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It just keeps getting worse for Biden

It’s wise to await the release of some more high-quality polling before we render a verdict on the verdicts. And yet, we have enough data now to forecast the approximate effect Donald Trump’s conviction in a Manhattan courtroom will have on general election voters. So far, it’s not nothing, but it’s not much.

When pollsters recontacted respondents to recent New York Times/Sienna surveys, they found a modest shift toward Joe Biden — cutting Donald Trump’s national lead from three points to one point. A Yahoo/YouGov survey published last week found a similarly modest shift toward Biden over the month that passed since its last poll. A CBS News/YouGov poll released over the weekend showed Trump leading Biden nationally with 50 to 49 percent while Biden maintains a one-point edge in the “battleground” states.

It’s still a tight race. It has been a tight race for months, which should unnerve the incumbent president’s boosters. The marginal impact Trump’s conviction has had in the race suggests its trajectory will soon revert back to the status quo that has previously defined it, and that dynamic favors Trump. But the CBS News/YouGov poll’s findings also suggest the possibility that the race for the White House may not be static for long. Beyond the top-line numbers in its latest survey, this poll also shows that voters are more likely to default to Trump than Biden as Election Day nears.

In that poll, Trump maintains commanding margins among voters he needs — white voters without a college degree, seniors, and self-described Republicans — while holding his deficit among independents and women voters to single digits. With 18 percent support among African Americans, Trump continues to show surprising strength among core Democratic voting blocks. And you cannot fault their rationale for backing Trump. Just 16 percent said they believe they would be “financially better off” if Joe Biden wins reelection. A near majority believe their personal economic condition will deteriorate if Biden wins in November. Among those who resent the effect of higher consumer costs over the Biden years, nearly seven in ten are backing Trump.

Somehow, the survey manages to get worse for Joe Biden from there. While 70 percent of voters back Biden’s reluctant executive orders aimed at slowing the influx of migrants across the Southern border, the CBS News/YouGov poll suggests Biden’s maneuver is too little, too late. A near majority of voters believe Biden’s policies will “increase crossings” in the aggregate, and over 60 percent now say they favor a program to “deport all undocumented immigrants” — a figure that now includes 38 percent of self-described Democrats.

To the tune of 67 percent, voters believe Trump has a “vision for the country,” whereas 51 percent said the same for Biden. Majorities believe Trump is “tough,” “energetic,” and “effective.” Shockingly few say the same for Biden. Trump beats Biden when voters are asked if either man is “competent” by 49 to 40 percent. And when voters are asked why they’re voting for either candidate, Joe Biden’s voters are more likely to say their ballot represents a negative verdict on Trump rather than an affirmation of Biden. Most likely voters seem to have rejected the incumbent president’s effort to transform the race into a referendum on Trump. A majority say they are not voting for or against either candidate but strictly “comparing” the two. And when they directly compare the two candidates, voters break for Trump by what may end up becoming a prophetic 53 to 47 percent.

Biden maintains some advantages over Trump. He’s seen as more compassionate. His abortion policies are preferred to Trump’s. Voters vastly prefer the president’s personal conduct to Trump’s. But that’s about it. And given Democrats’ advantages in America’s major population centers, Biden is unlikely to emerge victorious with a mere one-point national advantage. For months, Trump has maintained a stable lead in the traditional battleground states, with indications that Biden’s position is weakening in unlikely theaters such as Virginia and Minnesota.

It is still prudent to avoid drawing conclusions about the outcome of this race five months out from the vote, but the Biden campaign will find it increasingly difficult to calm his disquieted allies. The incumbent’s campaign has embraced a theory of the race that puts Donald Trump in the driver’s seat. They’ve allowed him to set the tempo of the campaign in the hopes that he runs straight into a minefield. Trump may yet prove that theory right, but he hasn’t yet. Moreover, the environmental factors that were supposed to hasten Trump’s self-destruction have failed to achieve that effect. Biden cannot passively await the arrival of conditions that will produce his reelection — he will have to engineer them. And Democrats seem to be losing faith in Biden’s ability to shape events to his advantage. Indeed, why wouldn’t they?

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