinton win in the national popular vote. You do know she won that, right?

      As far as state polls, most of them took place before the second Comey letter on November 6, just two days before the election. Why would that matter? After all, the second Comey letter said, “Never mind, there were no problem e-mails after all. But the headlines are what matters.

      Most voters are not like MinnPost readers. They aren’t politicos, and don’t go much deeper than the headlines. What most voters got from the second Comey letter was “Clinton, e-mails, FBI investigation”. It would likely have been better if Comey hadn’t issued the second letter. We know that late deciding voters broke for Trump especially in the Midwest, and “Hillary FBI e-mails” were in the headlines from the date of the first Comey letter on Oct. 28. (Given the standard FBI response is “We don’t comment on on-going investigations,” the letters by the Republican Comey were unorthodox to say the least, but that’s another story.)

      Polls are a snap shot in time. To say a poll taken ten days before the election was “wrong because the election result was different” is a fundamental misunderstanding of polls.

      In 2018, the generic ballot predicted a Democratic wave in the House vote. How’d that work out Mr. Anderson?

      • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/10/2020 - 08:08 am.

        If this is directed at me, I’m not sure where the disagreement lies, Mr Phelan, as I’m aware of each of the facts you recite.

        If your point is that polls can fail to accurately predict the actual outcome of an election because some bombshell can be tossed out 2 days before the election, I agree.

        The polls look bad for Trump in 2020, swing state and nationally. They looked pretty bad for him in 2016, too, margin of error or no.

    • Submitted by Michelle Covington on 06/11/2020 - 07:42 pm.

      THANK GOD!

  3. Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/09/2020 - 12:58 pm.

    I find hope in the recent collection of Trump criticism & pushback we’re seeing from current and former leaders of the pentagon.

  4. Submitted by Bill Mantis on 06/09/2020 - 02:02 pm.

    Once a candidate acquires a “very negative” rating in opinion polls, history shows that the voters applying that label are gone for good. And Trump’s “very negative” numbers are much higher than Biden’s and rising.

    On top of that, there’s the issue of message. What message could Trump possibly use to his advantage? The economy is not going to bounce back. We’re on track to achieving a death toll of 200,000 by election time due to the mishandling of the Coronavirus outbreak. Republicans will refuse to spend any more in the way of economic stimulus. Mitch McConnell will refuse to allow police reform legislation to come to a vote. China, North Korea and Iran will all continue to ignore Trump’s bluff and bluster. Trump’s use of the military to clear peaceful protesters to hold a photo-op was not only a PR disaster, it also alienated “his” generals.

    So where does Trump go? Declares himself a “law and order president”? Since he’s been named in more than 3,000 lawsuits, that will be a very hard sell.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/09/2020 - 02:58 pm.

      What scares me is not Trump winning;
      it’s what he will do if he loses, or even looks like he’s going to lose.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/09/2020 - 04:02 pm.

        Very true:

        Lame Duck Trump will not have the hesitancy of his most recent predecessors to “protect their legacy”. He will make Clinton’s Mark Rich pardon look almost quaint.

        Every Trump criminal from Paul Manafort to Roger Stone will walk free. Anyone who wants a pardon and can pay for it will get it.

        The Executive order machine will go into overdrive.

        Two “Rays of Hope” are apparent: He can’t pardon himself for his soon to be brought forward crimes and he will be the gift that keeps on giving for the GOP: All the atrocities of the past 4 years topped with crooked pardons and graft. Lindsey Graham will set the example by:

        “Trump? Donald Trump? Name rings a bell; but I can’t put a face to it”

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/09/2020 - 07:02 pm.

          I’m more concerned with things like declaring a state of emergency and canceling elections (yes I know that that’s unconstitutional), or
          claiming that the elections were fraudulent and refusing to accept the results.
          I hope that the Democratic party, the ACLU, etc are making plans to deal with these possibilities.

          • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/10/2020 - 09:47 am.

            Interesting reports that Trump and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff MIlley got into a shouting match over troop deployments and Trump wanted to fire Esper on the spot too when he went against Trump.

            I would like to think our democratic traditions are strong enough that if Trump were to try cancel or invalidate an election it would not stand.

