Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Does Trump Have a Ceiling?

Warnings for Joe Biden are everywhere. There have been many reports about young voters as well as Black and Latino men becoming disaffected with Biden. There have been demonstrations against Biden's Middle East policies. The Siena College poll with Trump winning five of the top six swing states has been reported far and wide. Is it curtains for the President?

One consistent fact that has been largely overlooked is that Donald Trump has not improved on his 2020 showing at all. Just about everywhere, Trump is polling below what he achieved in 2020 and 2016. Here are the numbers:

Current polls for Trump vs. 2020 and 2016

Consider Arizona. The thin vertical red line at 49% shows what Trump got there in 2020. The thin vertical gray line shows what he got in 2016. Morning Consult and Emerson have Trump at 46% now—less than either 2020 or 2016. The Siena poll has him at 49%—the same as 2020. In Georgia, all three polls have Trump underperforming both 2020 and 2016. In Michigan, three of the four recent polls have him trailing what he got in 2020 and 2016. In fact, among all 18 polls Trump is beating his 2020 and 2016 performance in only one poll: Siena in Nevada.

So what is going on? Here are the analogous charts for Biden, with the thin vertical red line being Biden 2020 and the thin vertical gray line being Hillary Clinton 2016.

Current polls for Biden/Clinton vs. 2020 and 2016

Here's the answer: Biden is underperforming the Democratic candidate in both 2020 and 2016 in every poll everywhere, excepting that he managed to tie 2016 in one poll in Wisconsin. So what is happening is not that Trump is getting stronger. He seems to have a ceiling that he cannot break through. His upcoming trials may strengthen the resolve of his base but are unlikely to convince many independents to switch from Biden to Trump. Trump seems to have a ceiling of about 48-49% everywhere. Biden's ceiling seems to be 50-51%. According to the staff mathematician, 50 > 49.

The two charts make it easy to understand what is going on. Biden is losing part of his base, especially young voters, Black men, and Latinos. But they are not migrating to Trump. They might not vote or might vote for a third party. This shows that all is not hopeless for Biden. He needs to address the concerns of these voters. Inflation and grocery prices are a big issue with many of them, and the future of democracy is probably an issue as well.

There is a limited amount he can do about inflation, but he can certainly propose ideas, watch the Republicans kill them in Congress, and then campaign against the Republicans. During the pandemic, the government sent everybody a couple of checks. How about Biden asking Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to introduce a bill to send everybody who filed a tax return in 2022 and had an adjusted gross income under $100,000 a $500 inflation-compensation check? People who made $100,000 to $500,000 would get $200. Above that, nothing. IRS has that information in its computers. Maybe some hack could be worked out for people who didn't file at all in 2022 because they didn't make enough money.

Republicans would vote it down as "increasing the deficit." Fine. That vote (and abortion) could become the centerpieces of Biden's campaign. He could say: "I tried to help you but the Republicans killed my plan." In the (very unlikely) event that enough Republicans were on board to pass the bill, he would get the credit, not them. Just trying would be win-win. When voters asked him what he has done for them, he would be able to say: "I tried, but Republicans don't care about you" or talk about the checks if the bill passed. An alternative would be eliminating the federal gas tax until Jan. 1, 2025. Or maybe both. On Monday, we noted Larry Hogan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) tried stunts like this and they worked. Trump can bluster, but a president can use the power of incumbency to try to do popular things and then blame the other side when they balk. (V)

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