The odds now favor a Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden general election, the match-up many voters have long dreaded. Even with Nikki Haley continuing her spirited campaign, and many Democrats still hoping Biden bows out, the final field is rapidly taking form.
Add up everything – polls, issues, and public perceptions that Biden is too old – and the Democratic president is clearly in deep trouble. Trump leads him in most national and swing state polls. Only 34% of voters in the recent CNN survey believe Biden “deserves reelection,” while 66% say he doesn’t.
Another drag on the Democratic ticket is Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, who has a dismal positive rating of 28%.
On policy issues, according to the latest NBC News poll, Trump beats Biden on “securing the border and controlling immigration” by a towering 35 points. It’s a wonder that Democrats, who’ve had the White House for three years, have allowed this issue to spin so far out of control. It’s yet to be seen if Republican maneuvering over recent border legislation, nakedly partisan as it was, changes the dynamic.
Trump also wins on “dealing with the economy” by 22 points, a wide gap given recently improved economic data. On being “competent and effective,” Trump leads Biden by 21 points, a change from four years ago when competence was viewed as a Biden strength.
On “improving America’s standing in the world,” an increasingly vital concern given current wars, Trump leads by 11 points. Biden, however, wins on “protecting democracy,” but by only 2 points, a thin edge considering that Democrats have made this topic a centerpiece of their campaign.
Biden’s best issue is abortion, which he wins by 12 points over Trump – a big enough margin to make a difference. But can Democrats hold the White House and Congress on the basis of abortion policy alone?
What does all this mean? Is Trump headed back to the White House? Not necessarily. Trump is burdened with his own high negatives; don’t forget that he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million in 2016 and by 7 million in 2020.
Most importantly, remember that Trump is strapped to a railroad track awaiting a freight train labeled “91 Felony Counts” coming toward him. He may be able to free himself in time, but then again, he may not.
Nine months remain before the November election, so it’s possible that at least one of Trump’s criminal trials will be completed by then. If Trump is found guilty, millions of undecided voters will ask themselves: Can I vote for a convicted felon to be President of the United States?
The recent Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll of seven critical swing states shows Trump receiving 48% of the combined vote and Biden getting 42%. The survey also finds that if Trump is convicted of a crime, 18% of his own voters in these key states would be unwilling, very or somewhat, to stick with him. That may seem like a small number, but in electoral terms, it could be decisive: If Trump loses 18% of his current vote in swing states, he drops from 48% to a little over 39% – a number low enough for Biden, at 42%, to overtake him.
You ask: If Trump loses votes based on a guilty verdict, where would these voters go? Biden wouldn’t get many, if any. A portion could stay home and not vote, which hurts Republican candidates down ballot.
The biggest chunk of disaffected Trump voters would likely move to independent candidate Robert Kennedy Jr., who Republicans regard favorably and widely view as a protest vehicle. Bloomberg/Morning Consult polling finds that 50% of Trump’s current supporters in key states have positive feelings toward Kennedy, with far fewer holding negative views.
This scenario, far from certain but still possible, would give Kennedy a chance to run up his vote total higher than current polls indicate. But as long as the race is seen as a competitive Trump-Biden contest, any Trump losses ultimately help Biden win.
Who would have thought a president’s best chance for reelection would come from the votes of a jury?