New poll shows why Trump is likely to defeat Biden in November

The serial indictments of former President Donald Trump last spring sent his support among Republicans and some independents into the stratosphere. For the first time, he topped President Joe Biden in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, a lead he maintained from early April through July. Although Biden enjoyed a brief reprieve over the summer, Trump recaptured the lead in September and has held onto it ever since.

This is significant. Biden led Trump in the polling averages for the entire 2020 election cycle. The size of Biden’s lead fluctuated between 4.3% and 10.2%. On the eve of the election, Biden was up by 7.2%.

The story was similar in 2016. Except for two brief points in time, Trump trailed Hillary Clinton by margins of up to 11.4%. The final polling average before the election showed Clinton ahead by 3.2%.

The current RCP average shows Trump ahead of Biden by 2 points in a head-to-head matchup. But that’s not why Trump is likely to prevail in November. Rather, Trump’s chances of success lie in the massive enthusiasm gap between his supporters and Biden’s. 

A newly released Harvard/CAPS-Harris poll, for example, shows that Republicans are more enthusiastic about Trump than Democrats are about Biden. James Piereson, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, discovered a golden nugget within the crosstabs of the poll. Ninety percent of Republican voters surveyed said they would vote for Trump and 5% for Biden. In contrast, just 82% of Democratic voters planned to vote for Biden, while 12% said they would cast their ballots for Trump. (For comparison, just 64% of Republicans said they would vote for GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley).

Although an 8% difference in those who say they will support their identified party’s standard bearer, and a 7% difference in those who will vote for the opposing party’s candidate, may not sound like a game changer, let me assure you: it is.

Following Trump’s stunning 2016 victory, the Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote: “Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump won those states by 0.2, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively — and by 10,704, 46,765 and 22,177 votes. Those three wins gave him 46 electoral votes; if Clinton had done one point better in each state, she’d have won the electoral vote, too.”

The margins were even closer in 2020. NPR reported, “Just 44,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin separated Biden and Trump from a tie in the Electoral College.”

The Harvard/CAPS-Harris poll also delivers some bad news for Nikki Haley, who claims she stands a better chance against Biden than Trump in the general election. In the January version of this poll, Haley was ahead of Biden in a two-way race by 3 points. In the current poll, however, Biden leads Haley by a margin of 41% to 39%. (It’s worth noting that 19% of respondents were undecided.) It’s possible that, having gotten to know Haley a little better over the course of the primary season, voters have lost some of their earlier enthusiasm for her. 

Haley’s supporters argue that, historic as Trump’s 51% win in the Iowa caucuses was, 49% of Republican caucus goers voted for other candidates. They also point out that even though she lost to Trump in the New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan primaries, she still won 43%, 40%, and 26% of the votes, respectively. Their concern is that Republicans who didn’t vote for Trump in the primary may not vote for him in the general election. 

First, it’s fair to say that a substantial portion of Haley’s support so far has come from Democrats, particularly in New Hampshire and South Carolina. (It might even be the reason why she finished with more than 40% of the vote in those two states and just 26% in the Michigan primary.) At any rate, this support plumped up her margins, but they were never Republican votes to begin with. And these votes will undoubtedly go back to Biden. 

But most Republicans are likely to vote for Trump in November, according to Roll Call elections analyst Nathan Gonzales. “In the end, history suggests the vast majority of Republicans will support him, even if they preferred an alternative in the primary or have concerns about his character and candidacy.” He added, “The bottom line is that party unity in the general election is powerful.” 

That could be why the Harvard/CAPS-Harris poll shows Trump 6 points ahead of Biden in a two-way race, by a margin of 53% to 47%. There was no change from the January poll. 

In fact, Trump fared even better when a third-party candidate was introduced. In a hypothetical three-way matchup that included Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Trump led with 42%, compared to Biden with 35% and Kennedy with 15%. Piereson notes that Kennedy picked up votes from 20% of Democrats, 18% of independents, but only 9% of Republicans. 

Trump can help drive continued GOP unity by delivering more speeches like those he gave after his landslide victory in the Iowa caucuses and his double-digit win in the South Carolina primary. His optimistic message to Americans on both sides of the aisle received bipartisan praise. 

In the meantime, the angry, wizened, and senile Biden will continue with his divisive, insulting, and increasingly incoherent rants and watch his support crumble. 


A previous version of this article appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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