With Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ decision to end his campaign on Wednesday, it’s now official: Former Vice President Joe Biden will be the Democratic presidential nominee this fall.
And Biden starts the general election against President Donald Trump as the front-runner – albeit not a huge one.
Start with polling. A new Quinnipiac University national poll released Wednesday afternoon put Biden at 49% to Trump’s 41%.
That’s broadly consistent with the Real Clear Politics average of all general election matchups between the two; RCP shows Biden with an average of a 6-point lead over Sanders.
But the presidential election isn’t a national popular vote, you will say. And remember what happened in 2016, you will note.
True! But neutral political handicappers also give Biden a small but discernible edge over Trump in the race to 270 electoral votes.
“Biden starts with a slight lead in the Electoral College math. Right now, 232 electoral votes sit in Lean/Likely or Solid Democrat. On the GOP side, 204 electoral votes are in the Lean/Likely/Solid Republican column. There are six states (and one congressional district) in Toss-Up: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska’s 2nd district. Those add up to 102 Electoral votes.”
Around that same time, Stu Rothenberg, founder of the Rothenberg Political Report, concluded much the same thing as he wrote:
“The President is an underdog now in his bid for a second term. That doesn’t mean he can’t win. It simply means that he is in a more difficult place than he was before, in part because Democrats have united behind a consensus candidate who has potentially broad appeal.”
As Rothenberg rightly notes, things change! Four years ago, polls and Electoral College handicapping would have suggested Hillary Clinton was a clear favorite – and we know how that turned out.
But that’s in the fuzzy future. And we are very much in the present right now.
The Point: If today is rightly understood as the first day of the 2020 general election, then as of day one, Joe Biden is more likely to be elected president on November 3 than Donald Trump.