Which way will the polls miss this time?

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On the roster: Which way will the polls miss this time? – Q Poll: Trump surges in Fla., Biden stays strong in Pa. – Kenosha visit tests Biden’s promise to heal – Trump tells voters to double dip – You sank my minivan

The 2020 electorate seems to have about the same digestive system as a goose, which is to say that it doesn’t seem to hold on to anything for very long.

The conventions have come and gone, and while there was some evidence of tightening even before the fortnight of folderol, the race seems pretty much back to where it was before. Challenger Joe Biden leads by 8.6 points nationally in an average of polls and has a decisive advantage in key swing states.

While Democrats certainly remain nervous about a repeat of 2016 in which President Trump stages a late upset of the frontrunner, Republican gloom remains the norm. As Trump spins himself into the ground throwing haymakers, most recently his urging for voters in North Carolina to try to cast two ballots, it doesn’t seem to reflect a great deal of confidence.

But here’s the thing: The polls will be wrong. The polls are always wrong. We just don’t know how much and in what direction.

In 2016 Trump outperformed his average in national polling by about 3 points while Democrat Hillary Clinton beat her polling average by about 1.4 points. That was akin to 2012, if a little better. On average, surveys underestimated support for then-President Obama by about 2 points and overstated support for challenger Mitt Romney by a little more than a point.

The problem was more pronounced on the state level in 2016. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were all notable misses for pollsters. Polls in all of those states underestimated Trump’s support by small but significant amounts.

In 2012 it was Obama that state polls underestimated, particularly Florida. The heartbreak Republicans felt at seeing Obama outpace expectations was akin to the Democratic anguish of 2016, if a less intense version.

Republicans are holding firm to their belief that Trump is again being underestimated in the polls. That may be so, especially if the campaign is succeeding in its goal to bring scads more low-propensity voters into the electorate from the White working class. One of the reasons the Trump campaign is working so hard to make this an election about social issues rather than coronavirus or the economy is that wedge issues are more likely to move infrequent voters to participate.

But, it’s at least as likely that polls are understating support for Biden. Some pollsters in 2012 underestimated African American turnout, and that could certainly happen again.

It’s also possible that Trump support in surveys is overstated because pollsters, badly stung by criticism of their 2016 work, may be overcompensating when it comes to the White working class.

Whatever it is we won’t know until November. We say all this in an effort to help you keep polls in their proper context. There are margins of error for a reason, and those margins go both ways. You should not be surprised if either candidate overperforms or underperforms expectations by a point or two.

What polls are good for is getting a general sense of how the race is going. And with 60 days to go, the incumbent needs a pretty dramatic reversal of fortune to turn this into a seriously competitive race.

“In general it may be remarked on this subject, that no political problem is less susceptible of a precise solution than that which relates to the number most convenient for a representative legislature…” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, discussing the argument over the total number of the House of Representatives, Federalist No. 55

Smithsonian: “…this Saturday is World Beard Day — a day just for celebrating facial hair of all shapes, colors and sizes. But humans aren’t the only bearded beasts. In the sea, the sky and the land between, organisms sport bristles, fuzz and fur of all styles. Instead of splitting hairs over what type of beard is best, here are [some] of nature’s finest. … Bearded vultures (Gypaetus barbatus) are named for the black bristles beneath their beaks, but beards are hardly their most distinguishing characteristic. These birds paint their plumage a rusty orange color using iron-rich soil to show age and status. And their wingspans can exceed nine feet. … The bearded fireworm (Hermodice carunculata) is named for the hollow, white bristles that line its body. These bristles are filled with a neurotoxin that burns and irritates skin if touched. … The bearded iris (Iris germanica) gets its name from the row of fuzz near the base of the petals.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at [email protected] with your tips, comments or questions.

Trump: 42.6 percent
Biden: 51.2 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 8.6 points
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump ↓ 0.4 points
[Average includes: CNN: Trump 43% – Biden 51%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 42% – Biden 52%; USA Today/Suffolk: Trump 43% – Biden 50%; Grinnell/Selzer: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54%.]

