With less than a month before the November election, President Donald Trump has hit a new low: He now trails former Vice President Joe Biden by his largest margin (16 points) of any CNN poll conducted in this entire election.
Which, if you are the President or his supporters, is bad! Like, really bad! But it’s actually not the worst news in the latest CNN/SSRS poll.
That honor goes to this: 9 in 10 likely voters (90%) in the CNN poll say that their minds are made up when it comes to which candidate they will be voting for this fall. A meager 8% of those likely voters said they might change their mind while 1% (who are these people???) said they had no preference between the candidates as of yet.
What that number makes clear is that there just aren’t all that many persuadable voters out there. Which makes sense. Trump has been the most polarizing president in American history – essentially driving weak partisans and people who thought of themselves as independents into the Republican or Democrat camps. (According to Gallup, 89% of Republicans approved of the job Trump did in his third year in office while just 7% of Democrats felt the same – an 82-point delta.)
At issue for Trump then is not just that he is losing to Biden by double digits nationally and is behind or, at best, tied in virtually every swing state. It’s that there just aren’t many people who haven’t already decided who to vote for or even see themselves as potentially open to changing their opinion. The die appears to be cast.
Consider the CNN numbers again. Less than 1 in 10 likely voters say that they might change their minds on a candidate between now and when they vote. Might doesn’t mean “will.” And all 8% of those voters open to persuasion are not currently voting for Biden! There are plenty of people who say they may change their minds who are for Trump right now. In fact, 10% of Trump supporters said they might change their mind on a candidate as compared to 8% of Biden supporters, according to the CNN data.
It’s also worth noting here that nothing that has happened over the past year has fundamentally altered the dynamic of this race. Yes, Trump’s struggles to effectively deal with the coronavirus and his tin-eared response to the protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota in May caused his numbers to dip. And yes, his numbers recovered somewhat over the summer. And yes again, his numbers have dropped in the wake of a disastrous debate performance last week.
But the truth is that these MASSIVE events have only effected the race at the margins. Biden has, for much of the past few months, held a high single-digit/low double-digit lead over Trump nationally. A strong majority of Americans both disapprove of Trump’s job performance and, specifically, how he has handled the Covid-19 crisis. (In the latest CNN poll, 59% said they trusted Biden more to handle the coronavirus pandemic while 38% named Trump.)
The truth of the matter is that this race hasn’t been all that close for a very long time. And Trump’s path to an upset victory – as he scored in 2016 – is very narrow simply because there are just not that many people who are even open to his closing message – whatever that is.
To pull off a win – or to even get within striking distance – Trump needs to execute a two-step process: 1) Peel voters away from their certainty of voting for Biden and then 2) Convince them to vote for him.
Is it possible? Trump proved almost anything is possible four years ago. But 2020 is not 2016. And the lack of undecided and persuadable voters is a massive impediment to a Trump comeback.