The presidential debate: On Thursday, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden participated in the second and final presidential debate. The candidates were relatively tame, discussing the issues and leveling muted personal attacks without the interruptions that marred the first debate. Trump charged that Biden has done nothing in his half-century career in public service, and pressed Biden into saying that he would “transition away from the oil industry.” Biden reciprocated by harshly criticizing Trump’s response to COVID-19.
The campaign trail: Trump spent the weekend rallying supporters in Florida, the Midwest, and New England. He appears to be trying to maintain his 2016 map, while netting Maine and New Hampshire—states that Clinton won narrowly in 2016. Biden is focusing on Pennsylvania, which went for Trump by less than a point in 2016.
The horse race: In the battleground states key to winning the Electoral College, the polls have tightened marginally since Trump’s low point at the beginning of October. However, the president is still behind, with the poll-based RealClearPolitics no-tossup map showing Biden winning 341-197. One bright spot for the Trump campaign is that Biden has crossed the 50% polling threshold in only one battleground state (Michigan), so the RCP map is being skewed by nominal Biden leads that may not materialize on November 3rd.
Speaking of polls, the Trafalgar Group—which called Trump’s wins in key 2016 battleground states—has the president ahead in Arizona, Florida, and Michigan, and within the margin of error in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It remains to be seen whether Trafalgar will once again triumph over the mainstream consensus.
Early voting: Democrats account for 51% of the early votes cast nationwide and Republicans trail at 31%. Lest you start writing Trump’s political obituary, consider that 64% of Republicans told a New York Times/Siena College poll that they will be voting in-person on Election Day, compared to a third of Democrats.
Out of the key swing states, Republicans are mounting a strong performance in Michigan and Wisconsin, outpacing Democrats in the number of absentee votes requested and cast. However, Democrats make up a disproportionate share of the early voters in the other top-tier battleground states: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.