Trump vs. Biden: President trails by double-digits in 6 key states despite big lead on economy

By Griffin Connolly

It’s not the economy anymore, stupid.

If it were, Donald Trump would be a lot closer in the polls to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

But he’s not.

Mr Biden was leading the incumbent president in six battleground states — Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and North Carolina — and had a double-digit advantage in half of those, a new set of Siena College polls of registered voters in each state found.

That’s despite more than half of those surveyed in each state saying they trust Mr Trump more than they trust Mr Biden on the economy.

It’s his only potential saving grace, and it’s what GOP insiders in Washington are hanging their hats on as the presidential campaign trundles towards November.

But on virtually every other issue except the oddly ambiguous cross-tab for “China,” Mr Biden wiped the floor with the president’s undone red tie, the Siena polls found — from coronavirus, health care, and immigration to the handling of protests against police brutality, race relations, and unifying America.

Only Florida broke for Mr Trump over Mr Biden on coronavirus.

“These six key states may decide the election in November. Right now, Biden is ahead in each. But which issue will be most important when voters make their decision? Right now, if it is the economy, voters lean towards re-electing the President. But if voters decide on virtually any other issue, Biden stands to benefit,” said Siena College Research Institute Director Don Levy.

Based on whom voters have said they would choose today, they seem to be prioritising the whole body of issues, not just the economy.

Nationally, Mr Biden led Mr Trump by 14 points, 50 per cent to 36 per cent, Siena found, well outside the survey’s margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

And while Mr Trump sought to cast doubt on the “phony Fake Suppression Polls” on Thursday, Siena’s polling operation has an “A+” rating from FiveThirtyEight’s Pollster Ratings database and historically skews slightly towards Republican candidates.

The results of the individual state and national polls from Siena aren’t a revelation.

They’re consistent with surveys from earlier this month by Fox News and CNN, two highly reputable polling outfits despite the perceived ideological slants of their news coverage.

And Mr Biden has won all 11 major national polls in June, with an average gap of 10 percentage points, per RealClearPolitics.

The new political reality in America is that the electorate — even the white electorate — is not singularly obsessed with the thickness of its wallet.

Just look at what happened in the 2018 midterm elections, when the Trump macroeconomy was still humming along.

Democrats razed longtime Republican strongholds in the suburbs of California, Virginia, Illinois, and elsewhere, with the GOP’s handling of health care and its lack of oversight on the Trump administration’s myriad corruption allegations being two of the defining issues in many of those races.

Midterm elections historically skew away from the incumbent president, of course, but the “Blue Wave” was real: Democrats now control 31 House seats in districts that broke for Mr Trump in 2016 and will have to fend off Republican attempts to claw them back to keep their majority.

'Long way to go'

To be clear, the president is not dead in the water. It’s June. Over four long months remain until Election Day on 3 November.

As one Washington Republican insider told a colleague at The Independent earlier this week, “there's a long, long way to go before the finish line.”

But other GOP operatives have told The Independent that anecdotal evidence from focus groups with crucial swing voters in states like Arizona and Pennsylvania support recent polling there showing Mr Biden with a distinct edge.

Those voters, many of whom cast ballots for Mr Trump in 2016, expressed grave concerns about the president’s leadership during the coronavirus crisis before they even mentioned anything about the economy, health care, or other mainstay political issues.

Those anecdotal accounts track with Siena’s polling, which found that registered voters in each of the six states overwhelmingly believe “the federal government’s priority should be to limit the spread of the coronavirus, even if it hurts the economy.”

And despite Mr Trump’s predictions that Covid-19, which has killed more than 120,000 Americans and infected more than 2m, would just “fade away,” other US health officials have warned the virus will be with us for some time yet.

“The virus is not going to disappear,” Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious disease expert, told Congress earlier this week, citing a “disturbing surge” of new cases in many parts of the country including Florida, Texas, and Arizona as evidence that Americans must continue taking the virus seriously.

As long as coronavirus remains in the headlines, so will Mr Trump’s handling of it.

And if the last few months of polling are any indication, that does not bode well for the president’s campaign.

(The Siena polls were conducted from 8 to 16 June via telephone calls in English and Spanish to 3,870 registered voters across six states. Each state’s margin of error ranged from +/- 4.1 per cent to +/- 4.6 per cent.)