As we approach 60 days out from general Election Day on Nov. 3 and the traditional kickoff of the fall campaign on Labor Day, let us see where things stand.
First, as I suggested in my last column, I thought the RNC did little to help the main strategic imperative for President Donald Trump, which was to significantly raise his job ratings. Prior to both political party conventions, the president’s job approval stood at 42%. Today his job approval in an average of all polls stands at 43%. I mentioned recently that when I was chief strategist for President George W. Bush in 2004 our main goal during the convention was to move Bush’s job approval from a net negative score to a net positive one. We did that and it lasted until Election Day.
Second, when one looks at the national ballot position between former Vice President Joe Biden and Trump, it has not moved in any significant way in the last three months. Biden has maintained a 7/8 point lead over Trump and this is unchanged today. Remember in this time of polarization/division when there are so few undecided voters up for grabs that is a significant lead. In the last eight presidential contests the victory margin ranged from .5% to 8.5% with an average margin of 4.7% -- so being up by 7 or 8 is huge in this moment.
Third, Democrats continue to maintain a significant advantage on generic ballot numbers in Congressional races. Like Biden, they have maintained a 7 or 8 point generic ballot advantage for three months and this is unchanged as of today. In fact, Democrats at this moment are better positioned heading into the final 60 days than they were in 2018 when they won a historic ballot victory and took back the House of Representatives.
Fourth, many suggested that Trump’s messaging on the protests and police would hurt Biden and the Democrats. This has not happened in any objective way according to polling. In fact, Biden has come away with with the advantage on key issues in this moment of pandemic, protests and racial injustice. In the latest ABC News/Ipsos poll: Biden leads by broad margins on "keeping the country safe," "keeping me and my family safe," "handling the protests," "handling racial discrimination," "handling the response to the coronavirus," and "reducing violence in the country."
As I related in a previous column, this was one of the last opportunities for the Republicans and Trump of holding the stage to themselves for a number of days and changing the negative perceptions of the president and the GOP. And in any nonpartisan reading of the data, they didn’t succeed in altering the dynamic of this race. Unforeseen events may alter the landscape in ways we can’t predict, but the next real opportunities for a significant adjustment in this election battle are the presidential debates. As of today, Trump will desperately need those debates to gain ground against Biden.