Biden’s lead has supporters…worried

With the presidential election now eight days away, we have a pretty good sense of where things stand. Or do we?

There’s been an avalanche of polling this cycle, and it all seems to point to a consistent lead for Joe Biden, but there’s been no end to the nail biting among campaigns and political partisans who wonder whether we’re getting an accurate picture. That angst extends to those doing the polling, who remain spooked by the experience of 2016, when nearly everything was pointing toward a Hillary Clinton victory that was not to be.

“It’s totally understandable that there is some nervousness and apprehension based on what happened in 2016, but things are a little bit different,” said David Paleologos, who directs polling for the Suffolk University Political Research Center. He joined The Codcast for a last look at the race — along with Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group and Boston Globe national political reporter Jess Bidgood.

“The race is a landslide right now for Joe Biden,” said Paleologos. “To me, it looks like it’s not going to even be close — but again, polls are a snapshot in time.”

“I view things perhaps just with a recollection that things can go wrong,” said Koczela.

One of the main things that went wrong four years ago was a failure to conduct state-level polls over the final days of the race in the places that ended up swinging the election to Donald Trump. Paleologos and Koczela said that mistake isn’t happening this cycle, with continued polling taking place in upper Midwest states like Michigan and Wisconsin — and no sign yet of Biden’s lead there collapsing.

Out on the hustings and among the two campaigns, there’s an odd inversion of the attitudes one might expect, said Bidgood.

“I was in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, last week for a Trump rally, and I was really struck by the degree to which President Trump’s supporters, the base, they are jubilant,” she said. “They look around, they see themselves standing in a crowd of five or 6,000 people….and they feel like there is no way that their guy can lose, even though he is trailing in Pennsylvania and all of these other battleground states.”

Democrats, on the other hand, are “deeply nervous,” said Bidgood. Whether it’s voters or campaign strategists she talks to, most are “kind of ready to just sort of curl up in the fetal position and wait for November 3rd to pass us by. The trauma of the surprise upset in 2016 is real for Democrats, and so you’re seeing the Biden campaign be very careful in its public statements, really go out of its way to tell supporters, ‘There is still a path forward for Trump, we can’t be complacent.’”

Other factors buttressing the belief that Biden’s lead may hold are the much better “favorable” numbers the former VP enjoys compared with Clinton. Biden also seems to be doing better than Clinton among voters who aren’t too keen on either candidate, said Koczela, who added that there’s been remarkably little change in how voters see Trump since his election. “Trump’s approval numbers basically haven’t moved since he’s been president,” he said.

Though anecdotal, Bidgood said conversations with the vanishingly small number of undecided voters also seem to offer qualified good news for Biden. “I hear more voters who are undecided who basically know how they feel about Trump. The question is how do they feel about Biden?” she said, suggesting they are deciding between casting a vote for the Democratic nominee or another third candidate.

She recounted a recent conversation with a woman in a hair salon in Lindsey Graham’s hometown in South Carolina. The woman had voted for Trump in 2016 but now described him “as either a petulant brat or a petulant child,” said Bidgood. “She said she wasn’t going to vote for Trump. Her question was, was she going to vote for Biden or was she going to write in Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.”

All of that said, this year’s race brings all sorts of new unknowns to the equation, including millions of people voting by mail and the uncertainties of how the pandemic, which is surging in many states, might affect in-person turnout next Tuesday.

“We’re, in some sense, always fighting the last war,” said Koczela. “We know we fixed what happened in 2016, but it’s just worth keeping in mind that we don’t really know exactly what 2020 is looking like just yet.”

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Historic homes, like Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, struggle to remain open during the pandemic because the spaces inside are small and not COVID compliant.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement questions, then releases, undocumented immigrant in Lynn who is battling his landlord.

One way of dealing with a disciplined doctor’s bad PR on the internet is to try to eliminate it using shady tactics.

Opinion: Jim Jordan says the Boston police reform panel asked the wrong question in its deliberations….Paul Hattis reads between the lines of what Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey said at the Health Policy Commission’s cost trends hearing….Kevin Churchwell of Boston Children’s Hospital says there are no excuses this year — find a way to vote….Kevin Connor says progressives should think twice before backing ranked-choice voting.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A train carrying tank-like artillery stops in Worcester, prompting curiosity. The Telegram & Gazette was unable to find out what it was doing there.

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Congregations from the United Church of Christ purchase and then forgive $26.2 million in medical debt for families in seven states and first responders around the country. (Telegram & Gazette)

Massachusetts’ new COVID-19 cases top 1,000 for two days in a row this weekend, the first time case numbers reached that level since May. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court cleared a final procedural hurdle in a rare Sunday session in the Senate, which is expected to confirm her nomination in a vote later today. (Washington Post)

More than 65 US colleges are testing wastewater in an effort to monitor coronavirus spread. (NPR)

At least five aides or advisers to Vice President Pence have been infected with coronavirus, news a top aide to President Trump tried to avoid disclosing. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

The ranked-choice voting ballot question campaign is heavily bankrolled by a small group of out-of-state billionaires, raising questions about their motives in reshaping the state’s election system. (Boston Globe) Democrat Kevin Connor penned a recent CommonWealth op-ed warning progressives to be wary of the ballot question, which he said would hurt their cause and promote more centrist candidates.

At a Boxford rally to support Democratic candidates, there are conflicting accounts about whether a driver intentionally drove into a group of people holding signs or whether an elderly woman supportive of the rally accidentally veered toward them. (Eagle-Tribune)

More than 1.6 million Massachusetts residents have already voted, or one-third of all registered voters. (MassLive)

Secretary of State William Galvin says the FBI is now investigating an incident in which someone started a fire in a ballot drop box outside the main branch of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. (Boston Globe)

Republican candidates for US Senate and House seats in Massachusetts are making their pitch to an electorate very wary of anyone tied to President Trump. (Boston Herald)

Never mind all those lined up for hours to cast early ballots, FiveThirtyEight and the New York Times both have a look today at the millions of Americans who don’t vote.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Wellington Management appoints its first female CEO, Jean Hynes. (Boston Globe)

Salem’s tour groups are struggling and some are frustrated with the city’s ban on night tours around Halloween. (The Salem News)

Fall River temp agencies say pandemic making it hard for workers to return to employment. (Herald News)

EDUCATION

A Globe editorial urges the state education board to adopt changes to regulations governing admission to vocational schools. As CommonWealth reported beginning with this deep dive in 2017, as well earlier this year and earlier this month, advocates and a group of mayors have been pushing for change for years, arguing that the schools’ selective admission criteria are keeping out many of the students who would benefit most from their hands-on learning, including lots of minority students and English language learners.

Marblehead High School switches to remote learning for two weeks after 50 students attend a Friday night party. (MassLive)

Brockton schools partner with CVS to vaccinate 9,600 students for the flu. (The Enterprise)

TRANSPORTATION

There were delay-causing problems with the production of new Red and Orange line cars for the MBTA well before the pandemic struck. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

MassLive runs the first in a series of stories looking at the statewide drought — its severe implications for the region and why no one is talking about it.

North Atlantic right whales continue to face injuries from vessels that are hastening their path toward extinction. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The FBI and the Springfield Police Department are awkwardly working to repair their relationship, after federal law enforcement investigated the Springfield police over numerous policing problems. (MassLive)

Hundreds of more criminal cases are poised to be dismissed because of the misconduct of former state drug lab chemist Sonja Farak. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

President Trump had one last story to sell but the Wall Street Journal wouldn’t buy it. (New York Times)