Monday, May 20, 2024

When it comes to the presidential race, are polls all that matter?


A little more than five months from the 2024 presidential election, conventional wisdom suggests that Biden is losing. But according to today's aggregate of national polls at the Economist, the race is tied. Even the right wing news site Real Clear Politics only has Trump ahead by about a point. Of course, that's national polls and the race will be decided by how candidates do in so-called "swing states," where Trump shows a bigger advantage. 

A lot of questions are being raised these days about the accuracy of polling. But even if we put that aside, it certainly seems to me that what they're telling us is that this race is incredibly close. National media tends to jump on every small tic upward or downward with pronouncements that, at this stage in the race, aren't justified.

So are there other indicators we should be paying attention to? How about the fact that Biden recently overtook Trump in at least one important measure: "the total number of donors who have given to his campaign, which is often seen as a proxy for voter engagement?"

There's also something important happening at the RNC and state Republican parties. I was particularly struck by something Lara Trump said just before she was elected co-chair of the RNC. She vowed to spend “every single penny” of Republican National Committee (RNC) funds to reelect Trump to the White House. Perhaps she made that statement out of ignorance about the RNC's role in helping to fundraise for state parties and down-ballot races. But I'd put money on a bet that she meant every word. 

According to Max Burns, it's even worse than that.

A growing number of state Republican operations are either broke or perilously close to it...

Republicans can thank Donald Trump for their current financial problems. Trump’s deal with the RNC requires the party to run its donations first through his Save America PAC — which already paid over $50 million toward Trump’s personal legal fees in 2023 alone. That was before RNC co-chair Lara Trump mused about skipping the middleman making the GOP pay Trump’s legal bills directly.

What Lara really meant was, "no money for state parties and down-ballot races" because it's all going to pay Trump's legal fees. WOW!

This raises a couple of questions when it comes to presidential elections: (1) do local/state GOTV efforts matter, and (2) is there such a thing as "reverse coattails?" 

On the second question, Amanda Lipman (co-founder of Run for Something), thinks the answer is a resounding "yes."

In addition to polls, these are some things to keep an eye on over the next five months.  

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