Donald Trump’s political standing is the worst it has been in more than two years.
That statement is based more on his approval ratings than on his showing in various horse race polls against Joe Biden, but the two trends are not in conflict. Based on polls, Biden’s lead, nationally and in swing states, is growing. And Trump’s approval ratings are dropping.
I’ll deal briefly with the horse race polls for a couple of paragraphs, then get back to Trump’s underlying problem – namely that a large and growing majority of Americans don’t like how he does his job – after that.
The overwhelming majority of horse race polls show Biden leading Trump by a little less than 10 percentage points in the national popular vote, and a little more than 10 in a few such polls. Thanks to the great and glorious Electoral College system, the national numbers are relatively less important than the state of the race in 10 or so swing states, but those numbers also show Biden with a commanding lead in enough states to win an Electoral College majority.
Stuck on a few stratagems
The election is still a little more than three months away. That’s time enough for things to change. And Trump will try to change them, although he seems stuck on the same few stratagems – lying about how well his handling of the pandemic is going, lying about Biden’s positions and his record, and assigning Biden unflattering nicknames, although he seems pretty stuck on “Sleepy Joe.” On the other hand, Trump’s credibility among everyone but his base is so low that he’s having an increasingly hard time selling those adorable tricks to anyone outside of his own base.
We’ll see what kind of crazy manure his campaign finds or manufactures to throw against Biden in the late stages of the race, but for now every sane horse race handicapper knows that Biden is in the stronger position and even in a reasonable position to win an Electoral College landslide. Additionally challenging for Trump is that he lacks the credibility to sell the soap necessary to turn things around. Every time he opens his mouth, his credibility takes another hit among all but his base.
In short, this situation is not particularly about Joe Biden. It’s about Donald Trump, whose manifest failures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic have hurt him badly, but whose approval ratings have actually been way under water (meaning more disapprovers than approvers) pretty much throughout his term. But whatever he thinks he has been doing to improve that situation has only made it worse.
Worst position in more than a year
So the average of many approval polls, as maintained by the political-numbers-obsessed crew at FiveThirtyEight.com, shows Trump’s always-bad approval rating sinking to its worst position in more than a year, specifically since February of 2018.
As of Monday morning, that measure showed Trump with an average approval rating of 40.1, and an average disapproval of 55.8. This is not based on any one poll but on an average of many. That negative gap of 15.7 percentage points is what hit a 17-month high.
You may have seen some polls, and there are some, that show Trump under 40 percent approval. And, while I wouldn’t call them outliers — and they don’t differ by much from many of the others — 40.2 is the average, according to the people at 538, which is led by the famed political cruncher Nate Silver.
You have to give this to Trump: The 40 percent approval line has been an unbreakable barrier below which he hasn’t fallen since early 2018. Personally, I don’t get how he stays above 40 so reliably. But if he continues losing believers, he may dip below that floor of approvers, perhaps any day now.
Trump and his enablers will, of course, continue throwing dirt at Biden. The question at the moment is, with the credibility of the candidate and his enablers so damaged, who among the electorate, other than those 40 percent, is still listening with an open mind to his anti-Biden arguments and “facts.”
The 538 Trump approval tracker is viewable here. I’ll try not to write about this again unless or until Trump’s average approval number falls through the 40 percent floor or makes a substantial upward surge.
I wouldn’t blame the skeptical among you, especially the Trump admirers, for wanting to hear this stuff from a less anti-Trump witness than me. So here is the latest of the 100-days-before-Election-Day outlook pieces from CNN’s political numbers guy Chris Cillizza and another one from Vice.
There are many more, and they pretty much agree. Trump is in a deep hole of his own making, and still digging. He’s already assigned his silly nickname to his opponent (“Sleepy Joe”). He’s even been seen in public wearing a mask. What’s he got left, and who will believe him when they see or hear it?
I guess we’ll find out.