While President Trump insists the mere existence of "boat parades" is proof positive that he's well on his way to coasting into a second term in office, a pair of newly released polls — that is, actual data, and not just pretty pictures of people waving MAGA flags from their fancy yachts — show the president in serious trouble in two states he can't afford to lose.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll published Thursday, Trump currently stands well behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the perpetually swinging state of Florida, at 38% support to Biden's 51%. The 13-point margin represents a dramatic increase from what had been a 46%-42% gap favoring Biden in a Quinnipiac poll in April.
In head-to-head match-ups on issues like health care, racial inequality, and the coronavirus pandemic, Biden handily defeats Trump by 10 points or more — except when it comes to the economy, where Trump has a narrow lead over Biden, 50%-47%. That lead however is within the poll's 3.2-point margin of error.
Biden's considerable leap in the polling can likely be paired in no small part to Florida's disastrous coronavirus infection rate, which 70% of respondents said was is "out of control." Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — one of the president's most rabid supporters — dropped an astonishing 31% from Quinnipiac's April poll, and now has a negative approval rating, with just 41% of responders approving of his work compared to 52% disapproving.
“Just a few months ago, Florida was a safe harbor for COVID refugees from up North," Quinnipiac polling analyst Tim Malloy explained in a release announcing the new data. "Now, it registers a startling number of infections and the numbers say the buck stops at Gov. DeSantis’s desk in Tallahassee."
Perhaps more incredible than Biden's ascendency in Florida — which, despite its rightward trend in recent years, remains one of the most contentiously fought-over swing states in the country — is his astonishingly strong polling in Texas, a state that hasn't voted for a Democrat in the White House since 1976.
By a narrow count of 45% to 44%, Biden leads Trump in Texas, though the Democrat's lead is within the poll's margin of error. The two men remain largely tied on some issues, and conversely lopsided on others: While Biden and Trump are deadlocked at 47% support each for their stances on health care and their ability to respond to a crisis, Trump leads Biden by a sizable 16-point margin on the economy but trails him 12 points when it comes to addressing racial inequality.
Taken cumulatively, Quinnipiac's Texas poll shows the once steadfastly-red state is a serious contender for flipping — if not to blue, than at least to purple — this November.
"With crises swirling through American society and a country deeply divided, there's no other way to slice it. It's a tossup in Texas," Malloy said.
Still, there's plenty of time for both states to flip the other way before November. While Florida's two Republican senators and Republican governor are all underwater in their respective approval polls, boding well for Biden to ride in on a wave of anti-Republican anger in the Sunshine State, Texas's GOP leadership has managed to stay in the black, despite taking a hit since the previous Quinnipiac poll last month. It's a sign that despite the president's sagging numbers in Texas, the Republican death grip there looks strong for now.
Indeed, for those looking to scry presidential meaning by looking at down-ballot races, Arizona might be a more interesting example. There, the once-solidly red state seems poised to elect its second Democratic senator in a row, with Democrat Mark Kelly trouncing incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally in poll after poll. Voters sent Democratic Sen. Krysten Sinema to Washington in 2019 to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. And indeed, Biden has been consistently up in the polls against Trump in Arizona, placing him on track to be the first Democrat to take the state in a presidential election since Bill Clinton in 1996.
Of course, prognostication and presidential predictions are a fool's game, and plenty can happen between now and Nov. 3. Still, based on the polls released this week, Trump's team is likely going to need to spend considerable time and money playing defense in two states where the president won handily last time around. It's hardly an enviable position for an incumbent who seems deeply unwilling to expand his popularity beyond his base.