Polls Presidential Election

Staying Sober on the Purple Highway: The Swing States Round 4

The Democratic Party surely hoped, as a result of its convention, that its presentation of an ethnically and culturally diverse America validating its ticket would have broad appeal to a national audience. It won me over, as I am sure it did for practically every Democrat in the country. Practically every Democrat, I am also sure, doesn’t want to go into the fall intoxicated by  Vice-President Biden’s 8-9 point lead in the polls.

That’s why I am asking you to stay sober on the Purple Highway!

Polling guru Nate Silver of 538.com put his stamp on what is going through everybody’s mind – don’t count Trump out. The race will tighten, he said. Regardless of the popular vote, the road to an electoral college majority and victory goes through a group of swing states that Hilary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in 2016, including Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arizona. 

I analyzed the polling this spring in these six states in Round 3 of the Purple Highway.

Here’s an update for these six highly competitive states, including some significant changes since I last wrote about these states.


The most significant rating change in the swing states came on July 24th when the nationally respected Cook Political Report changed its Florida Electoral College Rating from Toss-Up to Lean Democrat following several months of decline in President Trump’s support. There isn’t really a question why: This graph depicting Florida’s COVID-19 devastation tells the story:

Florida coronavirus

Here’s the state of polling in Florida since mid-July. ((LV= Likely Voter; RV=Registered Voter)

Redfield&Wilton Aug.6 1280 LV 48 41
OnMessage Aug.2-4 400 LV 49 49
Change Rsch Aug.7-9 469 LV 50 44
Zogby July 21-23 811 LV 43 43
MasonDixon July 20-23 625 LV 50 46
Morning Consult July 17-26 3,760 LV 49 46
CNN July 18-24 880 RV 51 46
Quinnipiac July 16-20 924 RV 51 38

My May 11 picture of Florida showed an average lead of 3 points in 4 polls. These 8 polls average a Biden lead of nearly 9 points. The Quinnipiac July Florida poll lead for Biden was 13 points. Was Quinnipiac an outlier? This pollster was one of the four polls in the May 11 picture, and Biden led by 4 in the Quinnipiac Florida poll then. If one took Quinnipiac out of the list, Biden’s lead would still be four points. The sober analysis: the election is very close in Florida and Trump is far from out of it. He won in 2016 by 1.2 points.


The most recent polling in these critical states is presented

Redf&Wiltn Aug.6-18 812 LV 50 38
Civiqs Aug.13-17 631 LV 49 46
GQR Rsch J.30-Aug.4 1245 LV 52 43
Change Rsch Aug.7-9 413 LV 48 43
You Gov J.27-Aug.6 761 RV 47 43
EPIC-MRA J.25-30 600 LV 51 40
Red&Wilt Aug.16-17 1006 LV 48 41
Civiqs A.13-17 617 LV 51 44
Muhlnbg A.11-17 416 LV 49 45
OnMsge A.2-4 400 LV 50 46
ChgeRsch A.7-9 456 LV 48 44
Emerson A.8-10 843 LV 52 43
Red&Wilt A.16-19 672 LV 49 39
Civiqs A.13-17 754 LV 51 45
OnMsge A.2-4 400 LV 47 47
MorngCslt A.7-16 788 LV 49 43
ChgeRsch A.7-9 384 LV 47 43
Marquette A.4-9 694 LV 50 46

There are six polls each in these three States Hilary Clinton lost by two-tenths of a point in Michigan, seven-tenths of a point in Pennsylvania, and eight-tenths of a point in Wisconsin.

Biden leads by an average of 49.5-42.2, or 7.3 points, in Michigan. His lead in May in Michigan was 7.6 points, essentially identical. The Vice-President leads by an average of 49.7-43.8 in Pennsylvania, or six points. His lead in Pennsylvania in May was 5.6 points, also essentially identical. In Wisconsin Biden leads 48.8-44.0, or about five points ( I removed an outlier poll in Wisconsin showing Biden with a 12pt.lead). His lead in Wisconsin in May was 3.4 points; the current lead is slightly higher.


I am presenting the summary of 538.com’s scorecards for Arizona and North Carolina, which 538’s Nate Silver anticipates will become dead heats as the election tightens in the fall.

ARIZONA                                             NORTH CAROLINA

Arizona north carolina

Hilary Clinton lost Arizona by 3 1/2 points in 2016, and lost North Carolina by 3.7 points. It’s a given that Trump will fight tooth and nail to hold these states. The Democratic Party has some unique strengths down-ballot in both states. Astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was seriously disabled by an assassination attempt (and gave a very impressive speech at the Democratic Convention), holds a commanding lead over the appointed Republican Martha McSally, who lost a statewide Arizona Senate race to Kristen Sinema in 2018.  In the last twelve polls, dating from late July to just days ago, Kelly leads McSally 50-41, an average of nine points. Biden, Harris, and Kelly offer Democrats quite a team to compete with the Republicans. The Democratic Party has become extraordinarily competitive in Arizona.

North Carolina was a disappointing loss for the Democrats in 2016, but the Democrats have two other outstanding  statewide candidates, including a candidate for the United States Senate, Cal Cunningham, running against incumbent Republican Tom Tillis. In fifteen polls stretching back to mid-July, Cunningham has an average lead of 46.3- 40.0, or six points ( and I dropped one outlier where Cunningham led by 16).

The Democrats also have incumbent Governor Roy Cooper running for re-election. According to Real Clear Politics, Cooper leads his Republican opponent Dan Forest by ten points, 50-40. Forest is actually the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, which must make for some interesting North Carolina cabinet meetings  (well, maybe Forest doesn’t attend). The Democrats have four solid candidates on the ticket, Biden, Harris, Cunningham, and Cooper. This may be the moment for the Democratic Party in North Carolina.

The Presidential Election is 71 days away.  Stay sober on the Purple Highway.

Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years and retired at the end of 2016. He chaired four committees, including the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions for six years, the Committee on Cities for five years, and the Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities for six years. There are 96 Brennan laws on the books of the State of New York and Jim won three national awards for his legislative work during his career.

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