            Of course it would be most interesting to hear the opinion of our conservative friends here if he attempted to cancel or invalidate the next election.

            Imagine if Obama assembled a mystery police force under the control of Eric Holder and used that force to clear out a crowd of peaceful protesters expressing their First Amendment rights to enable a photo op.

            The depth of rationalization would be interesting to hear…

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/10/2020 - 07:25 am.

        I think that, at the end of the day, Trump is too much of a coward not to surrender office if he is not re-elected. It’s the period between the election and the inauguration of his successor that is worrisome.

        BTW, if he is denied re-election, what are the odds he won’t show up on Inauguration Day 2021?

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/10/2020 - 09:11 pm.

          Unless he’s even more afraid of his legal liabilities when he is no longer protected by the office and the AG.

          • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/13/2020 - 12:54 pm.

            Vladimir has a home for Don Trump. Just like he dodged the draft to stay in this country, he’ll dodge prosecution by leaving the country.

      • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/10/2020 - 08:40 am.

        Well, I should think that four more years of the Anti-Prez Trump would be much worse than 3 months of lame duck Trump, however he and his followers decide to act out. It is true, of course, that he could simply start an unannounced nuclear war to cement his (infamous) place in history, but that can be said of him on any day of his (imagined) second term as well.

        Trump’s (and McConnell’s) refusal to relinquish executive power simply would make clear to the lowest grade moron that the “conservative” movement “governs” through democratic illegitimacy. Opposition to Duce Trump would have every possible argument on its side. And should Trumpolini succeed, then the (failed) nation clearly would know where it stands….

      • Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/10/2020 - 09:25 am.

        Like I said, I find hope in the recent collection of Trump criticism & pushback we’re seeing from current and former leaders of the pentagon.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/09/2020 - 08:10 pm.

      Don Trump, who dodged the draft by claiming he had bone spurs but cannot recall just which foot it was, had high marks for the economy all along. All that time, he never had net positive approval ratings.

      Given that, I doubt an improving economy will help him; it didn’t do much for while he was riding the coattails of the Obama Recovery. Hiding in the bunker just isn’t a good look for a strong man.

      • Submitted by Mike Chrun on 06/10/2020 - 09:08 am.

        Damn it, he wasn’t hiding, Frank. He was simply inspecting it.

        What’s that, AG Barr? He went down there because of the violent protesters that even unleashed, vicious dogs couldn’t have fended off? Never mind, Frank. Bunker Boy still showed great courage doing his Mussolini-like stroll flanked by almost shoulder to shoulder ominous military every step of the way. And let’s not forget he’s a man of faith as proven by holding up the book that seemed to befuddle him for a moment.

        It’s hopeful an anti-Trump might be building. It’s downright depressing, there still needs to be one with Trump’s clown show.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/10/2020 - 08:28 am.

      As preposterous as it may be, the ridiculous figure of Donald Trump successfully positioned himself as the figure of heroic White Nationalism in 2016, and he is now the primary symbol of that sentiment. His “message” was/is that the poor downtrodden whites have been screwed, screwed, screwed, and if they are smart they will refuse to take it any more. As Trump told them in 2016, this is their “last chance”. Further, the embattled (white male) Trump is being treated “unfairly!” at every turn, “treated worse than Lincoln!” (whatever that is supposed to mean to them). This makes their blood boil.

      The rest is all details, deployed as misleading talking points. As we have seen from the Trumpite messengers who take to this forum, the facts of not of much concern, nor is an “administration” of daily lies. Policy is largely irrelevant and hardly mentioned in corporate media horse race coverage.

      The election of 2020 will be possibly the most disgusting and nauseating one in the history of the republic. Also the most chaotic in modern times, by “conservative” design.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/10/2020 - 10:18 am.

    Once again, Democrats have turned out presidential election into an unpopularity contest that they hope to lose. This is no way to select a president. Although it’s difficult to imagine Trump winning, there are so many wild cards here ranging from messed up voting machines to turnout we should have a candidate that is running away with the election rather than trying to eek out marginal victory.

