100 days out, Donald Trump is in dire straits

CNN's John King breaks down the latest CNN polls that show President Trump trailing behind Joe Biden in the key states of Arizona, Florida and Michigan.

Posted: Jul 27, 2020 6:01 AM
Updated: Jul 27, 2020 6:01 AM

With just 100 days(!) until the 2020 election, the day itself will be here before you know it. Here's where things stand in the races for the White House, the Senate and the House with 100 days left in the campaign.

*The House:

While Republicans may have started 2019 with hopes that they might be able to pick up the 18 seats they needed to retake the majority they lost in 2018, those hopes are gone.

At this point, given President Donald Trump's dismal poll numbers nationally -- and especially in the suburbs -- the goal for House Republicans is to avoid a sort of landslide loss of seats that might relegate them to the minority for the next decade.

It's not entirely clear if they will be able to avoid that nightmare scenario.

Earlier this month, the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign tipsheet, moved 20(!) seats in a single day -- all in Democrats' favor.

Wrote House editor David Wasserman of Republicans:

"Now they're just trying to avoid a repeat of 2008, when they not only lost the presidency but got swamped by Democrats' money and lost even more House seats after losing 30 seats and control two years earlier. For the first time this cycle, Democrats have at least as good a chance at gaining House seats as Republicans on a net basis."

The problems for Republicans are compounded by the massive fundraising disparity they face.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Democratic House candidates have raised $457 million so far in this election to $365 million for their GOP counterparts as of July 1. And the gap is even wider in the most competitive races; in a baker's dozen of most competitive races with primaries in June and July, Democratic incumbents have nearly nine(!) times more on hand -- $40 million to $4.5 million -- than the best-funded GOP challengers.

Combine a declining national environment with that sort of fundraising problem and you have a recipe for House disaster for Republicans.

*The Senate:

At the start of the 2020 election, you'd have been hard-pressed to find a single national political handicapper willing to predict that Democrats would retake the chamber on November 3.

While the raw numbers looked good -- 23 Republican seats up as compared to 12 for Democrats -- the landscape was less favorable for the minority party. Just two Republican incumbents -- Sens. Cory Gardner in Colorado and Susan Collins in Maine -- are running in states Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Which means 21 of the 23 GOP seats are in places Trump won four years ago.

And yet, as the election has worn on, the outlook has shifted considerably -- thanks, in large part, to Trump's rapidly declining fortunes and struggles by GOP incumbents to distance themselves from him.

In Arizona, Sen. Martha McSally (R) looks dead in the water in her race against former astronaut Mark Kelly (D). Gardner is in deep trouble against former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D). And Collins is facing by far the biggest challenge of her political career in the form of state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D).

And those three seats are just the start of Senate Republicans' problems. Both seats in Georgia are in peril, as are North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, Montana Sen. Steve Daines and the open seat in Kansas. (Yes, Kansas!)

By contrast, Democrats have only one real issue: Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D), who will face off against former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville in the fall. Jones, because of the state's strong Republican lean, could well do everything perfectly and still lose. (While Republicans talk about the vulnerability of Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan, there's not much evidence that race is going to be all that close.)

What it all means is this: Democrats have a WIDE playing field on which to attempt to win the three seats they need if Biden wins the White House and four if Trump gets reelected. And at this point, they have to be considered favorites to do so, which is remarkable given where this two-year cycle started.

*The White House:

There's simply no way to sugarcoat this for fans of the President. If the presidential election were held today, not only would Trump lose the White House, but he would do so by a large margin.

The last time that Trump led former Vice President Joe Biden in a national poll was in mid-February; the CNN poll of polls shows Biden with a 52% to 40% edge over the incumbent.

The situation in swing states is actually more dire for Trump. He currently trails Biden in every single swing state from 2016 and appears to be in serious jeopardy in several longtime Republican friendly states, like Texas and Arizona.

There's no secret as to the "why" here. A majority of the public disapproves of Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And the coronavirus pandemic is the dominant issue for voters -- especially suburban women who Trump badly needs to do well among to have a chance of winning nationally.

As his ratings on dealing with the pandemic have dropped, his overall job approval numbers and his standing in hypothetical matchups with Biden have tanked as well.

If the problem is obvious, the solution is less so. Even if Trump tries a new tone on the virus -- as he did this week, touting the necessity of mask-wearing and speaking more soberly in daily briefings on Covid-19 -- it's not entirely clear that would change people's minds about him.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month showed Biden with a 20-point edge on which candidate voters trusted more to deal with coronavirus. And the voters who believe Trump has mishandled the crisis are far more passionate in that view than those who believe he has done well in dealing with it.

If past is prologue, it is very hard to change people's minds about an issue that they care deeply about. We believe what we believe and, generally speaking, that's it.

That's the reality Trump faces 100 days out from his bid for a second term. And no amount of tweets or Fox News interviews is going to change it.

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