Doug Schoen: Presidential race is much closer than many now think


With just over 50 days until the election, most objective observers will tell you that Joe Biden is favored to win. Indeed, Biden leads Donald Trump by more than 7 points nationally, according to Real Clear Politics.

However, there is still a clear path to victory for Trump, and this race is actually much closer than many now believe it to be. While Biden leads nationally and in several battleground states, many of his leads in swing states are even tighter than they were for Hillary Clinton in 2016, notably in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida, all states that she lost.

Some of his leads in battleground states are within margins of error, as in Nevada, where Biden leads by 4 points, and in New Hampshire, where he leads by 3 points, according to polling by the New York Times and Siena College. His lead in Arizona has dropped to 2 points, according to polling from Gravis. Indeed, this past week, the Cook Political Report changed its election forecast, moving Florida from “lean Democrat” to “toss up,” and moving Nevada from “likely Democrat” to “lean Democrat.”

The tightening race could be attributed to the fact that margins for Biden are shrinking with the critical constituencies of Hispanic voters and white working class voters. Hispanic voters comprise a significant portion of the eligible population for swing states like Florida and Arizona. As a bloc that votes reliably blue when they do turn out, notably Hispanics not of Cuban descent, Democrats have to turn them out in large numbers in order to be successful. This would take a robust targeted advertising campaign and a significant investment in a major voter outreach operation.

While Biden has employed neither strategy to the extent he should, Trump is making inroads with Hispanic voters through targeted advertising along with media, notably within Miami Dade County. Trump has outspent Biden by around $4 million on television commercials in this media market, most of which are Spanish language ads. In addition, the conservative allies are heavily engaged in voter outreach. Such investment is helping Trump gain ground among Cuban American voters, who are receptive about his tough stance toward Havana, cultural conservatism, and likely also his attacks on Democrats for backing policies that lean toward socialism.

This clear Hispanic engagement is raising the chances of Trump winning this swing state rich in delegates. Biden still has a lead in Florida, but that has shrunk since last month, and is now at less than 3 points, according to Five Thirty Eight. The challenges for surveying Hispanics include sampling issues and language barriers, Their overall support for Trump in states like Florida and Arizona could even be understated, given that the president is making gains with this core group that is difficult to survey.

While Hispanics not of Cuban descent swung for Clinton, turnout among these voters was lower than her campaign anticipated, as it assumed that scathing remarks from Trump about Hispanics would drive these voters to show up for Clinton in 2016. Regrettably, Biden and his campaign seem to run with this same miscalculation. While he leads Trump among Hispanics overall by 16 points in Florida, according to polling by Equis Research, he is trailing those numbers that Clinton had by 11 points. Clinton won these voters by 27 points, even as she still lost the state to Trump.

Likewise, Biden is losing ground for Midwestern and Rust Belt states with high populations of white working class voters, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, which swung for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but then for Trump in 2016. Indeed, the failure of Biden to convey a narrative focused on jobs has likely contributed to his polling lead diminishing in states like Pennsylvania. His polling lead over the president there has fallen by more than 1 point since last month, according to Five Thirty Eight.

Further, over the last four years, there has been a critical swing with voter registration toward Republicans in key states such as Pennsylvania, which signals the potential for another victory by Trump in that state. As recent analysis from Politico detailed, Republicans have netted several times as many registered voters for Pennsylvania than Democrats have since 2016. Republicans added nearly 198,000 registered voters in the last four years, while Democrats have gained only 29,000 registered voters.

Further, as the New York Times argued, anecdotally and using statistical evidence from past elections, this race could truly be about rural voters across the country, who turned out for Trump in 2016, though Biden has overall ignored them, and it could be part of the undoing of Democrats once more, as it was in 2016. So while Biden is ahead at the moment, a second term for Trump is well within the realm of possibility.

Douglas Schoen is a consultant who served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton and to the campaign of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His latest book was “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”