    Meanwhile, for some reason basic truths seem to elude monitors like Eric Black… common sense dictates that best way to drive Trump approval ratings down, is put someone on the stage that has much much higher approval ratings. Of course Biden isn’t driving Trump’s approval down since he’s barely has much higher ratings himself. The simple explanation for Trump stability in the polls is that no one more popular is at the table. Why? Because our status quo media and institutions have decided that “populism” is a bad thing. Whatever.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/10/2020 - 12:11 pm.

      “best way to drive Trump approval ratings down, is put someone on the stage that has much much higher approval ratings.”

      Yes, the only thing the Democrats could of done worse is nominate Sanders who polls at about 50% of Biden vs. Trump.

      20 Or so D candidates went in at the front end of this. Biden won. That means he had the highest approval.

      What should the path to a nomination be?

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/10/2020 - 12:28 pm.

      “Why? Because our status quo media and institutions have decided that “populism” is a bad thing. Whatever”

      Ahh, the old:

      “I’m smart enough to not be manipulated by the media, the rest of you dolts, not so much”

      The people decide, based on their needs and beliefs. And if I had to break it out, from Right to Left:

      5% Far right
      15% Tea party types
      25% Republicans
      10% True independents
      25% Democrats
      15% Populist progressives
      5% Far left

      And your position as a Populist Progressive is that the best way to grow your segment is to insult and ridicule Democrats at every opportunity.

      Yeah, that’ll work…

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/11/2020 - 11:11 am.

        Edward, thanks for the wonderful of circular reasoning that dominates the Democratic mentality. You have reproduced the very same argument that put HRC on the ballot in 2016, alas once again we have to remind you that Trump won that election. It remains a mystery why Democrats think they can run the same campaign and win… aside from the perverse impulse to prove they CAN nominate lousy candidates and win elections with awful campaigns. Having put the first Fascist in the White House with this strategy you would think that Democrats would be reluctant to gamble again, but here we are.

        Yes, Biden won the primary, but all that tells us is that the Democratic Party is incapable of putting a popular candidate on the ballot. I don’t why we keep having to explain this?

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/12/2020 - 08:15 am.

          Because you have yet to explain your preferred path to selecting a candidate. It’s obviously not a popular vote.

          At one point, Sanders and Warren we’re running 1, 2 and their in tolerance for one another prevented any kind of siege the moment and nominate a progressive.

          Looking for who to blame for not nominating a candidate of your progressive liking?

          Look in the mirror: You failed to turn out the vote and the two progressive candidates preferred Biden over each other.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/13/2020 - 09:50 am.

            Edward, the only one talking about Sanders or Warren here is YOU. Again this circular reasoning that Biden is the best candidate because Biden is YOUR candidate simply ignores the fact that Biden is a struggling candidate with a serious approval problem. Biden is your candidate, why are you talking about Sanders and Warren? This is exactly how lost in 2016, you failed to nominate a candidate you can talk about.

            And I must point out yet again, it’s interesting how these “centrist/moderates” who claim to be the champions of unity who will bring the left and the right together… always opt for attacking everyone else around them. We can only hope that they manage to win this election despite themselves.

            • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/14/2020 - 07:41 pm.

              As you said:

              “Yes, Biden won the primary, but all that tells us is that the Democratic Party is incapable of putting a popular candidate on the ballot. I don’t why we keep having to explain this?”

              Popular or not, Warren was my candidate and first choice.

              When she lost any path to the nomination I did support Biden, mostly because it was a foregone conclusion by then.

              It is clear you are desperately pulling for a Trump win because being able to say:

              “I told you so…”

              Would be so fulfilling to you that it overrides any damage Trump term 2 would do to the nation.

              Like I said, Warren was my candidate. She did not win the nominating process and I am optimistic that Biden will win and will do a fine job.

            • Submitted by James Sandberg on 06/15/2020 - 07:50 am.

              It looks more like Trump is the one struggling. To Walk, to take a Drink, and surely to speak coherently.

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/10/2020 - 01:58 pm.

      Hmm. I thought the best way to elect a President, or any public official, was to nominate the person who was best to do the job. I supported Bernie Sanders because I thought he was and still is the best candidate for the job. Elizabeth Warren would be another. I don’t think Joe Biden is the best person for the job but I accept and respect others’ views on this point.

      Perhaps the best person to be nominated would be who best fit the model of Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” If so, then I think we already have our man for the job already in the White House. How can we top that?

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