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LUNCHTIME POLITICS: Friday Special – Analysis: Trump Faces Referendum – Kentucky, Colorado, NY 16 Primaries

Your Daily Polling Update for Friday, June 19

TRUMP JOB APPROVAL: AVERAGE 42%

Same as yesterday

RON’S COMMENT: Today’s average is based on six polls, ranging from 39% (Reuters) to 47% (Rasmussen). Without these extremes it would still be 42%…. Trump’s disapproval rating averages 56% today (same as yesterday), which is 14 points higher than his approval rating…. See the trend in Trump’s job approval average since the beginning of 2020 at approval trend.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Among voters nationwide

NATIONWIDE
(Quinnipiac) Biden over Trump: +8 (49-41)
(Fox News) Biden over Trump: +12 (50-38).
Average of last four polls: Biden +9.8

RON’S COMMENT: Polls keep showing Biden well ahead nationally…. In the Quinnipiac poll:

  • Biden’s personal rating is 42% favorable/46% unfavorable.
  • Trump’s personal rating is 40% favorable/56% unfavorable.
  • On the pandemic, Trump’s rating is 42% approve/54% disapprove.
  • The poll shows Trump still does well in one area––his rating on the economy is 52% approve/45% disapprove.

SENATE ELECTIONS

Among voters statewide

KENTUCKY

Kentucky Democratic Primary
Charles Booker (D) over Amy McGrath (D): +8 (44-36-9)

RON’S COMMENT: McGrath had been viewed as the strong favorite for the Democratic Senate nomination and was the recipient of hefty national financial support as McConnell’s likely opponent. But lately, Booker has taken off. He’s picked up a number of local endorsements of late and has the backing of AOC and Bernie Sanders. Booker’s own polling shows him rising 32 points since January and McGrath plunging 16 points…. Today’s poll finds that Booker, a state legislator who is running to the left of McGrath, is leading primary voters who are men by 12, women by 6 and 18-34-year-olds by a whopping 48 points. The primary is June 23.

Kentucky General Election
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) over Amy McGrath (D): +20 (53-33-4)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) over Charles Booker (D): +14 (52-38-4)

RON’S COMMENT: Democrats think they have a chance to beat McConnell, but this poll shows that chance is a long shot. The Senate majority leader does best against McGrath, but also leads Booker by double digits. Handicappers rate the general election safe or likely Republican.

COLORADO

Colorado Democratic Primary
John Hickenlooper (D) over Andrew Romanoff (D): +12 (51-39-9)

RON’S COMMENT: Former governor and presidential hopeful Hickenlooper started the Senate race as the clear favorite to win the Democratic nomination, and he’s still favored. But––he’s had rocky times in recent weeks. He’s faced damaging allegations of unethical conduct and got himself into trouble on racial issues. Local operatives say Romanoff, a former state House speaker and U.S. Senate candidate who’s running to the left of Hickenlooper, has the momentum. This poll was taken for Romanoff’s campaign. National Democrats have been pumping money into the race to boost Hickenlooper. The primary is June 30 and the winner takes on GOP incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, who is deemed vulnerable.

HOUSE: NEW YORK 16

Among Democratic primary voters districtwide

Democratic Primary
Jamaal Bowman (D) over Rep. Eliot Engel (D): +10 (41-31)

RON’S COMMENT: Looks like longtime House incumbent Engel has an uphill primary battle. Middle school principal Jamaal Bowman, the candidate of the AOC-progressive left, leads this poll. Bowman posts a big advantage with women, voters under 45 years and African Americans. The district includes the northern Bronx and the southern half of Westchester County, covering the suburban towns of Yonkers, New Rochelle, Rye and Mount Vernon.

TRUMP FACES A REFERENDUM,
NOT AN ELECTION

By Ron Faucheux

Will Donald Trump be re-elected?

That question demands one of those complicated “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” answers that most people hate and pundits love. It’s why Harry Truman said he preferred one-armed economists––so there was no “other hand” to confuse things.

The better question is: Can Trump win an up or down referendum on himself with 46% of the vote?

That is a more precise way of framing the contest. Trump is an incumbent who has not grown his support base since his election, when he captured 46% of the vote. His base, while impenetrable, is not expanding. Over the past three years, his average job approval rating has mostly hovered between 42% and 46%. Recently, it’s slumped to the lower end (see today’s above).