(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)

Average approval: 42.8 percent
Average disapproval: 53.6 percent
Net Score: -10.8 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.8 points
[Average includes: CNN: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve – 54% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 45% approve – 52% disapprove; Grinnell/Selzer: 43% approve – 51% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 42% approve – 57% disapprove.]

We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to [email protected]

Quinnipiac University: “In Florida and Pennsylvania, two key states President Trump narrowly won in 2016, one race is tight and the other gives former Vice President Joe Biden a clear lead, according to Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pea-ack) University polls of likely voters in each of the two states. In Florida, 48 percent of likely voters support Biden and 45 percent support Trump. In Pennsylvania, Biden leads Trump 52 – 44 percent. These are the first surveys of likely voters in the 2020 presidential election race in Florida and Pennsylvania by the Quinnipiac University Poll, and cannot be compared to earlier surveys of registered voters. Both states share something in common: nearly all likely voters say their minds are made up. In Florida, 93 percent of likely voters who selected a candidate in the presidential match up say their minds are made up, with 5 percent saying they might change their minds. In Pennsylvania, 94 percent say their minds are made up, with 5 percent saying their minds might change.”

Biden leads bigly in Ariz., Wis., tight in N.C. – Fox News: “Democrat Joe Biden is ahead in three key states that President Donald Trump won in 2016, according to new Fox News statewide surveys of Arizona, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Support for reelecting Trump falls below his 2016 vote share in each state. At the same time, there’s room for improvement, as more voters approve of his job performance than back his reelection. Biden’s advantage comes from strong support among women and suburban voters. Moreover, suburban women in all three states trust Biden over Trump to handle coronavirus and policing/criminal justice. Interest in the election is roughly the same among both Biden and Trump supporters. In all three states, a sizeable number of voters plan to cast their ballot by mail — and in each state, many more Democrats than Republicans plan to do so.

Arizona – “Biden is preferred over Trump by 49-40 percent among likely voters in Arizona.  That 9-point lead is outside the margin of error.  The Libertarian ticket headed by Jo Jorgensen receives 3 percent and 6 percent are undecided. Trump won Arizona with 48.7 percent in 2016, topping Hillary Clinton by three and a half percentage points.  Currently, a 56 percent majority disapproves of the job he’s doing as president (43 percent approve).

North Carolina – “In North Carolina, Biden holds a narrow 4-point margin among likely voters (within error margin).  He receives 50 percent to Trump’s 46 percent, while 1 percent go for Jorgensen and 2 percent are undecided. … Whites back Trump by 23 points, while Blacks support Biden by 83 points.  Men go for Trump by a 2-point margin, while women prefer Biden by 10.  And rural voters pick Trump by 14 points, while suburban areas go for Biden by 19 (among suburban women that grows to a 31-point lead).

Wisconsin – “Biden tops Trump by 8 points among Wisconsin likely voters, 50-42 percent.  That’s just outside the survey’s margin of sampling error. Two percent back Jorgensen and 5 percent are undecided. Women make all the difference in the Badger State. They favor Biden by 17 points, while men are about evenly divided (Trump +1).  Plus, more Democrats (95 percent) support Biden than Republicans (86 percent) back Trump.”

AP: “Joe Biden faces the most intense test yet of his pledge to be a calming, unifying leader for a divided nation when he travels Thursday to Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city now at the center of America’s election-year reckoning with systemic racism. The Democratic presidential nominee, traveling two days after President Donald Trump visited the same city, plans to meet with family of Jacob Blake, who remains hospitalized after being shot seven times in the back by a white police officer as authorities tried to arrest him. Biden also plans a community discussion with business figures, civic leaders and law enforcement officials. ‘This is about making sure that we move forward,’ Biden told reporters Wednesday. He added that he’s ‘not going to tell Kenosha what they have to do’ but instead encourage a community to ‘talk about what has to be done.’ Two months before Election Day, the trip presents Biden both opportunity and risks, testing his longstanding promise that he can ‘unify the country’ and find consensus even where it’s not readily apparent.”

