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Monday, July 13, 2020
Texas Is Officially A Battleground State
Gen. George Patton famously told his soldiers in World War II, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” A corollary for presidential elections might be “The object of elections is not to fight on home turf but to carry the fight the fight to the other guy’s base.” In the election of 2020, Joe Biden seems to be having all the success at turning Trump states into battlegrounds. The latest polling shows that even Texas is in danger of turning blue.
Both new polls were released Sunday and both should send shivers up the spines of Republicans. The good news for Republicans is that a CBS/YouGov poll shows the president with a bare, one-point lead in the Lone Star State. The bad news is that a Dallas Morning News poll shows Biden with a five-point lead, which is outside the margin of error.
Bad polling for the president always brings out the people who rhetorically ask, “What about the polling in 2016?” so I’ll acknowledge that polls are imperfect snapshots of a point in time. They are not predictive, but they do show trends, especially if you follow the polling average over time. Incidentally, the Real Clear Politics polling average for Texas shows that Biden and Trump are tied. That’s bad news for Republicans any way you slice it.
The details of both polls are public which allows us to tinker under the hood to find out what the problem(s) is (are) for Team Trump. I’m going to concentrate on the Dallas Morning News poll, which has a larger sample size and is made up of likely voters instead of the registered voters sampled by CBS. These factors imply that it is a better sample.
The first sign of a problem is that Trump’s approval is underwater. Texans disapprove of the president’s job performance by a 50-44 margin. This is despite the fact that the state’s governor and lieutenant governor have positive net approvals. Gov. Abbott’s numbers are 49 percent favorable to 40 percent unfavorable. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is less popular but still positive with 40 percent favorable and 38 unfavorable.
Trump also fares worse than Sen. John Cornyn, who is up for re-election. Cornyn, the incumbent Republican, outpolls his probable Democratic challenger, M.J. Hegar, 42-29 percent.
Clearly, the problem is with Donald Trump rather than the Republican Party as a whole. But what is the specific problem?
We have a YUGE clue in the fact that Texas voters disapprove of Mr. Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic by 51-41 percent. Another shocker is that 43 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a higher favorability than for either the Tea Party or the NRA, both of which scored 35 percent favorable. In Texas.
Further, 37 percent of the likely voters say that the federal government’s response to Coronavirus and the protests has influenced their vote for president. It’s a fair assumption that most of these voters moved away from Trump.
Lest you think that the poll was confined to progressive neighborhoods of Austin, only 15 percent favored socialism while 51 percent disapproved.
Demographic data shows that the poll’s sample looks like Texas. Racially, it was 61 percent white, 20 percent Hispanic, and 14 percent black. Ideologically the group was 51 percent conservative, 26 percent moderate, and 31 percent liberal. Forty-two percent were Republican, 39 percent Democrat, and 19 percent were neither. Most of these categories are very close to 2016 exit polling. The exception is an increase in Democrats which could easily be explained by moderates aligning with the Democratic Party over the past four years.
The CBS poll adds some additional data to our troubleshooting. By almost a two-to-one margin (63-37 percent), voters dislike how Trump handles himself personally while Biden breaks almost even on the question (48-52 percent).
Seventy-three percent said that things in the country were going badly versus 27 percent who thought they were going well. Among those who were unhappy with the direction of the country, 49 percent said that the most important way to address the problems were to have “competent leadership that manages crises.”
Again, the pandemic raises the largest red flags. Seventy-seven percent consider it a crisis or serious problem and 61 percent say that handling of the outbreak is going badly for Texas. Another 61 percent say that they state moved too quickly in reopening and most (63 percent) say it was because of pressure from the Trump Administration.
Slightly more think that Donald Trump’s economic policies are helping than hurting the country (47-42 percent). Voters were evenly split on Trump’s handling of the protests with rough thirds saying that they were more likely to vote for him (30 percent), less likely (33 percent), and no difference (37 percent). Slightly more voters turned against Biden over the protests than turned towards him (32-27 percent).
There are many warning signs for the Trump campaign but none is flashing more vibrantly than the possibility that Texas could go blue. The factor most pushing Texas voters towards Joe Biden is Donald Trump’s poor handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.
If the Trump Administration wants to have any hope of salvaging the election, they need to reverse course and acknowledge the severity of the pandemic. Pretending that the virus isn’t serious and pushing the nation to reopen is not making the concerns of most voters go away. The only way to resolve the crisis favorably is to rise to the occasion, tell people the truth (which they already know), and lead them in the mitigation strategies that will bring the virus under control.