What’s the point: Trump enters the Republican National Convention in an unusual position for an incumbent: trailing. It’s not just that he’s trailing, though; he’s trailing by a lot.
If Trump is to come back and win this election, he’s going to have to rewrite the record books.
The potentially good news for Trump is that because he’s in an unprecedented position, it’s difficult to ascertain his true chance of a comeback, especially during a global pandemic. Further, it’s noteworthy that Truman actually did win in 1948. Ford closed his 7-point deficit pre-conventions against Carter in 1976, but still lost by 2 points.
The two presidents with net approval ratings in the negative double digits going into the conventions since 1940 both lost. In fact, Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush were the two presidents who lost reelection by the largest margins in the polling era.
A strong convention for Trump would be one in which he brings up his popularity.
And indeed, Trump’s running slightly ahead of where you’d expect him to be against Biden based on his net favorability (or approval) rating. He’s down by 9 points instead of double-digits.
The difference between Trump’s own popularity and the ballot test, though, is considerably smaller than it was in 2016. It’s only about 5 points or less this year, not the 20 points it was last election cycle.
Trump’s problem is two-fold.
This time around, this group who dislikes both candidates is far more likely to be younger voters who despise Trump.
Even if he can’t get voters to like him more, a good convention for Trump would be one in which he makes Biden less liked or at a minimum makes those who dislike both candidates to give Trump a second look.
Because unless something changes in the final months of this election, Trump is unlikely to recreate the magic he did in 2016.