Michigan’s most recent Republican governor backs Biden – Fox News: “Anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project has gotten nearly 100 Republican and independent politicos on board its Republicans and Independents for Biden initiative, including former governors Rick Snyder of Michigan and Bill Weld of Massachusetts. Snyder announced his endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Thursday and called President Trump a ‘bully.’ ‘President Trump lacks a moral compass. He ignores the truth,’ Snyder wrote in a Detroit Free Press op-ed on Thursday. ‘While I am endorsing Joe Biden for president, I am still a Republican who also will be publicly supporting Republican candidates at the local, state and federal level.’ The Trump campaign touted the president’s support among ‘real Republican voters’ in a response shared with Fox News.”

Reuters: “U.S. President Donald Trump has urged residents of North Carolina to vote twice in the Nov. 3 election, once by mail and once in person, openly urging an act of voter fraud even as he has decried mail-in ballots. ‘Let them send it in and let them go vote,’ Trump said in an interview on Wednesday with WECT-TV in Wilmington, North Carolina. ‘And if the system is as good as they say it is then obviously they won’t be able to vote’ in person. Voting more than once in an election is illegal and in some states, including North Carolina, it is a felony not only to vote more than once but also to induce another to do so. The North Carolina State Board of Elections had no immediate comment on Trump’s remarks. … Ballots are due to be mailed in North Carolina on Friday. Trump campaign official Tim Murtaugh told NBC News on Wednesday the president was encouraging people to vote early by mail ‘then show up in person at the polls or the local registrar to verify that their vote has already been counted.’”

GOP seeks to block all mail ballots in Montana – KTVQ: “The Trump campaign, national Republicans and the Montana Republican Party filed suit Wednesday to overturn Gov. Steve Bullock‘s August order allowing Montana counties to conduct the Nov. 3 election with mail ballots. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Helena, asked a judge to block Bullock’s Aug. 6 order and declare it unconstitutional. Bullock issued the order under his emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic, and at the request of Montana county election officials, many of whom said they feared they could not safely or efficiently conduct the election with traditional polling stations. The order gave counties the option to conduct the election by mail or with polling stations on Election Day.”

Georgia voters fume over missing ballots – Fox News: “Nearly 3,000 voters in Georgia have filed complaints with voting officials, claiming they never received absentee ballots for the state’s Aug. 11 primary runoffs, according to a report. A photo obtained by Atlanta’s FOX 5 showed some of the ballots still inside a post office Aug. 12 – the day after the runoffs – meaning the undelivered ballots were no longer usable by voters if they eventually received them. Because the ballots went undelivered on time, some voters complained to voting officials and to the station that they ended up not participating in the runoff elections. ‘I feel upset that I didn’t get the chance to vote in, like, the way that was supposed to be legally available and easy,’ Georgia resident Matthew Britton told FOX 5.”

Facebook to ban political ads the week before the election – WSJ: “Facebook Inc. will prohibit new political advertisements in the week before the U.S. presidential election in November and seek to flag premature claims of victory by candidates, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday. The steps are meant to head off last-minute misinformation campaigns and limit the potential for civil unrest, Mr. Zuckerberg said. ‘This election is not going to be business as usual,’ he said, noting both the difficulties of voting during a pandemic and likely attacks on the credibility of the results. ‘I’m worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or even weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country,’ he said in the statement, adding that ‘our democracy is strong enough to withstand this challenge and deliver a free and fair election.’”

The Judge’s Ruling: Has Trump incited violence? – This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses how the use of federal and state incitement laws has a long and sordid history: “States and the federal government also have laws that prohibit bystanders from encouraging others to engage in violence. The latter is known as incitement. When violence has erupted in American streets between groups supporting President Trump and those opposed to him — and when he encouraged his supporters to be ‘much tougher’ than the other side and to ‘hit back’ — did his use of intemperate words incite violence? … Even though the president’s language was referring to violence in American cities last summer and this summer … because there was time for more speech to rebut what he said, his words are protected. I write this as a constitutional analysis, not a political one. The voters will decide… But the courts will leave him alone.” More here.

