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How Trump could pull off another upset

It feels like August of 2016 all over again. Polls show Donald Trump losing big. Pundits proclaim he can't win. Reporters sneer at Trump voters on Twitter and cable. 

Why it matters: There are several signs that should give the Trump-is-toast self-assured pause.


  • He’s doing better in some swing-state polls than he was at this point in 2016. And his floor of support holds strong, regardless of what he says or does. 
  • Not only is the stock market on fire, but a lot of blue-collar workers in building, plumbing and other manual crafts are doing quite well, too.

Trump’s big bet is that there are a lot of working class voters, especially in rural areas, who did not vote in 2016 but will this time.

  • His other bet is that months of dumping on Joe Biden, often with lies or wild hyperbole, will do what he did to Hillary Clinton: Make the Democratic nominee seem slightly more unpalatable than himself. 

The New York Times profiled a swath of Trump's steadfast supporters who "outlined myriad reasons for wanting to re-elect him, ranging from the pragmatic ... to a gut-level attraction to his hard-nosed personality."

  • And the "social desirability" factor in polling — do we tell the blunt truth? — is a huge unknown this year because of the new attention to racial issues.

Behind the scenes: People in Trump’s orbit feel much better about the race than they did in mid-June.

  • These officials feel the operation is becoming more disciplined, and is more centered around a message — that Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris embrace leftist policies, and won’t stand up to the violent excesses of the far left.

A few caveats: Biden has some strengths that Clinton didn’t. He's viewed more favorably — and is stronger among seniors, eating into Trump’s sweet spot.

  • Women and college-educated whites have continued drifting away from Trump.
  • And Trump now has a record to defend, so he doesn’t have the outsider factor that he exploited last time.

Although Biden isn’t as polarizing as Clinton inside or outside the Democratic Party, the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for social justice and progressive changes are tugging Biden to the left.

  • President Obama recently told The New Yorker's Evan Osnos: "If you look at Joe Biden’s goals and Bernie Sanders’s goals, they’re not that different, from a forty-thousand-foot level."

Remember: A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found 13% of voters remain "in play," enough to tip the election.

  • It also found Trump’s standing with Hispanics is as good if not better than 2016 — and had improved his image by 20 points among whites, who are more than 70% of the electorate.

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