Liberals don’t like to hear that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is winning. 2016 is still etched into our psyches. No one wants to ever relive that. And yet, as I noted last week, we are winning. We are winning the race for the White House. And we are winning the battle for the Senate. (The House isn’t even in play. Only question is whether we gain a handful of seats, or lose a handful of seats. The Democratic majority is safe.)
Thing is, you don’t have to take my word for it, or that of all the pollsters showing Trump losing. The Trump campaign has admitted itself, and few realized it.
The happy admission takes place in this one quote:
“Everyone knows public polling is notoriously wrong about President Trump. Our internal data consistently shows the president running strong against a defined Joe Biden in all of our key states,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman said.
To fully understand this quote, you have to know what this spokesman means by “defined Joe Biden.”
In polling, there are several kinds of campaign polls. There are your standard horserace polls, “Candidate A vs Candidate B.” That’s what you see from media and publicly released polls. But actually, those polls aren’t very useful to campaigns. They don’t want to know who is ahead or behind, they want to know what they need to do to move numbers.
Then there’s the issue polls, the ones that try to gauge the electorate’s positions on key issues driving the political debate. Is a candidate’s district anti-abortion or pro-choice? If it’s anti-abortion, and the candidate is pro-choice, then the candidate knows to de-emphasize the issue during the campaign. Presumably, her or his opponent has similar data and knows to make the campaign all about abortion. Those polls are usually dozens of questions long, as campaigns seek to map out a campaign message based on where the majority of voters reside.
And finally, there’s the “informed ballot” poll. An honest informed ballot starts off with a basic horserace head-to-head question. Then it’ll say something like “Let me read you some statements about the candidates,” and then proceeds to both read out the positives and negatives of both candidates. Then, the horserace question is asked again.
So for example, it would say things like, “Candidate A is a retired naval officer, a pillar of her community, and a Rhodes scholar. She is firmly pro-choice, and believes everyone should have access to health care. Candidate B is a successful businessman who has created thousands of jobs and runs a Fortune 500 company. He believes taxes should be cut because people know better how to spend their money than the government. He believes in a strong military.”
The key here is to mimic each campaign’s actual campaign message. The idea with “informed ballot” is that you assume that all voters hear both campaign’s messaging.
Then you read out each campaign’s negative attacks on their opponents. “Candidate A was once investigated for ethical breaches, is a pro-choice extremist who believes in abortions at-will, and doesn’t have the experience to hold office. Candidate B’s businesses have suffered multiple bankruptcies, and he was once bailed out by federal taxpayers by running a too-big-to-fail business.”
Again, you’re taking the other campaign’s core attack line, and you’re testing it with voters. The key here is an honest assessment of both campaign’s positive and negative messages. And then you do the horserace question again and see if those messages changed any numbers. This way, campaigns can get a better idea of which attack lines land, and which ones are shrugged off by voters. They can see what positive messages resonate, and which ones have zero impact. And then, armed with that information, campaigns can adjust their messaging accordingly.
That’s a real message test. But let’s go back to the Trump campaign.
About five weeks ago, there was a massive fight between bunker-hiding impeached President Donald Trump and his campaign manager, Brad Parscale. Parscale had just presented Trump with their latest numbers (and five weeks ago, they didn’t even look as bad as they do today). Trump, predictably, blew his top, and literally threatened to sue Parscale.
The catalyst for the meeting was a desperate attempt by the campaign to get Trump to stop doing his daily coronavirus briefings. It was the day after he mused out loud about injecting people with Clorox or shoving a UV light up their butt to kill the virus. Those briefings were killing Trump, thus the polling presentation.
So how did Parscale patch things up with his boss?
Parscale came to the Oval Office on Tuesday for a long meeting with Trump in which the hatchet was buried, one of the people said. He brought polling numbers that were more positive for Trump, and the president seemed in a far better mood, people with knowledge of the meeting said.
He brought new numbers! And how do you, overnight, suddenly show up with “more positive” numbers, different than the ones showing Trump losing? By creating a bogus “informed ballot“ poll. And that first quote above proves it:
Our internal data consistently shows the president running strong against a defined Joe Biden in all of our key states.
What’s crazy about the quote, however, is that even with that supposed informed ballot, they still can’t say that Trump is winning! If he was, there’d be nothing stopping the campaign from saying, “Our internal data consistently shows the president defeating a defined Joe Biden in all of our key states.” Instead, “running strong” means that he’s losing, but by not as much.
Second, do we really trust that the Trump campaign, desperate to present better numbers to Trump, would conduct an honest informed ballot poll? You know it looked something like:
Joe Biden who conspired with China to infect Americans with the virus so they’d lose their jobs as Hunter was earning millions selling out America overseas. He is shifty and sleepy.Donald Trump has created more jobs than any other president in history and the Blacks have never had it better and America is finally respected by the world after the Muslim president.
And the funny thing is, despite their obvious best efforts to create a rigged poll to lift Trump’s mood, they still couldn’t do it!
Here’s the thing: both Trump and Biden are already defined. They are two of the most defined politicians in the country. Informed ballot polls make sense in down-ballot campaigns where the candidates aren’t as well known to the voters. But again, this poll wasn’t done for the campaign’s strategic purposes. It was done so Parscale could keep his job and keep his boss from utterly losing his mind. It was done so they could issue bullshit responses to the media when presented with yet another battleground state poll showing Biden winning.
And they know that the vast majority of people don’t know what “a defined Joe Biden” means, in political tradecraft terms, so they can sell a fiction knowing most people wouldn’t know better.
Well, now you know. The Trump campaign is losing, and they themselves admit they are losing.