AP: “The federal budget deficit is projected to hit a record $3.3 trillion as huge government expenditures to fight the coronavirus and to prop up the economy have added more than $2 trillion to the federal ledger, the Congressional Budget Office said. The spike in the deficit means that federal debt will exceed annual gross domestic product next year — a milestone that would put the U.S. where it was in the aftermath of World War II, when accumulated debt exceeded the size of the economy. The $3.3 trillion figure released Wednesday is more than triple the 2019 shortfall and more than double the levels experienced after the market meltdown and Great Recession of 2008-09. Government spending, fueled by four coronavirus response measures, would register at $6.6 trillion, $2 trillion-plus more than 2019. The recession has caused a drop in tax revenues have fallen, but the changes are not as dramatic as seen on the spending side, with individual income tax collections running 11% behind last year. Corporate tax collections are down 34%.”

Relief bill still stalled – Fox News: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to his caucus Thursday morning warning that Republicans’ coronavirus plan is ‘emaciated’ and accused the GOP of trying to ‘check the box’ on another stimulus bill, statements that appear to throw water on attempts to revive negotiations that fell apart last month. After lawmakers failed to pass legislation ahead of the August recess, there was hope that there could be some sort of breakthrough in negotiations once they returned to Washington, D.C. But Schumer, D-N.Y., in the letter to his Democratic colleagues slammed comments by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about a potential ‘skinny’ coronavirus proposal which would cost about $1 trillion. Schumer and Democrats started their negotiations at the $3 trillion price tag of the bill House Democrats passed earlier this year, but later said they would be willing to come down to $2 trillion, something Republicans including McConnell and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have not been receptive to.”

Administration says vaccine may be ready two days before election – Bloomberg: “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told states to prepare for a Covid-19 vaccine to be ready by Nov. 1 and asked them to remove obstacles that would prevent distribution sites from opening. The date suggests the federal government anticipates a vaccine will become available just days before President Donald Trump stands for reelection Nov. 3, an aggressive goal that would depend on shots being tested and reviewed by then. Trump’s political future hinges on the response to the virus that has killed almost 185,000 Americans. The CDC in early August told states to assume that ‘limited doses’ of a vaccine could be available in fall. The new letter said the Department of Health and Human Services and CDC ‘are rapidly making preparations to implement large-scale distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in the fall of 2020,’ according to a copy provided to Bloomberg.”

Backlash from Pelosi’s salon visit continues – CBS News: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced criticism this week after surveillance video surfaced of her visit to a San Francisco salon, where she was seen inside without a mask on – which violated health guidelines in the city. Pelosi responded to the video, calling the visit a ‘setup.’ The salon owner has since denied Pelosi’s claim, while Pelosi’s hairstylist has backed it.  The video, which was obtained by Fox News, briefly shows Pelosi walking through the salon on Monday with a mask around her neck and someone with a mask on walking behind her. Erica Kious, who owns the salon, eSalon on Union Street in San Francisco, told Fox News Pelosi got her hair washed and blown out during her visit. At the time, salons in San Francisco had been closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. They were allowed to start reopening on Tuesday – a day after Pelosi’s visit – for outdoor service, according to San Francisco’s health department.”

Trump, Biden both plan to mark 9/11 anniversary in Shanksville, Pa. – AP

“I think I’ve just become more guarded than I was four years ago. I think I really am a little bit more circumspect.” – President Trump talking to the NYT.

