June 15, 2019

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that internal Trump campaign polling showed the president faring very badly against Joe Biden in seventeen key states. The Times story said that Trump "told aides to deny" that the polling was bad and "instructed aides to say publicly that other data showed him doing well."

Trump had a simpler message when ABC's George Stephanopoulos subsequently asked him about the polls: He said they "don't exist." But they do exist -- ABC has obtained them -- and now Trump's campaign manager is saying publicly that other data show Trump doing well, just as the Times predicted.

The polling data, revealed for the first time by ABC News, showed a double-digit lead for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41 and had Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points....

When presented by ABC News with these numbers, the Trump campaign confirmed the data saying in a statement that the numbers were old and that they have seen huge swings in Trump’s favor.

“These leaked numbers are ancient, in campaign terms, from months-old polling that began in March before two major events had occurred: the release of the summary of the Mueller report exonerating the President, and the beginning of the Democrat candidates defining themselves with their far-left policy message,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told ABC News in a statement. “Since then, we have seen huge swings in the President’s favor across the 17 states we have polled, based on the policies now espoused by the Democrats. For example, the plan to provide free health care to illegal immigrants results in an 18-point swing toward President Trump.”

Let's take those "two major events" in order. First, the release of the Mueller report summary: As it turns out, the March poll wasn'tconducted entirely before that occurred.

Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was released on March 24. While the Trump campaign’s full poll, which canvassed 17 states, was already in the field, it was well underway for four additional days after the release of Barr’s letter to the public.

The poll was conducted from March 15 through March 28.

And what evidence is there that the completion of the Mueller report has led to a poll bounce for Trump? Here are Trump's approval numbers on March 24 and today, according to the Real Clear Politics average:

March 24: approval 43.1%, disapproval 53.1%
today: approval 44.1%, disapproval 52.7%

Or, in visual form:


Wow, that's a massive uptick in Trump's popularity. (No, really, it isn't.)

As for "the beginning of the Democrat candidates defining themselves with their far-left policy message,” the obvious short response is: Joe Biden? Really?

Biden might not be the nominee, but as The Washington Post's Aaron Blake notes, if you're polling messages rather than candidates, you're doing it wrong.

... perhaps the bigger takeaway from Parscale’s comment is this: They know how bad Trump’s numbers are, and to pump them up, they are apparently relying upon something called an “informed ballot.”

... pollsters will often test how their issues perform by taking an initial head-to-head and then informing the respondent of their candidate’s or their opponents’ positions on something. “What if we told you these Democrats are all socialists who want to ban hamburgers and open the borders to every member of MS-13?” or something like that. That is what Parscale is referring to when he says “the plan to provide free health care to illegal immigrants results in an 18-point swing toward President Trump.”

... I have long said that if you are talking about the informed ballot, you are losing. If the campaign needs to resort to these numbers, that says a lot.

And second, we do not know what kind of issue descriptions there are. Sometimes these informed ballots are done for legitimate reasons; sometimes they are hugely slanted statements, like the one above, intended to goose the polls and make them as rosy for the candidate as possible.

In either case, they quite simply cannot be relied upon.

Also -- as I noted Thursday -- wasn't campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany insisting on Fox Business a couple of days ago that Trump leads "when President Trump is against a defined Democrat"?

So is Trump winning only when the opponent is specified, as McEnany says, or is he winning when (cherry-picked) issues are specified, as Pascale says?

These guys are in trouble, no matter how much they deny it.

Reposted with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog.

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