I think Biden is a slight favorite. The distinction between slight and solid isn't that high, but here are some reasons to be a lot more bullish on Trump winning re-election:

1) Biden has a real problem with young voters- Maybe they just don't buy into his candidacy and he can't quite make up enough ground.

2) Trump's current problems with seniors will disappear once the campaign kicks off and if coronavirus problems go down

3) The decent possibility of a large recovery

4) Biden gets hammered and is viewed as corrupt and out of touch. The haters go toward Trump.

5) Trump can pull off one final electoral college v. popular vote split before 2024 makes his map untenable- Maybe he wins Arizona and Wisconsin by narrow margins while losing the popular vote by even more than he did in 2016

6) Too many unknowns to be very certain- Huge levels of partisanship. Social media and 24 hour cable news that's destroyed traditional campaigns. The possibility of a second wave. Biden and Trump both being old. A random supreme court vacancy. We haven't fully grasped how everyone reacts to events based on old models, and there are a ton of events we haven't modeled much.

All of those reasons--even some I'm not a giant believer in--give Trump at least a decent chance. I'd put Biden at around 65% to win.

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Just my two euros' worth - I see one big problem here, Elliott. It is that your model and the pollsters assume that people will be allowed to vote in numbers that reflect the sentiments in the polls. It seems to me that we are reading lots of plans to prevent lots of people from voting. That fact alone throws a monkey wrench into the polling. As I have stated elsewhere, in the battleground states, and in Florida in particular, the key is a Republican governor and a lot of voters who will be prevented, again, from having their votes counted. Let us count the ways Florida voters have been undercounted in the past. Black voters blocked from getting to the polling places. Polling places closed. Bags of ballots dumped in the trash. The so-called "hanging chads" distraction. Secretary of State refusal to accept ballots. Etc. So that's one important way that you and the pollsters can be wrong - presuming that the number of people who will vote is not going to be reduced by policy obstacles. And that those policy obstacles will fall entirely on Democratic voters. As we know, there's where you vote and there's who counts the votes. In Florida, both have been interfered with in the past, and will be again.

Your analysis also doesn't take into account the numerous ways the GOP will work to prevent an election outcome that favors Democrats everywhere. We already know about the litigation filed to prevent absentee ballots. I do not doubt that these cases will wind up at the SCOTUS and that is not a happy possibility right now.

Cassandra speaks.

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It's difficult to argue with your summary. There's a fairly convincing null hypothesis that says in this hyper-polarised era the gap between two of the country's best-known politicians will remain roughly as it has done over the last few months. The race could change significantly over the next five months but the burden to convince is on those who make the opposing case.

I suspect the reason pundits (and betting markets) don't see it in this way is because they always insist on fighting the last battle. A lot of smart people were burned in November 2016 (as they were over here in the UK on the Brexit referendum a few months earlier) so their natural reaction is to overcompensate when adjusting their priors.

The Conservatives upset odds of 14/1 to win a majority in the 2015 UK general election, and so when their new leader called a snap election two years later, they traded at 33/1 to lose that majority, which they duly did. Then in last December's election, pundits and bettors were waiting for Labour to repeat their 2017 poll surge. But it didn't come and the Conservatives won as solidly as the polls early in the campaign had suggested.

"Boring" election campaigns, like Obama's two wins, don't generate as much excitement or as many clicks as 2016-style surprises but they're arguably the default occurrence and should be treated as such by handicappers until there's reason to think differently. Even if Biden were to stretch his national lead, margin of error and the PV/EC differential means the narrative will always be of a competitive race (which will suit Dems perfectly as it will help to avoid complacency). But only because the race will always be viewed through the prism of 2016.

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I think your analysis is right on, and if the election were held today Biden would be a strong favorite. What makes me hesitant about his chances in November are 1) all the sources of uncertainty, & 2) Trump's money & digital campaign advantages. I have to think Biden is more likely to win than Clinton was in 2016, but what does that leave us with? I'd put Biden's chances of winning today at ~90%, but with all the uncertainty I'm currently parked in the 60-70% likelihood, which is not a comfortable space to be in considering the 2016 results.