“As the health of Joe Biden has come front and center, I’m curious — were something serious to come up (stroke, heart attack) that incapacitates him, what happens next? Is there a contingency plan should such a situation arise? Is #2 automatically #1, in need of a VP running mate? Or? It would seem that such a scenario has been thought out, but we didn’t think of such things much prior to FDR. (Especially in the final months of a Presidential election.) Thanks. Keep up the great effort.” – John F. Infanger, Austin, Texas

[Ed. note: It’s President Trump right now who is having trouble tamping down rumors about his ill health, and as is the case with Republicans’ efforts to portray Biden as unwell, we mostly ignore such stuff as motivated reasoning if not outright flummery. But with the two oldest men to ever be nominated for president by their respective parties on the ballot this year it’s not unreasonable to ask what would happen if either or both of them were incapacitated in the next 60 days. The short answer is that the parties have lots of latitude about replacements, but both would presumably pick their vice presidential nominee. Now, being so close to the day, it’s unlikely that ballots could be changed in most places. If the winning candidate had gone on to that great fundraiser in the sky, the effect would be the same. The electors’ votes would be transmitted to Congress, which would certify the results and either Mike Pence or Kamala Harris would be elevated to the top slot.]

“Thank you for bringing us the comments from the man in Lincoln, Nebraska who ‘…proposed that Lincoln remove the term boneless chicken wings ‘from our menus and from our hearts.’ He went on to list the reasons why and offered a list of alternative words to describe the chicken product. Alternative names included buffalo-style chicken tenders and saucy nugs. ‘We’ve been living a lie for far too long, and we know it because we feel it in our bones’…’ I agree with him completely and lay the fault for this abominable denigration of our culinary language directly at the feet of McDonalds who first offered in 1981 a pork ‘McRIB’ which contained no ribs. As always, yours is the one newsletter I look for and never, ever miss.” – Anne Barnstead-Klos, St. Louis

[Ed. note: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa Ms. Barnstead-Klos! Let’s not say things we can’t take back. I agree with you and our outraged Nebraskan about the insufficiency — nay, perfidy — of the term “boneless wings.” They are not boneless wings but rather small chicken tenders or, as I will now insist on being referred to as my street name: “Saucy nugs.” False advertising indeed. But of all the miracle works performed by the McDonald Corporation, you have alit upon two of the finest. First, the McRib. Would I have thought about eating what is essentially a breakfast sausage poached in barbecue sauce and topped with pickle and white onion? Certainly not sober. But it is delicious! And when every fall it emerges for its limited run, I always hope my travels take me near a participating store. But an even more amazing invention is the repurposed prefix “Mc.” In Celtic names, “Mc” is short for “Mac,” which is Gaelic for “son of.” So just as the Scandinavian patronymic naming system went from “Sven, John’s son” to “Sven Johnson” when surnames came into common use, the Scottish and Irish Alexander, mac Donald became Alexander McDonald. As McDonald’s grew and grew and grew and grew, the company invented a revolutionary new use for the contraction: a prefix that means the McDonald’s version of something. (Except for their fish sandwich which takes the strictly Irish alternative  “O.’”) The meaning is clear: The “Mc” anything is the fast, affordable and standardized version of the original. This is most obvious when the prefix is used beyond the confines of the chain, most notably, “McMansion.” We know that a McMansion is not a real mansion, but rather a home in a housing development that makes the trappings of a real mansion available to those without the time or resources to have the real thing. Kleenex can say that it’s name is synonymous with the very product it makes, but what other company can say that it was so well understood by Americans that it’s internal branding has become a universally understood shorthand for things that reflect McDonald’s goals of efficiency, uniformity and low prices.]

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KRCR: “Pictures of ‘marked’ vehicle windows in Redding parking lots are circling social media, drawing concern that women and children may be targets. While Redding Police are actively investigating, they do not believe the public is in danger. Investigators with the Redding Police Department have been looking into multiple reports of vehicle windows supposedly marked with letters and numbers such as ‘2F’ or ‘1F1B.’ Facebook posts alerting others suggests the markings are codes for possible sex trafficking. … Redding Police Sergeant Danny Semtak agreed the markings are strange. However, he went on to say there have been no reports of anyone assaulting, kidnapped, hurt, or anything in that nature following the writing on their windows. Police are working to obtain surveillance video from Raley’s off Lake Boulevard in Redding, where one of the reports was made within the last week.”

“I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) in his final note to readers written in the Washington Post on June 8, 2018.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.


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