Republican strategists point out that Trump usually does better than polls indicate––and they’re right. Pro-change voters broke for him in the last week of the 2016 election by a big margin. But, remember, the 46% he received on Election Day was, in fact, him doing better than the polls.

Looking to November––the average of the ten most recent national surveys puts Joe Biden ahead, 50% to 41%. If Trump gets 46% on Election Day, he’d again be doing better than the polls now indicate.

Trump’s supporters will logically ask: If 46% was enough to win with last time, why won’t it be enough this time? The answer is simple. In 2016, third-party candidates pocketed 6% of the vote and this year, for a variety of reasons, that vote may fall as low as 2% or 3%. If Trump’s base doesn’t grow, then its power will shrink as the anti-Trump vote coalesces around one opponent.

That’s why it’s essential for Democrats to keep the anti-Trump vote from splintering. When Trump beat Hillary Clinton in critical Michigan by only 10,704 votes, leftist third-party candidate Jill Stein syphoned off 51,463 votes. Had Stein not been in the race, it’s likely most of her votes would have gone to Clinton.

Keep in mind, today’s political dynamics differ from 2016.

Four years ago, America was in revolt on the right, left and middle. Tea Party conservatives opposed the Republican establishment, progressive activists opposed the Democratic establishment and independent-minded voters opposed all of it, angered by a witches’ brew of partisan hypocrisy, institutional corruption and government paralysis.

The last election was ripe for protest and third-party voting. But this year––all of the nation’s anger, fears, hopes and dreams center on re-electing or defeating one man. The 2020 election will be a referendum on Donald Trump––as is usually the case with incumbent presidents. Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter lost re-election, and Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan won re-election, because it was a referendum on them, not on their challengers.

How does all this translate into electoral votes?

As we know, Clinton led Trump 48% to 46% in the 2016 popular vote. Trump was able to survive that two-point deficit by narrowly carrying key swing states, which gave him all of their electoral votes. He won Michigan by two-tenths of a point, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by seven-tenths of a point and Florida by 1.2 points––and picked up 75 electoral votes, which put him over the top.

But can Trump’s narrow swing-state margins survive a wider national popular vote deficit?

For example––if Trump holds his 46% base and the third-party vote drops to 3%, that leaves 51% of the popular vote for Biden. Such a five-point Biden lead could overwhelm Trump’s vote in key states in ways that Clinton’s two-point nationwide lead couldn’t.

Between now and November, Trump’s campaign will try to expand its vote beyond 46% and, in the process, jack up Biden’s negatives. The Democrats’ dangerous swerve to the left has made that possible, they believe. They will also attempt to reframe the election as a choice between candidates, not as a referendum on the incumbent. But as long as the president’s negative ratings are so high­­––between 53% and 56%––dislodging the referendum dynamic will be difficult.

Joe Biden might as well change his name to “Joe Not Trump.” That’s how he needs voters to see him.

––A version of this column has been published by The Times-Picayune/Advocate papers here

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SOURCES
Presidential job rating average based on recent nationwide polls.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: Quinnipiac: June 11-15; Fox News, June 13-16
KENTUCKY: Civiqs/Data for Progress, June 13-15
COLORADO: Myers Research for Romanoff Campaign (D), June 16-17
NY-16: Data for Progress, June 11-15Subscription note: If you ever stop receiving Lunchtime Politics, check your spam or junk folders. Sometimes, for mysterious reasons, the newsletter may re-route to there. Please know that we will never take you off our subscriber list unless you ask us to do so.

Publication schedule: Lunchtime Politics will continue to publish Tuesdays and Thursdays, but will add special editions (such as today) when important new data becomes available. We will return to regular daily publication closer to the election. Thanks to all our readers and best of health, Ron

Lunchtime Politics is owned and published by Ron Faucheux, Chief Analyst at Certus Insights. For interviews or speeches about polling and political trends, contact Dr. Faucheux at rfaucheux@certusinsights.com.

The publisher of this report cannot attest to the reliability or methodology of surveys that it does not conduct.

Copyright 2020 Ronald A. Faucheux

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About Us
Ron Faucheux
rfaucheux@certusinsights.com

Dr. Faucheux is a nationally respected public opinion analyst with a unique background in public policy and legislative research, public communications and message strategies. He combines professional competence with pragmatic problem solving skills.