Wednesday, June 26, 2024

The presidential race may have turned a corner


It is premature to say that the presidential race is over, but there was a major milestone recently as Joe Biden took the lead in the FiveThirtyEight polling average for the first time. The shift comes as Biden closed the gap after Trump’s first felony conviction in late May. FiveThirtyEight’s election model was unveiled a few weeks ago and, taking other electoral indicators into account in addition to polling, the model gave Biden a slightly greater chance of victory even with tighter polls. As I write this, the model still shows a tossup with Biden having slightly better odds.

The Real Clear Politics average, which is typically more friendly to Trump, also shows a tight race. The RCP average showed a decline for both Trump and Biden in early June and currently stands at Trump +1.

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It took some time for the effect of Trump’s conviction to trickle into polling, but it now seems that Trump’s legal woes were not baked into the cake. They were also not, as many Trump supporters claimed, a boon to Trump’s campaign. (The next time the pro-Trump pundits determine anything will be bad for Trump will be the first.)

Veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove agreed on Fox News, saying, “There’s been a trend since the… May 30th guilty verdict in the New York case” away from Trump and toward Biden.

The shift extends beyond popular vote polls to the Electoral College, because my readers are all aware that the national popular vote is meaningless. The FiveThirtyEight model currently predicts a 272-266 victory for Biden.

Where Trump led in the swing states a month ago, the race has tightened in the battleground states as well. The swing states, as you would expect, are very close and mostly rated as tossups, but there has been movement from a month ago when Trump was on top in almost every battleground. FiveThirtyEight ranks the closest states (in order) as Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina. At this point, the forecast is for Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan to go blue, which would yield 270 electoral votes for Biden, but these states are all tossups with predicted margins of less than three percent.

Republicans may cry foul that Trump’s decline is tied to his conviction. The rub is that Republicans knew that one or more felony convictions were likely when they voted for Trump in the primaries. The Former Guy was indicted in four separate cases before the primary season began. Convictions were a risk that they took. Republican voters might not have emotionally accepted this risk, but they knew about it.

There are also a couple of additional factors to consider. One is that Trump and MAGA tend to underperform their polling. Politico pointed out in March that polling error in the primaries may not translate into polling error in November, but it is a data point to consider.

And then there’s Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the third-party candidate. Currently, RFKJR is polling at about eight percent and is drawing from both Trump and Biden. I’ll eat my hat if he gets eight percent in the general election, but the question is who his candidacy will hurt more.

Trump supporters seem to realize that their candidate is in trouble. I’m seeing an increasing number of allegations that Democrats are registering illegal immigrants as voters or up to other shenanigans.

As David Limbaugh posted on the platform formerly known as Twitter, “While many stay tunnel-focused on the polls, which are mostly encouraging, I can't quit thinking about reports that Dems are registering illegals among other sorts of chicanery.”

Of course, evidence in the “reports” cited by Limbaugh is sketchy if it exists at all. A report by the Washington Times found 99 ballots cast by illegals since 1996, about a third of whom registered as Republicans. These illegal voters should be prosecuted, but the evidence falls far short of evidence of massive fraud and would be unlikely to have influenced the outcome of even one local election.

It seems more likely that what we are seeing is the same preemptive excuse-making that we saw in 2020. That year, Republicans laid the groundwork for Trump’s false claims of a stolen election long before the ballots were counted. For that matter, Trump also made claims of election fraud in 2012 and 2016. In this area, he’s consistent if nothing else.

In the past, these conspiratorial fantasies have hurt Trump and other MAGA candidates with moderate voters. It may be that as Republicans turn up the crazy, they scare more and more voters away.

As I said earlier, this year’s election is far from over, but the polls do show a tightening and a shift towards Joe Biden. Longtime readers will remember that one of the basics of reading polls is to look for trends rather than focusing on topline numbers. It will take time to see if this trend persists.

Given the state of the race, this week’s debate [see “Will Trump debate]” is taking on a larger-than-normal importance. And in this case, Republicans are also taking steps to explain away a disappointing performance by their candidate. From attacking CNN and the moderators to alleging that President Biden will use drugs such as cocaine or steroids to enhance his debate performance, the Trump campaign seems to be working to lower expectations for a Trump victory and pump up President Biden in the dustup in Atlanta.

I’ve been predicting that voters would come back to Biden for a long time. As I’ve said over and over, when Americans take a close look at Trump, they don’t like what they see. Four months prior to the election, they may also finally be listening to what Trump is saying, which ranges from frightening threats of revenge to promises to expand the police state to hunt down illegals to rants about sharks and batteries on boats.

For many, if not most Americans, the upcoming election is a choice between a rock and a hard place. Or rather, as The Former Guy might say, between a shark and a battery.

My bet is that America will choose to avoid the shark.

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TRUMP BACKS OFF ON GREEN CARD PLAN: Donald Trump recently floated a plan in which foreign graduates of American colleges would “automatically as part of your diploma [receive] a green card to be able to stay in this country.”

While I applaud the effort to keep people who are educated at American colleges from working for our competition, I do think vetting is needed rather than stapling a greed card to a diploma. But don’t worry, if this concerns you, the plan is already DOA. Fox News reported the same day that the Trump campaign was walking back the comments.

There are certain places that Republican voters won’t follow Trump, and liberalizing immigration policy after years of demonizing immigrants is one of them. Today’s Republican Party has no appetite for increasing immigration, legal or not. That’s only one of the many signs that the current GOP is not the same party that it used to be.

WHAT I’M READING: One of my favorite movies as a kid was “The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang.” Over the past 40 years, my memory got fuzzy on the details of the shootout in Coffeyville, Kansas, and the movie doesn’t run much anymore. For these and other reasons I was excited to see Tom Clavin’s new book, “The Last Outlaws: The Desperate Final Days of the Dalton Gang.”

The title doesn’t give the book enough credit because Clavin details the rise and fall of the Daltons. The attempted double bank robbery in Coffeyville is only the meat in a Doolin-Dalton sandwich that leaves the reader amazed, amused, and in wonder at these last outlaw battles of the Old West. The journey of the Dalton gang is a fascinating journey from their beginning as lawmen to motion picture actors and advisors. Seriously!

It’s a very readable and enjoyable history book that keeps the pages turning. It also took me back to reexamine The Eagles’ second album, “Desperado” (1973), which was pretty Dalton-centered in retrospect. The song, “Doolin Dalton,” pretty obviously centers on the gang, but much of the rest of the album is an homage to the outlaws as well. That includes the Eagles staple, “Desperado.”

Now, I need to find the movie.

From the Racket News

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