Biden 2020 Looks Stronger Than Clinton 2016 in Wisconsin

Then vice-president Joe Biden campaigns with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at an event in Scranton, Pa., August 15, 2016. (Charles Mostoller/Reuters)
Biden has hit 50 percent or more in three consecutive polls of Badger State voters.

After the riots erupted in Kenosha, Wis., following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, the New York Times reported that the violence was already swaying some Wisconsin swing voters away from voting for Democrats in November.

“I’m not 100 percent sure of anything yet,” John Geraghty, an undecided Wisconsin voter who voted for Barack Obama, told the Times. “But as of now I’m really not happy about how Democrats are handling any of this.”

“The Democratic agenda to me right now is America is systematically racist and evil and the only people who can fix it are Democrats,” he said. “That’s the vibe I get.”

But despite Democratic fears and anecdotal evidence, all of the polls of Wisconsin voters conducted after both the Kenosha riots and the Republican National Convention have been good news for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

A CBS/YouGov poll conducted September 2–4, shows Biden leading Trump 50 percent to 44 percent; a Rasmussen poll conducted September 1–2 shows Biden leading Trump 51 percent to 43 percent; and a Fox News poll conducted August 29 to September 1 shows Biden leading Trump 50 percent to 42 percent.

The Fox poll asked likely Wisconsin voters which candidate would do a better job handling the issue of policing and criminal justice, and Biden had a five-point edge over Trump (47 percent to 42 percent). Wisconsin voters preferred Biden to Trump by a much wider margin — 52 percent to 35 percent — when asked which candidate would do a better job handling the coronavirus, but they were evenly split 45 percent to 45 percent when asked which candidate would do a better job handling the economy.

Of course, the Wisconsin polls were notoriously wrong in 2016: Clinton led Trump by 6.5 points on Election Day in the RealClearPolitics polling average; Trump won the state by 0.7 points. Biden is now leading Trump by 5.0 points in the RCP average of Wisconsin polls, but he’s actually in a significantly stronger position than Clinton was in 2016 because his overall level of support is higher.

The big warning sign for Clinton in Wisconsin in 2016 was that there were a lot of undecided voters, and she was polling well below 50 percent. In all of 2016, Clinton only hit 50 percent or more in only one poll of Wisconsin voters, according to RealClearPolitics. While the results in Wisconsin were genuinely surprising given Clinton’s lead of 6.5 points in the polling average, the polls actually did a good job of gauging Clinton’s share of the electorate in Wisconsin. On Election Day, she was polling at 46.8 percent in the RCP average of Wisconsin polls; she won 46.5 percent of the vote.

If the polls are right and Biden is at 50 percent, obviously every undecided voter could break to Trump and Biden would still win if the election were held today.

There are some glimmers of hope for Trump in the polls: The Trafalgar Group, the Republican pollster that got 2016 right in Michigan and Pennsylvania when others were wrong, released a poll earlier in August showing Trump edging Biden 46 percent to 45 percent in Wisconsin. There are still 59 days and three presidential debates to go until Election Day. But if Biden is registering the support of half of Wisconsin voters in the polling average come November, don’t bet on Trump pulling off another surprise in the Badger State.


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