- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Joseph R. Biden leads in most national and battleground polls entering the final two-week stretch of the presidential race, but that’s no guarantee of victory on Election Day.

Just ask Hillary Clinton.

President Trump found himself in a similar position two weeks out from the 2016 election. Polls showed Mrs. Clinton well-positioned to bring the brash businessman’s meteoric rise to a crashing halt.

She held an even bigger edge than Mr. Biden in several key states — including Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that Mr. Trump carried on his way to winning the White House.

There is also no guarantee that history will repeat itself.

Pollsters warn against drawing too many comparisons between the two Octobers.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said it was like predicting this year’s Election Day weather based on last year’s forecast.

“At this time four years ago, we had an ‘Access Hollywood’ tape but had yet to hear about Comey reopening the Clinton email investigation,” he said. “It’s an entirely different context. The electorate is less volatile, fewer voters dislike both major candidates and it’s a referendum on the incumbent.”

Still, there are glaring similarities.

With 14 days to go before the election, Mr. Biden had an average lead of 3.9% in six battleground states: Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Arizona.

Mrs. Clinton held a 4.4% lead in those states at this juncture.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, is drawing thousands of energized supporters to his campaign rallies and offering the same unconventional rhetoric that cast Mrs. Clinton as the epitome of the Washington establishment that many voters resented.

Mr. Biden confronts a similar challenge after serving for 47 years in Washington, feeding a lingering Democratic anxiety left over from 2016 that the party could be marching into another devastating defeat.

“Mainstream media outlets have spent the last four years trying to destroy and defeat President Trump, so I don’t know why anyone would trust polls paid for by those same news organizations,” said Trump 2020 spokesman Tim Murtaugh. “If polls of Donald Trump were accurate, we’d be talking about Hillary Clinton’s reelection right now.”

Mr. Murtaugh said, “We know where the president stands, and he is headed for reelection.”

The good news for Democrats is that Mr. Biden and the Democratic National Committee have outraised Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee in the homestretch.

Last month, they pulled in $383 million and had $432 million on hand, while Mr. Trump and his allies raised $247.8 million and had $251 million left in the bank.

Democrats are feeling optimistic about the surge in early voting and the general sense that Mr. Biden is far less radioactive than Mrs. Clinton.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, summed up that line of thinking by telling constituents in a recent phone call that the primary reason Mr. Trump won was that “Hillary Clinton was, by far, the worst presidential candidate America has ever had.”

Mr. Trump and his allies now argue that “Crooked Joe” is cut from the same cloth as “Crooked Hillary.”

They tout the lucrative overseas business deals of his son Hunter Biden as proof that he made decisions based on enriching his family.

“The fact is, I did more in 47 months than sleepy Joe Biden did in 47 years, except what he did for himself,” Mr. Trump said at a rally this week.

Mr. Biden’s national numbers have remained steady. He has accomplished something that Mrs. Clinton couldn’t: consistently crack 50% in surveys. Mr. Trump has been stuck in the low to mid-40s.

Still, Mr. Trump is outhustling Mr. Biden in a big way as he looks to strengthen his hand in states such as Arizona, sprinting from battleground to battleground.

The latest polling averages show Mr. Biden with a 3-point lead in Arizona. Mrs. Clinton clung to a 1-point edge four years ago.

“You don’t have events like this and you come in second in Arizona, OK?” Mr. Trump said this week.

Mike Noble, of the Arizona-based OH Predictive Insights, said Mr. Trump is running strong but not as strong as he was in 2016.

“Biden has a slight edge,” Mr. Noble said. He said Mr. Biden’s support has solidified among women and college-educated voters.

“The biggest difference is that Trump was a candidate at the time that didn’t have a voting record,” Mr. Noble said. “He was an outsider.”

Overall, polling averages show Mr. Trump is in slightly worse shape in Arizona, Iowa, Georgia, Ohio and Nevada.

He is in slightly better shape in Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, said he would be surprised if there is as much daylight between the battleground state polls and the final tallies this election season.

He said pollsters have learned lessons from 2016 and that the chance of a major swing toward the tail end of the campaign is less likely because voters now know what they will get from Mr. Trump and millions have already cast their ballots.

“This is a wild and woolly affair and, in some ways, we are in uncharted territory here,” he said. “We have this huge polarization that we have not seen before.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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