(NEXSTAR) — President Donald Trump entered last Tuesday’s presidential debate against Joe Biden needing to shake up the stable support for the former vice president and get within striking distance of an Electoral College upset similar to 2016.
It appears that hasn’t happened.
The polling averages have remained remarkably stable through summer, but reporting on the president’s tax history, a Supreme Court nomination fight, the debate and a coronavirus outbreak at the White House all suggest that if the polls are going to move before election day, the time is now.
Early numbers following the combative and often unproductive first debate are that the president has not dented Biden’s support yet in October. In fact, Trump appears to be falling farther behind.
The poll watchers at FiveThirtyEight describe the shift toward Biden this week across eleven before-and-after polls as “modest.”
“On average, Biden gained 1.5 percentage points from the pre-debate to the post-debate versions of these polls,” wrote FiveThirtyEight Editor Nate Silver.
Similarly, Real Clear Politics‘ average shows Biden gaining ground nationally and holding at least a one point lead on average in all six key battle ground states.
Mr. Trump hasn’t climbed above 44 percent support since April, according to RCP. The former vice president has hovered in the 48 to 51 percent range since late May, and he is near the top of that range now with a projected 8.5 percent lead.
Few likely election scenarios tested by FiveThirtyEight and others show Mr. Trump claiming both a popular vote and an Electoral College victory in November. A far more likely scenario is something similar to 2016, where the president would edge close enough that he would be able to cross the 270 vote total needed in the Electoral College while again losing the popular vote, likely by millions of ballots. But most pundits say Biden’s lead is wider than Hillary Clinton’s was at this point four years ago, and that both the national and state polls would likely need to shift toward Trump over the next month for the odds of an upset to match 2016.
For perspective, Real Clear Politics showed Clinton leading by 3.2 points nationally on election day in 2016, but she ended up winning the popular vote by just 2.1 percent. That margin was close enough to make a state-level upset a more realistic proposition.
While we won’t fully see the results of President Trump’s hospitalization reflected in the polling for a few more days, early numbers from a chaotic week suggest things are going in the wrong direction for team Trump.