What I see as significant sources of uncertainty currently:

- Covid19 - If there's a strong 2nd wave in November, that would help Biden (but if the 2nd wave mostly hits urban centers it could become a wash because it might suppress voting in urban areas more). But, if there's no significant 2nd wave and the economy is steadily moving in a positive direction, it's difficult to know how it impacts the election.

- Biden's VP pick - I agree with most that VP picks don't often make a huge difference, but Biden is older and it's important that his VP pick doesn't make independents in battleground states nervous.

- Trump - the hard and fast rules from the past don't seem to hold with him. He seems to get away with things weekly that would've been scandalous for almost any other politician in history.

- Election tampering & voter suppression - it's not a question of whether this will happen, but to what degree it's successful. We have Democratic governors in WI, MI, PA, and NC, but Republicans in NH, AZ, FL, and GA. In the Republican controlled states I could see significant voter suppression (0.5-1% is not unreasonable).

- Unknowns - what are all the things that are going to happen over the next 5 months that we can't determine?

- Narrow loss - how does Trump react if he suffers a narrow loss and he puts in motion his media machine, justice department, and his final ace-in-the-hole - the solidly conservative Supreme Court?

- Ruth Bader Ginsburg - if she dies or has a significant health issue in month or two leading up to the election, that could significantly amp up the Republican base. It's going to be a high turnout election anyway, but this would put them into hyper-drive.

- What do the voter demographics look like for each candidate. We're hearing that Trump is losing some support among older voters - do they come back by Nov? Do the suburban women swing to the Dems like in 2018? And of course, the fickle younger voter who doesn't love Biden and likely won't come out in November, while most other demographic groups will likely come out at historically high rates.

All of that said, I have to think that Biden is more likely to win in 2020 than Clinton was in 2016, and everything had to (and did) break Trump's way in 2016 for him to just eek out an EC win. So, I'm completely aligned with your thinking, but there's just too much time left and too much uncertainty for me to lean to heavily on the current state of the race.

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I read today that 42 governors have 60+% approval. What if every state with a red governor voted Red for president?

Most polls are not doing Likely Voters yet. How many Blue points of margin get lost when going from A to RV to LV? Historically, helps Red, no?

Consider the case that the economy will be better in November than it is in the last few months. Helps Red (relative to current polls).

Given the uncertainty of turnout this year (e.g. covid, enthusiasm, evictions), not sure (+5, +5, +3, -1%) margin in (PA, WI, FL, OH resp.) is sufficient to claim a strong favorite. Biden can't lose three of those, without something weird like winning Texas. (And if the case depends on FL going blue in 2020, it's possible, but no one should say "high confidence" about something like that...)

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I have to think that the killing of George Floyd, the way that injustice has captured the world, and the way that Trump has responded to it can only bolster your take on the state of the presidential race. We're in the middle of the trees right now, but I simply can not see how it's possible that this doesn't significantly hurt Trump in the election. Urban centers and non-Whites are going to be that much more motivated to vote this guy out. It also makes it significantly more likely that Biden picks a VP that is Black, or at the very least not White...which will further solidify the stark choice in this election.

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One thing that works against Trump this time which is completely the opposite of 2016 -- he is the incumbent. He now has a substantial record whereas in 2016 he had ZERO record. ANY election where the incumbent is in the low to mid 40's is very problematic for them. Re-elections are about the incumbent for the most part, yea or nay.

Overall views on him have changed little over the 3+ years of his term. His base is with him. No other group is. What will/can he do in 5 months that will substantially change what he's done in 3+ years?

I see nothing to bolster him.

But I see lots of things that will further drive his numbers down.

Biggest key? He botched the COVID response. He cannot change any of that. It's all baked in the pie and the pie is already in the oven.

