U.S. Election Update - 6 weeks until the election

There are only 43 days until the U.S. election—and the race will only intensify in the weeks ahead.

Impact of Supreme Court Vacancy on the Election

The death of Justice Ginsburg will further exacerbate the divisions in the United States that have led to the tribalism that defines the politics of today.

The looming Supreme Court nomination fight will not only energize Trump's base but, more importantly, give Trump an issue to engage undecided voters, who are disproportionately Republican. These are conflicted Republicans who strongly dislike Trump personally but are supportive of many of his positions on the issues.

While the pandemic will likely continue to be the focus of the race, Trump now has a new issue to try to drive the daily debate. The President has indicated that he will nominate a woman—setting up for a potentially bruising battle where the left will have to attack the merits of a distinguished female jurist.

The left has also been energized by the announcement that Trump plans to nominate a replacement next week for Justice Ginsburg, with ActBlue, the Democrats’ donation processor, raising over $100 million in 38 hours following the announcement of the Supreme Court opening.

But there is no question that Republicans will also benefit from the coming Supreme Court fight. Trump needed a circuit-breaking event to change the dynamic of the race, which has clearly favored Biden so far.

Up until now the election has largely been about the impact of the coronavirus on public health and the economy, and any day that’s the focus is a bad day for Trump.

In the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that was released Sunday, September 20, Biden enjoys a 22-point advantage over Trump on who would do a better job of dealing with the virus.

In addition, polling indicates that Trump has not been able to make law and order a defining issue in the race.

  • In the same Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, crime was only the 5th most important issue for likely voters.
  • In this poll, neither Trump nor Biden had an advantage on who would do a better job dealing with crime and violence. 

43 Days Until the Election

In-person voting started at the end of last week in Virginia, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Turnout has been extremely heavy.

The Democrats currently have a decisive advantage in absentee ballot requests in several battleground states.

  • In North Carolina and Pennsylvania, they enjoy more than a 3-to-1 advantage.
  • In Pennsylvania, the Democrats have built a lead of over 100,000 requests from people who did not vote in the 2016 election but are planning to vote absentee this year. (In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania by fewer than 45,000 votes.)
  • In Florida there have been 2.1 million vote-by-mail requests for the Democrats, compared to 1.4 million for the Republicans.

In a blow to the Trump campaign, courts in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin ruled last week that the Green Party candidate will not be on the November ballot.

The Horse Race

Despite the worst health crisis in our country in over 100 years, the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression and the most civil unrest since at least the 1960's, the basic structure of the race has not changed this year.

There were a number of national polls released in the past week that consistently showed Biden with a 5- to 9-point lead. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll has Biden with an 8-point lead. 

Electoral College Voting

The Cook Political Report gives Biden 290 electoral college votes (20 more than the 270 he needs to win), with Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin now leaning his way. Cook considers Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Maine 02—totaling 61 electoral votes—to be tossups.

Last week, The New York Times / Siena College released polling in 7 battleground states. Biden was leading in every state, with Trump failing to get 45% in any of the polls. This is one of the reasons that the Supreme Court opening could be crucial for Trump, providing him an opportunity to expand his vote total with Republican-leaning voters who disapprove of him personally.

Biden is currently leading Trump by 6% in Wisconsin, 8% in Michigan, 5% in Pennsylvania, 16% in Minnesota, 9% in Arizona, 1% in North Carolina, 2% in Florida and 4% in Nevada.

Biden's recording-setting $364 million fundraising haul in August, compared to Trump's $210 million total, is making a significant difference in the television buys by the campaigns in the key battleground states.

Last week Biden spent $36.5 million on broadcast media, compared to only $14.7 million spent by Trump. For the upcoming week Biden has placed $35 million in advertising, compared to $21 million by Trump.

Senate Races

The looming Supreme Court nomination fight will increase the Democrats’ chances of knocking off Republican incumbents in blue-leaning states but make it more difficult for them to pick up seats in those red states where incumbents are in close races.

Nate Silver released his initial voting model prior to the announcement of a Supreme Court vacancy. In it, he predicts that the Democrats have a 58% probability of taking control of the Senate. In order to do so they will need to pick up a net of 3 seats if Biden is elected President.

This past week polls came out that showed Republican incumbents trailing their Democratic challengers in 4 states. In Maine Sen. Collins is behind by 5 points, in Arizona Sen. McSally by 8 points, in North Carolina Sen. Tillis by 5 points and in Iowa Sen. Ernst by 3 points. Previous polls had Sen. Gardner trailing by 9 points in Colorado, with statistical dead heats in the Republican-leaning states Montana, Georgia and South Carolina.

The Republicans remain the favorites to take the Democrat-held seat in Alabama.

Looking Ahead

The first Presidential debate will be held a week from Tuesday on September 29th, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. It will be moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News.

Brunswick is a strategic advisory firm focused on critical issues. Our U.S. Public Affairs offer specializes in influencing the complex and dynamic factors that affect public opinion, political and regulatory outcomes, and corporate reputation at all levels of government.

About Doug Sosnik
Senior Advisor, Washington, D.C.

Doug has advised elected officials, corporations, foundations, universities, non-profits and philanthropists on strategic planning and crisis management. He served as a senior advisor to President Clinton for six years, playing a key role in policy, strategy, political and communications decisions in the White House.

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