Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden’s growing electoral support against an incumbent President is unprecedented since Presidential polls began tracking public opinion in 1936. The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Sunday reported Biden leading Trump by a 55% to 43% margin among likely voters. It is the third high quality, national poll published this week that reported Biden ahead by at least 10 points and above 50% among all likely voters. The other two opinion polls were commissioned by CNN/SSRS and Fox News. Indeed, the average of these polls has Biden at 52% or 53% and up by 10 or 11 points. This is an unprecedented position for a challenger with only three weeks before Election Day.
Only five Presidential challengers have led with one month left in the Presidential Election campaign since 1936. This includes 21 Presidential Elections. Of those five challengers, only one (Bill Clinton in 1992) was ahead by more than 5 points. None of those five Presidential candidates received more than 48% of the total vote in these opinion polls. In fact, Biden is the first challenger to be above 50% this late in the campaign. This is a major improvement over the Democratic candidate that ran against Donald Trump. In October 2016, Hillary Clinton peaked at 7% points more than Trump but she never came close to approaching 50% of the total vote. As a result, Trump simply had to win most of the undecided or third party voters in a hand full of "swing" states to earn victory in 2016. This reflected the general lack of voter enthusiasm for both candidates as well as the carefully manicured brand image of Trump as an astute businessman. Fast forward four years. Today, if EVERY undecided or current third party voter cast their ballots for Trump, he would still receive about 5 to 6 points fewer than Biden in the total "popular" vote. This is the first time ever that a Presidential challenger has had such a large lead against an incumbent at this point of the campaign since opinion polls were conducted in 1936.
Of course, it’s the US Electoral College that matters. With a total of 120 million votes cast, Hillary Clinton won the “popular” vote in 2016 with nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump: 48% to 47%. But, she lost the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227. The difference was the traditional Democratic “swing” states that she lost by less than 1% of the votes. For example, the traditional “Blue” states of Michigan (11 Electoral Votes), Wisconsin (10 Electoral Votes), and Pennsylvania (20 Electoral Votes) awarded all of their total 41 Electoral Votes to Donald Trump even though he received a total of only 107,000 more votes than Clinton in these three states; Third Party candidates account for the remaining votes.
Today, Biden is ahead in current opinion polls in all battleground states except for Georgia where he currently trails by less than 2% points. For Donald Trump, with only three weeks remaining before November 3rd Election, the possibility of his re-election depends on huge voter turnout from his core base, low voter turnout from Biden’s multicultural coalition, and effective voter suppression campaigns in the key “swing” states.