Biden will take upwards of 330 EV, all the way up to near 400 depending on how much worse COVID gets (it's not getting much better with any degree of speed) and the economy will not "bounce back" like so many optimists are predicting. Lower class workers have had their lives decimated and the recovery won't hit them for well over a year from now. Poor people's situation is now dire, and it was already pretty dire. Once people start losing their health insurance watch out.

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Personally, I think many pollsters are missing the extent of the Anybody But Trump syndrome. It seems to me it's bigger than they suggest. I primarily back this up by how pollsters filter their respondents etc. I think some are missing the "haven't voted much before crowd", especially among young people and people of color.

Many younger voters (18-30), I believe, sat out 2016 because they were raised to dislike Clinton and they couldn't stand Trump. They didn't vote. That helped Trump squeak out a win more than anything else. If anything, I think 2018 has shown us many of those individuals will not sit out 2020 and are about as anti-Trump as anyone, anywhere.

I also believe many pollsters are missing the speed with which the suburban voters, especially women, are fleeing the GOP. Trump is the primary cause of this. Many of these voters have gone GOP in the past primarily due to economic reasons and the promise of tax cuts. But those tax cuts didn't reach all of them, and even though who got them saw little impact. It's very clear to everyone to whom the bulk of those tax cuts went. No one is fooled any longer.

Then voters saw much the same think happen as a result of the Stimulus Bill. Big corporations took the bulk of the money; many small businesses didn't get there fast enough -- through no fault of there own as they believed what the Feds were telling. They were unpleasantly surprised and many of them are struggling to stay afloat with no government help to speak of.

Also, many are overestimating how the economy will "bounce back." Many, many, many low income job workers will NEVER get their jobs back. Companies will cut the ranks of the lower wage workers as a way to improve their bottom line for quarters 2 and 3 in order to make stockholders happy. I believe this will involve millions of workers, the ones who can least afford it. Many of these voters are what pundits call "low info voters". One thing they are not lacking info on is their income, their job, and their inability to maintain even a basic lifestyle.

Trump's in far more trouble than many think.

I think you are "on the money" with respect to Biden.

Biden is no Clinton. He is a very likable man. He is a very respectable man. Many, many voters can relate to the incredible losses he's faced personally over the years. He truly is a "Uncle Joe" figure to many, even the younger voters who, despite not being "enthusiastic" about him, are VERY UNENTHUSIASTIC about a man most of them view as a despicable human being devote of any empathy, any kindness, and any regard for anyone but himself.

I would not be surprised at all if Biden takes somewhere around 400 electoral votes -- give or take, depending mostly on how Texas goes.

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Suggest reading David Plouffe’s book, “A Citizen’s Guide to Beating Donald Trump.”

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Two things. First, I think you have the saying wrong. It's "don't miss the forest for the trees." In other words, the forest is the important thing to make sure you don't miss, and the trees are the details. Second, the major issue is that all of these polls are soft. Biden's lead is less than that of Mike Dukakis in 1988, comparable to John Kerry in 2004. Given the COVID-related uncertainty in voting, and Trump's enormous advantages in money, data, and organization (not to mention Electoral College maps), I think the betting markets are right that this is a jump ball.

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It's too early make any real prediction on who will win in November which is five months away. Too many chances for both candidates to stumble. Take Joe Biden. What if for some reason he picks Amy Klobucher as his VP choice. With what happened in Minnesota together with her record as a prosecutor, he would lose a part of his base. As to Donald Trump, what if the economy looks like it is going to come back and a number of people get their joys back. What if he settles the China situation. Would voters think that was enough to give him a second term. I believe it was Yogi Berra who said it ain't over until the fat lady signs. Right now the fat lady has been sitting in the wings waiting to sing for Joe Biden. Let's hope she does. But remembering it's never over until it is over, ask the Dodgers how they felt on August 21, 1990. By the way, I'm a Phillies fan.

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To continue your forest and tree analogy, the problem here is with the pandemic playing the role of a forest fire that makes the terrain unrecognizable from either perspective. Backed by a supine party, what happens when an unscrupulous president uses the leverage of a second wave selectively to alter turnout in key states?

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