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Handicapping the US presidential race, post debate #1

Handicapping the US presidential race, post debate #1

There have been no major polls done since Tuesdays Presidential debate but they will start coming in probably over the weekend. President Trump’s entered Tuesday night’s debate with roughly a 7- or 8-point deficit in national polls, putting him further behind at this stage of the race than any other candidate since Bob Dole in 1996.

As every pollster says, the national polls don’t mean much because of the US Electoral College system which consists of a winner-take-all model for each state’s electoral votes. Joe Biden has and Hilary Clinton had massive leads in the densely populated states of New York and California which contributed to their national vote leads but much smaller states actually decided the race. Right now Trump trails Biden in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania all of which went to Trump in 2016. A September 28th poll had Biden ahead slightly in Florida. If Biden should win Florida it will be an early night on November 3rd even with the mail-in ballots still to be tallied.

As Nate Silver of Real Clear Politics observed, “At a time when Trump desperately needed a boost, the debate probably didn’t help him either — it may have hurt him. Every scientific poll we’ve seen had Trump losing the debate, some by narrow margins and some by wide ones.

That includes the poll FiveThirtyEight conducted with Ipsos, which surveyed the same group of voters before and after the debate. While the poll didn’t show a massive swing — most voters stuck to their initial preferences — more voters did rate Biden’s performance favorably, and Biden gained ground relative to Trump based on the number of voters who said they were certain to vote for him, roughly tantamount to a 3-point swing toward Biden in head-to-head polls.

In other words Trump needed to win  the debate to close ground on Biden, and he failed to do so. In fact polling in the next few days may show that he lost ground among the very small number of voters that are still making up their minds.

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