FLASHBACK: Dukakis Boasted 17 Point Lead Over Bush in Polls in July 1988
While the polls are right more often than they’re wrong, the 2016 election was an obvious exception to that when it came to predicting how the electoral college would play out. On election day 2016, an average of polling estimates had Hillary Clinton six points ahead, and the Huffington Post infamously gave Hillary a 98.1% chance of winning the presidency, scoring 323 electoral votes in the process.
With all the talk about Biden’s lead in the polls now, could history be repeating itself again?
Some polls like the oft-cited Quinnipiac poll have Biden up 15-points versus Trump, but their sample is +10 Democrat, and averages a 2 percentage point margin of error. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has Biden up by 9 points, while Rasmussen Reports has Trump closing in on Biden, lagging by only two points (within the poll’s margin of error). Despite common accusations of Republican bias, Rasmussen also had Hillary Clinton up 1.7 points over Trump on election day 2016. (For context, Hillary ended up leading the popular vote by 2.1%, or about four percentage points less than most polls projected).
The bookies aren’t giving odds that indicate a Biden blowout, currently giving him roughly 60/40 odds against Trump. Or in other words, if ten 2020 elections were held today, Trump would be expected to win four of them. And the odds are a heck of a lot better than the 50:1 the Huffington Post gave him last election.
What few reporting on the polls seem to acknowledge is that polls only represent a snapshot in time. When the seemingly endless Democrat primary was still going on, most polls had Trump beating every single contender in a hypothetical head to head.
A lot can happen between now and the election.
For one, Biden will have to not only debate President Trump three times, but stay awake for and speak complete sentences for those three debates. While the mainstream media doesn’t cover Biden’s gaffes, the nation will be watching the debates and seeing them firsthand. The Biden campaign rejected an offer for a fourth debate, which signals how much confidence his handlers have in him.
To give just one historic example in how quickly things can change, in July 1988 Michael Dukakis boasted a lead in the polls over George H.W. Bush that is nearly double Biden’s lead over Trump in the RCP average.
Bush ended up scoring nearly seven million more votes than Dukasis, winning 426 electoral votes to Dukasis’ 111.
July 26, 1988: Dukakis enjoys a 17-point lead over Bush in presidential race, post-convention. pic.twitter.com/mzIgg1xV1m
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) July 26, 2020
Or in other words, Biden is just one awkward tank ride away from collapse.