With just over three weeks to go until November 3, at a time when President Trump really needs to start making a move, Joe Biden’s national lead has moved into double digits in the two most prominent polling averages. It’s at 10 percent at Real Clear Politics (his biggest lead since June, and near his 2020 high of 10.2 percent) and at 10.6 percent at FiveThirtyEight (a 2020 high).
Hillary Clinton’s lead 22 days out in 2016 was at 6.5 percent. She was, at this point in the race, probably still benefitting from the fallout from the publication of the Access Hollywood tape and the ensuing widespread Republican disavowal of Donald Trump. In the end, she won the popular vote by 2.1 percent, so the pro-Trump swing between October 18 polling averages and the actual results was 4.4 percent.
There’s marginally better news for Trump in state polling, but in the RCP averages he trails by 7 percent in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and by 6.3 percent in Wisconsin. Biden has narrower leads in Nevada (5.2 percent), Florida (3.7 percent), Arizona and North Carolina (both 2.7 percent), Iowa (1.2 percent), and Ohio (0.6 percent). Trump leads Biden by just an eyelash in Georgia (0.4 percent).
It’s sometimes easy to forget how skewed this battleground map has become. Of the ten states above, Trump won nine (all but Nevada) in 2016. If you take them all off the table this year and follow the 2016 results otherwise, Biden leads Trump in the Electoral College by 226-191. The president has a lot of ground to make up in many states — and not much time to do so (and reportedly with quite a bit less money than his challenger).
The president’s situation is a lot like his party’s in the Senate, where Democrats don’t have a lock on a majority but have an awful lot of paths to securing one. It’s not easy to turn the situation into probabilities, but it’s significant that the (usually quite conservative) handicappers from the Cook Political Report are now predicting Democratic Senate gains ranging from two to seven seats. The financial advantage of Senate Democratic candidates is even larger than Biden’s over Trump.
It remains true that, in order to avoid a contested election, Biden and Senate Democrats really need the sort of broad-based victory that could put the results beyond doubt on Election Night. The odds of that happening keep inching ever upward.