Biden maintains a steady polling lead; Georgia Senate race is tight among three candidates

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Trump campaign: Supporters loved the first debate, but did it persuade anyone else?

Even though President Trump’s first debate performance was almost immediately panned as too aggressive, even unpresidential, some members of his team were initially euphoric. “Strong, confident,” said an adviser to the campaign the following day. “Joe Biden was fumbling and stumbling.” Vice President Mike Pence publicly said Trump won “hands down.”

Trump World-adjacent supporters were more cautious in their assessments. “On the Trump side, it was too hot,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who helped the president prepare for the debate, said on ABC News. “You come in and decide you want to be aggressive, and I think it’s the right thing to be aggressive, but that was too hot. With all that heat, you lose the light. That potentially can be fixed. Maybe, maybe not.”

“I think President Trump went in to dominate — whether that was a good or bad strategy, we’ll have to decide later,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, said on Fox News.

Trump’s dominance had debate moderator Chris Wallace complaining afterward — “I had baked this beautiful, delicious cake, and then, frankly, the president put his foot in it,” he said — and the Commission on Presidential Debates scurrying to impose new rules to keep him from interrupting.

It captures a dilemma for Trump going forward: The combativeness his strongest supporters find endearing and exciting may be off-putting to the voters he needs to swing in his direction. The debates may be his last opportunity to reverse Biden’s monthslong lead in the polls. — by W. James Antle III

Biden campaign: The former vice president maintains a steady lead in national and state polls

Whenever a campaign or supporters of a candidate say to “ignore the polls,” it’s a pretty good indicator their team isn’t winning. Joe Biden leads President Trump in every national poll and has since he secured the Democratic nomination in early June. People point to 2016, claiming the polls got it “wrong.” On the national front, the poll results were well within the margin of error. In state polls, they missed in three states Hillary Clinton ultimate lost — Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Trump won all three states by a combined 77,000 votes, so he has little room for error.

Still, unlike 2016, several distinct differences exist within the polling numbers that should give the Biden team some hope going into the final 30 days of the campaign.

First, in two polling averages, the RealClearPolitics average and the FiveThirtyEight average, Biden hits the 50% mark, a ceiling Clinton failed to reach.

Secondly, there are no “spoilers” in the race this year. In 2016, some voters, turned off by both Biden and Trump, turned to the Libertarian Party candidate, former Arizona Gov. Gary Johnson, and the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. No third-party candidate has emerged in 2020 to consume 3% to 5% of the national polling average.

Finally, Trump only led one national poll the entire year. That was an Emerson poll of registered voters back in February. Biden even leads in the Rasmussen Reports polls, a firm considered favorable to the president.

The polling numbers could explain Trump’s aggressiveness with Biden in their first debate. A campaign that knows it is winning typically does not go on the attack. — by Jay Caruso

House: Presidential race could boost prospects of Nebraska House Democratic candidate

The presidential campaign will likely have the largest spillover effect in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, based in Omaha.

That’s because only Nebraska and Maine divvy up Electoral College votes by congressional district, rather than statewide. So while Nebraska is sure to back President Trump, as it has with every Republican nominee from 1968 onward, his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has a real shot at winning the congressional district. And that’s already proving to be a benefit for the campaign of Democratic House candidate Kara Eastman.

She’s challenging Republican Rep. Don Bacon, having lost to him 51%-49% in 2018. Eastman is running as an unapologetic liberal in a district that encompasses the core of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. The district stands in stark contrast to the rest of agriculture-heavy Nebraska, as it’s 98% urban.

Therein lies the appeal for the Biden campaign. The presidential campaign of the former vice president and 36-year Delaware senator has been advertising heavily in the district. And the tactic has worked before. The 2008 Democratic ticket, with Biden as understudy to Democratic nominee Barack Obama, picked off the electoral vote, marking the first time a state split an electoral vote since Nebraska and Maine adopted the system in the 1970s.

Biden leads Trump in the district 48%-41%, according to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll. The survey also found Bacon leading Eastman 45%-43%.

Bacon’s narrow lead is a testament to the enduring Republican lean in the district, if by a much narrower margin than the rest of Nebraska, which in 2016 backed Trump over Hillary Clinton statewide 59%-34%.

Bacon, before turning to politics, was a career Air Force officer, rising to brigadier general and wing commander at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, and Offutt Air Force Base, in Nebraska. — by David Mark

Senate: In Georgia, will the two Republicans split the vote enough to allow a Democrat to vie for the win in a runoff?

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp had the perfect plan.

The Republican won a nail-biter of a race for governor in 2018 over rising Democratic star Stacey Abrams thanks to strong support in exurban communities and rural Georgia, amid severe erosion of support for the GOP in the Atlanta suburbs. To compensate, the conservative chief executive appointed wealthy businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to the Senate to succeed Republican Johnny Isakson, who resigned for health reasons at the end of 2019, two years before the conclusion of his term. His reasoning? A woman would help Republicans recover lost ground, and in the process help President Trump; Sen. David Perdue, up for reelection in a regularly scheduled election; and GOP congressional candidates.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

In Georgia, when the governor fills a vacant Senate seat, his appointee is required to stand for election in a special election held the same day as the regular November election, with the top two finishers advancing to a runoff if the winner does not top 50% of the vote. Loeffler’s prospects of doing that were erased overnight when Republican Rep. Doug Collins jumped into the race, ignoring the pleas of GOP leaders to stay out. To protect her right flank, Loeffler positioned herself as a champion of President Trump and his populist agenda, thereby wiping away her appeal to disaffected Republicans and Democratic moderates in the Atlanta suburbs.

Meanwhile, Democrat Raphael Warnock, who is black, has surged in recent polls, putting himself in position to make the runoff, especially if Loeffler and Collins continue to split the Republican vote. Could Democrats really steal a Senate seat in Georgia? The state is an emerging battleground whose demographics are trending Democratic. Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are running neck and neck, and some polls show Perdue in similar trouble. So, yes, the special Senate election in Georgia merits attention. — by David M. Drucker

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