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Is Donald Trump starting to make an electoral comeback?

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Posted: Sep 21, 2020 10:51 PM
Updated: Sep 21, 2020 10:51 PM

With 53 days left before voters decide his political fate, there were stirrings Thursday that suggest the political freefall President Donald Trump has been in for months has not only ended, but that the Electoral College landscape may be starting to move back in his direction, ever so slightly.

The big news came out of the Cook Political Report, one of the preeminent political handicapping services in the country, which moved two states -- Florida and Nevada -- in the President's direction. Florida moved from "lean Democrat" to "Toss Up," while Nevada went from "Likely Democrat" to "Lean Democrat."

"Biden's Electoral College lead has narrowed to 279 to 187 for Trump," wrote Cook's Amy Walter of the moves. "Earlier this summer, Biden held a 308 to 187 lead."

Also on Thursday, The Economist updated its electoral model, writing this:

"In early June The Economist published its own statistical forecasting model for this November's presidential contest to guide such handicapping. Back then, it gave Donald Trump at best a one-in-five chance of winning a second term. But by July, as unrest and the coronavirus ravaged the nation, his odds had slumped to as low as one-in-ten. There they stayed until the middle of August. Now, our model shows Mr Trump has clawed back a sizeable chunk of support."

All of which leads us to the question: Are we seeing the stirring of an actual Trump comeback? Or is the movement effectively a dead-cat bounce rather than a sign of an actual increased chance for Trump to beat former Vice President Joe Biden on November 3?

That question is difficult to answer with any sort of certainty for a few reasons -- most notably that we are still 53 days from the election. And we are still in the grips of a pandemic that is projected to kill more than 400,000 Americans by the end of the year. And in the middle of a national conversation about race that has sparked protests -- peaceful and violent -- across the country. And with the least predictable or traditional person in the White House in modern American history.

In short: The last two-ish months before an election are always chaotic and somewhat unpredictable. That goes quadruple for this election.

But simply because we can't say anything definitive doesn't mean there's nothing to see here. And what these latest stirrings in the electoral map look like are a sort of return to normalcy in the electorate as opposed to any major movement in Trump's favor.

Think of if this way: The electorate is like a rubber band. The dual summer crises of the death of George Floyd and the mounting death toll in the United States from coronavirus stretched that rubber band heavily in Biden's direction as voters rapidly lost confidence in the President's ability to effectively deal with the pandemic and/or direct a serious national dialogue about race and policing. All that's happened in the last month or so is that the rubber band has returned slightly closer to its normal level of tension. It hasn't begun to be stretched in Trump's direction and, in fact, it still is more in Biden's favor, although slightly less so than, say, two months ago.

Consider that while Cook's ratings changes narrow Biden's Electoral College lead, even with Florida (and its 29 electoral votes) back in "Toss Up," Biden has 279 electoral votes in their projections. Which is nine more than he needs to be elected in November. And that while The Economist's model now gives Trump a better chance of winning than it did this summer, G. Elliott Morris, a data journalist who wrote the piece about the latest projections, noted this on Twitter:

"Context is key tho. We give Trump less than half the chance we would have at this point in 16 if we ran the same model. The last 2 weeks (post-convention) are typically the incumbent's best of the cycle—yet polls moved modestly, if at all, and POTUS's odds are only 3 pts better."

And there's this: Biden's lead in national polling has remained steady for months. At the moment, the CNN poll of polls pegs Biden at 51% and Trump at 43%.

Given the deep polarization in the country -- Trump is, according to Gallup, the most polarizing president in American history -- some regression to the mean, electorally speaking, seems somewhat inevitable as Election Day draws closer. We are not a country at the moment in which a presidential candidate of either party is likely to score a massive victory.

That's not to say that Trump can't win. He absolutely can. But it is to say that he, despite some recent movement in places like Florida and Nevada (and even Pennsylvania) in his favor, remains a clear underdog to beat Biden to 270 electoral votes. Still.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 918230

Reported Deaths: 15011
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1252491952
Lake623371084
Allen52301746
Hamilton43009443
St. Joseph41155584
Elkhart32831485
Vanderburgh29698436
Tippecanoe26442247
Johnson23106414
Hendricks21708338
Porter21255340
Clark16988222
Madison16899378
Vigo15562272
Monroe14186190
LaPorte13961235
Delaware13613215
Howard13531258
Kosciusko11150134
Hancock10534159
Warrick10431174
Bartholomew10233166
Floyd10099202
Wayne9557216
Grant8858194
Morgan8654158
Boone8231109
Dubois7521123
Henry7391126
Dearborn734186
Noble7208100
Marshall7168127
Cass7060117
Lawrence6803150
Jackson638980
Shelby6386106
Gibson5999105
Harrison587984
Huntington586490
Montgomery5663101
DeKalb555691
Knox532999
Miami523183
Clinton522464
Putnam519067
Whitley509851
Steuben480267
Wabash470192
Jasper465760
Jefferson456091
Ripley439074
Adams435565
Daviess4008106
Scott389563
White383457
Decatur376895
Clay376455
Greene375589
Wells375183
Fayette363074
Posey351841
Jennings341756
Washington324046
LaGrange312074
Spencer310734
Fountain306553
Randolph302087
Sullivan294947
Owen275961
Orange269659
Starke268961
Fulton264451
Jay248134
Perry244950
Carroll239926
Franklin229337
Vermillion225850
Rush225530
Parke212020
Tipton205354
Pike200938
Blackford163834
Pulaski155250
Crawford140818
Benton138316
Newton138141
Brown130646
Martin124416
Switzerland122310
Warren112616
Union92211
Ohio75811
Unassigned0461

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1319265

Reported Deaths: 21265
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1480641537
Cuyahoga1311202313
Hamilton948871307
Montgomery647451122
Summit548531041
Lucas49502853
Butler45993649
Stark39954963
Lorain30438525
Warren29170326
Mahoning25988629
Clermont24726278
Lake24088411
Delaware21722140
Licking19822239
Fairfield19780218
Greene19671266
Medina19208285
Trumbull19195506
Clark17188321
Portage15585224
Richland15540228
Wood15187208
Allen13654254
Miami13283244
Muskingum11821148
Wayne11448234
Columbiana11100239
Tuscarawas10388264
Marion10273144
Pickaway10162128
Scioto9766124
Erie9479170
Ross8979172
Lawrence8225116
Hancock8105140
Ashtabula8083184
Geauga7976155
Belmont7791183
Jefferson7093168
Huron7087125
Union703549
Washington6823116
Athens666163
Sandusky6608132
Darke6394135
Knox6308120
Seneca6113135
Auglaize569888
Ashland5631110
Shelby555799
Mercer545188
Brown533067
Defiance5278100
Madison527368
Crawford5148113
Highland514876
Fulton508781
Clinton505379
Logan494582
Preble4788110
Putnam4733106
Guernsey439057
Williams437281
Champaign426463
Ottawa425783
Perry414051
Jackson402259
Pike367140
Morrow359149
Fayette353951
Coshocton345064
Hardin341868
Adams338864
Gallia329254
Holmes3148107
Henry312668
Van Wert299269
Hocking280467
Wyandot271858
Carroll250451
Paulding231742
Meigs197842
Monroe178649
Noble160340
Morgan153528
Harrison145740
Vinton130217
Unassigned05
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An area of high pressure will pave the way to plenty of sunshine as we round out the work week.
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