OK Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. It all kind of depends on what you’re talking about, doesn’t it? I’m 62 years old. Is it too early for me to consider taking up scuba diving? Maybe skydiving? How about a part time career as a pro wrestler? I think the opposite tends to be true there. In fact, the only thing I can think of that it’s not too early for me to start doing is to check the obituaries in the morning for my name before bothering to hop in the shower.
Whether it’s in terms of polling in the Democratic primaries, or in terms of head-to-head polling between Democratic candidates and His Lowness, pundits of all stripes are quick t point out that polls don’t mean a damn thing yet, “it’s too early.” But is it? I think it depends on what you’re talking about, and how you want to interpret it.
Is it true that it’s too early to start handicapping the Democratic primary field based on current polling? You bet your ass it is. At this early stage, polling on the primaries is still largely based on name recognition. And as hard as media outlets like MSNBC, CNN, and even FOX are trying to spread the wealth with one-on-ones and town halls, the nightly coverage still centers on the “big 4” front runners. Polling in places like Iowa and New Hampshire may be a wee more accurate, simply because the residents have seen so much more of the candidates, with increased local media coverage. But all of that can change in a heartbeat.
Which is why next Wednesday and Thursday are so important, this will be the first time that a lot of “second tier” candidates like Andrew Yang, Eric Swalwell and Jay Inslee will have equal time on a national forum, side by side with other contenders. Polling after the first two debates will show if anybody’s message “caught fire” with a national audience. Even more telling will be polling after the second debates, when the DNC announces the criteria for the next round of debates and we start to see a probable winnowing down of candidates who qualify to appear on stage.
But when it comes to head-to-head polling between Trump and individual Democratic candidates, is it really too early to start coming away with some initial inferences, and to draw some preliminary conclusions from the data? I don’t think so.
For instance, I indicated above that one of the reasons that the debates are so important for Democratic candidates is the potential for a “breakthrough moment” that will increase their name recognition, and focus attention on their issues and positions. This is literally impossible for Trump to achieve. Glorious Bleater already has universal name recognition, and his stance on issues is parsed so minutely that his every fart is analyzed to see if it’s a bacon double cheeseburger fart, or a KFC fart.
The spontaneous nature of debates allows for any candidate to create a “Kodak moment” at any time. Trump doesn’t have that opportunity. Unless GOP challenger William Weld decides to crawl out of his cave and actually campaign, Trump is running unopposed, there will be no primary debates. And even if weld tries to engage, I find it highly unlikely that Trump will risk agreeing to debate Weld and come off as the ignorant boob that he is. So Trump will have to manufacture a breakthrough moment to raise his poll numbers, and the only things Trump is capable of manufacturing are chaos and mayhem, something which the majority of voters are sick and tired of, leading to his abysmal poll numbers.
And then there’s this. Quinnipiac just released their third consecutive poll that shows Trump maxing out at 42% against all six top Democratic challengers, and losing every contest. After the release of the second Quinnipiac poll I wrote that as far as I was concerned, Trump’s “floor” is a miserable 42%, and nothing that I have seen has led me to change my mind. In fact, recent polling has only strengthened that fact in my mind. In recent polling in battlefield states, such as Florida and Pennsylvania, both states that Trump narrowly won, he struggles to climb to 43-44%, and then only against second tier candidates, to whom he still loses!
My last point has to do with those very second tier candidates. In the Quinnipiac polls, as well as some of the state polls, Trump consistently loses to Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and even Cory Booker, mostly outside of the margin of error in the Quinnipiac polls. Why is this important? Because those three candidates are struggling to crack the 10% popularity mark in Democratic primary polls! My sweet Lord, they can’t even get 10% of Democrats to pick them #1, and yet all three of them are eating Trump’s lunch in national polls?
Look, Donald Trump has never been a popular President, or even a popular political figure. On election night, he capped out at 46%, and lost the popular vote by 3 million, but he stole the electoral college. Trump sucked as a candidate, so his solution was to make Hillary Clinton suck even worse. And he knows it, that’s why he mentioned Clinton’s name seven times at his reelection kickoff rally last night before he mentioned Biden for the first time. Trump’s problem is that Hillary isn’t running this time around, and considering the fact that Trump is trailing in polls to people most voters know next to nothing about, he’s going to have a hard time dragging their popularity down into his mosh pit. Yes, it’s early yet, but I’m not so sure that it’s that damn early anymore.