Poll of the week: A new Fox News poll from Michigan finds former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump by a 49% to 41% margin. Other Fox News polls from Florida and Pennsylvania also showed Biden clearly ahead.
In all three cases, Biden’s doing better than he is in the long-term polling average in those states.
What’s the point: A lot of Democrats have been hankering for Biden to try and get out to be more part of the daily media conversation. The latest numbers suggest that these voices are likely wrong. Biden’s proving that the less media he receives, the better it is for his electoral prospects.
Over the last month and a half, Trump has had the political spotlight shone on him. He’s had daily press conferences that the media has extensively covered. Meanwhile, Biden’s struggling to attract much of an audience as he is stuck at home.
You can see this really well in media mentions in the top paragraph of stories, as measured by NewsLibrary.com. Four years ago from March 20 to April 20, Trump had about 65% of the mentions between Hillary Clinton and him. This year during the same period, Trump’s gotten about 90% of the coverage dedicated to Biden or him. That is, Biden’s turned a 2:1 disadvantage into a 9:1 disadvantage.
You would think that this would be a disaster for Biden. It’s not happening.
These swing state polls suggest that Biden is in an improved position in the swing states than he was before the coronavirus pandemic took hold. They echo presidential approval rating polls, which show that Trump lost the ground he initially picked up as the crisis has gone on. As I noted last week, Trump had the shortest rally around the flag event in modern presidential history.
In this way, 2020 is looking a lot like the 2016 election.
Trump likely would have lost the 2016 election had the news focus been on him only. A study of news coverage of that election found that Trump’s poll numbers were negatively correlated with how much news he received. Fortunately for him, the final days of the campaign were spent discussing the former director of Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey’s letter. A higher share of Hillary Clinton’s coverage in that final week was spent on her alleged scandals than at any other point in the late summer or fall.
This is very different from what happened during the 2016 GOP primary. Trump won that at least in part because of all the media he received.
The 2020 general election though won’t be determined by the Republican base that loves Trump, however. It will be determined by all voters. Over the last three years, Trump’s never once had a positive net approval or net favorability rating among the general electorate.
A 2020 election about Trump is likely an election Biden wins. We saw it in the 2018 midterms when feelings about Trump correlated extremely well with Democrats taking back the House.
Unless something changes dramatically, Biden is likely only to lose if the media attention comes back to him. Trump better hope that Biden starts getting some of the limelight. That won’t guarantee a Biden loss, but it’d give Trump a shot.