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Trump Is Toast

Two new pieces of data are the final nails in the coffin.
October 22, 2020
(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A few hours ago I wrote a piece explaining in some detail why, if you take a 360-degree view of all of the polling data we’ve gathered over the last four years, the current view—that Donald Trump is losing by roughly 9 points—makes sense.

Since the time of that writing there have been two developments that suggest we can take this conclusion further:

Donald Trump is going to lose the presidency, probably by a historic margin.

The first report is a new poll from Gallup that asks the fundamental question: “Does President Donald Trump deserve to be reelected?”

56 percent say “no.”

43 percent say “yes.”

That’s -13 for Trump. Only 1 percent of the sample had no opinion.

This is death for an incumbent. By comparison: In the same poll, 60 percent of respondents said that their member of Congress deserves reelection and only 35 percent say their member does not.

So get your head around that: On the two federal offices that every American can vote on two weeks from now, the average member of Congress is +25 on reelect; President Trump is -13.

There is no skew, no shyness, no conspiracy that can overcome numbers like that.

The only thing that could save Trump in this environment would be a COVID-driven black swan in turnout. And for Trump that would mean low turnout. Because the lower the turnout, the less representative the polls might be. The higher turnout, the greater the polls’ predictive power.

Which brings us to the second item: FiveThirtyEight is predicting a total turnout between 144 million and 165 million votes—with their pin set at 154 million votes.

It was difficult enough to see Trump winning with turnout under 140 million votes. But if we wind up north of 144 million it becomes basically impossible.

One reason turnout matters is that the higher it goes, the less important the samples are—and thus the more reliable the polls are as indicators of reality.

If 2020 turnout jumps 5 percent from 2016, it would be a lot. If it jumps 10 percent it would mean a Biden landslide. (There were 137 million votes in 2016.) If we get 154 million votes then Trump will be looking at the most resounding defeat of an incumbent president in—at least—40 years.

Put those two numbers together—Trump -13 on reelect and turnout in the vicinity of 154 million—and you have a campaign that is effectively over. The only open question is the magnitude of Trump’s coming loss.

But one thing is not in doubt: When America wakes up on November 4, Joe Biden will have earned more votes than any man who’s ever run for president.

That doesn’t tell us anything about a Biden presidency, of course. You don’t get, say, an extra Supreme Court appointment just for getting more votes than any presidential candidate in American history. But it will be part of his mandate, part of the continuing realignment of American politics, and the most vociferous rejection of a sitting president in decades—and possibly in any of our lifetimes.

The Democratic party will have a chance to rebuild America.

And the Republican party will have defeat with dishonor.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.