First things first: The theme song of the week is Will & Grace.
Poll of the week: A new Gallup national poll finds that President Donald Trump has a 49% approval rating and a disapproval rating of 48%. That’s very similar to its previous poll and marks the first time since January 2017 that Trump has a net (approval - disapproval) positive approval rating in the Gallup poll.
The average poll also shows that Trump is gaining ground nationally. He’s up to a 45% approval rating among voters, and his net approval rating has climbed to -6 points from -12 points on Election Day 2019.
What’s the point: The Democratic presidential primary is holding most of the attention in the electoral world right now. Democratic primary voters desperately want to beat Trump. The latest data shows, however, that defeating the President won’t be easy.
Trump’s approval rating is going up at the right time. As I noted at the end of last year, pre-election year approval ratings haven’t been all that predictive of a president’s reelection fate. They become much more predictive by March of the election year.
Presidents with approval ratings between roughly 46% and 54% at this point usually face close reelection battles. Presidents with approval ratings at 45% or below usually lose. If past history holds, Trump’s approval rating may continue to rise just enough to make him a favorite.
For now, Trump’s standing against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic front-runner, mirrors his approval ratings. Sanders holds about a 4-point lead in the average poll out this week. That is far from a dominant advantage and suggests Trump could win the popular vote.
For comparison, Trump is doing better against Sanders now than he was at any point in the 2016 general election polls once the primary season started.
Of course, the only thing that really matters in a presidential election is the electoral college. Even with a negative net approval rating, It’s not clear at this point that Trump would even lose.
Sanders did lead Trump in Quinnipiac University polls out this week from Michigan and Pennsylvania.
But even if you add both of those to the states Clinton won in 2016, it would still leave Trump at 270 electoral votes – the minimal number needed to win the electoral college.
The state that Trump won by the smallest margin in 2016 besides Michigan and Pennsylvania was Wisconsin. A new poll out this week from Quinnipiac University showed that Trump was beating all the Democrats in Wisconsin by 7 points or more. Trump’s approval rating was 51% in this poll of Wisconsin voters.
Now, the poll was definitely on the better end for Trump. Even so, the average poll this year from the Badger State has former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of Trump by 1 point, Sanders down by 1 point, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg down 3 points and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren down by 4 points. (None of the other Democrats were tested in enough polls to compute an average.)
The latest Marquette University Law School poll had Trump’s net approval rating (-1 points) in Wisconsin, and it was the first time in nearly three years his disapproval rating (49%) dropped below the 50% mark.
In other words, Wisconsin is no worse than a tossup for Trump.
If the Democrats don’t carry Wisconsin, they’ll need to carry another state Trump won in 2016 in addition to Michigan and Pennsylvania. That’s definitely possible. Arizona and Florida are two potential targets for them. Democrats did well in Arizona in the midterms. Still, it shows that the road for Democrats in 2020 won’t be easy.
Democrats better hope that they choose the most electable candidate (whomever that may be) in their primary. Because if they don’t, it could be the difference between barely beating Trump and barely losing to him in November.