President Trump’s reelection odds & the state of the Presidential race
Bottom Line: Coming into the Presidential Election cycle the odds were on the side of Donald Trump winning reelection. Why?
- 65% of Presidents who run for reelection win
There is a clear incumbency advantage. There are other numbers that come into play, based on a president’s approval ratings as we close in on Election Day. A Presidential reelection bid is first and foremost a referendum on the incumbent President. History has shown that if people are generally satisfied with the performance of the President – they'll vote to stay with him. That necessarily makes the relevance of the challenger a secondary consideration. In this story I've taken the historical approval ratings of incumbent presidents running for reelection and tracked the outcomes of those elections. In so doing I’m able to project historical reelection odds for President Trump based on his current ratings.
Here’s where we stand as of today:
- 48% based on a 46% average approval rating across all samples (flat)
- 48% based on a 46% average approval rating with likely voters (flat)
We saw a second consecutive week of narrowing regarding the approval polling this week. The lowest presidential approval poll has President Trump at 44% this week, while the highest has him at 49%. That range, regardless of sample, is the smallest of the Trump Presidency yet. This demonstrates a high-level of engagement in the election process as we’re heading down the homestretch of the Presidential race. The average, at 46% this week, is just below the ideal pacing for President Trump. A key number to watch as we advance towards Election Day is 47%. Most incumbents with at least a 47% approval rating win reelection. Sitting just below that level leaves the President as a slight underdog if the election were held today. This is reflected in the betting odds as Biden is now being priced with a 60% chance of winning this week.
That takes us to this week’s takeaways.
For Biden: Last week I cited his key as the debate. He had the most to gain and the most to lose in the debate. There aren’t many undecided voters left (around 5%). One of the reasons cited by some undecided voters, remaining undecided, pertained to concerns regarding Biden’s ability to do the job. Going toe to toe with President Trump for an hour and a half, regardless of how ugly it may have been, was perhaps enough for those specific holdouts. The next maneuver for Biden should be to attempt to assemble a credible economic plan. Trump’s best performing issue is the economy and Biden hasn’t done himself any favors by not articulating anything other than platitudes. When you hear Biden is frequently underperforming typical Democrat candidates with minority voters – the economy is the predominate reason.
For Trump: President Trump’s best work at this point can likely be done with the day job. The economy is the most important issue by a 2-1 margin among voters currently. It’s President Trump’s strength and he should play to it. Focusing on advancing policy which can augment the recovery, even at this late stage in the cycle, could potentially be effective. Biden represents an economic unknown to most swing voters and the average American’s quality of life and personal prosperity had never been higher than prior to the pandemic. Illustrating that we’re picking up where we left off in addition to saying that we will is the single strongest hand he can play.
To be continued...