Biden Said to be Leading Trump in Latest Poll. But is He?
According to the latest Monmouth Poll, President Biden leads former President Trump 47 to 40 in a one-on-one match up. If there is a third-party candidate, Biden tops Trump 37 to 28 – with 30 percent going to some third person.
What is particularly interesting about this poll is it suggests that Biden would benefit from a third-party candidacy. That is contrary to all the conventional wisdom of recent days. Virtually every analyst, pundit and political strategist have agreed that a third-party candidate would hurt Biden and potentially throw the election to Trump.
Before we get into the weeds on this particular poll, we need to keep in mind that it is VERY early in the presidential election season. A lot is going to happen between now and November of 2024. It cannot even be stated with certainty that Biden and Trump will be the standard bearers for their respective parties.
Whether this poll has any significance with regard to the outcome of the 2024 presidential election is highly questionable. Actually, it is not questionable. This poll will be long forgotten by the time of the election – superseded by scores of other polls.
It does, however, create its own reality – and provides fodder for analysis and news reporting. Like all those talking heads on the telly, I shall offer up my analysis – meaningless as it will be in the very near future.
The simple view – the one you hear from all those experts on the news programs — is that Biden would win the popular vote if it were today. But of course, it is not today. The assumption is that he would be there to win the election. But that is not at all a given.
What I find noteworthy is that no candidate wins a majority of the theoretical national vote. That means it does not really tell us who will return to the White House in 2025 — because the Monmouth Poll does not analyze the vote by state – by the all-important electoral vote. George W. Bush and Trump both went to the White House despite losing the popular vote. Without knowing how the vote would go in each state, we know nothing of the outcome.
The next question is why does the Monmouth Poll go contrary to conventional wisdom regarding the impact of a third-party candidate? I think there is an easy answer to that. Not naming a third -party candidate makes the poll almost worthless. Different third-party candidates will draw different voters. I still believe that most of the likely third-party candidates will hurt Biden. The poll would be more relevant if they had run a series of options naming various potential third-party candidates. That would give us some insight as to who hurts who more at this moment.
What jumps out at me in this poll is that 30 percent figure for the nameless third-party Candidate. No third-party candidate has ever won that much of the vote. That unknown candidate actually bests Trump and comes in slightly below Biden. That is a three-person race.
But again, it is not the popular vote that counts. It is the electoral vote. With one-third of the vote, the third-party candidate could pick up a few votes in the Electoral College. Certainly not a majority, but enough to prevent either Biden or Trump from reaching the 270 require votes to be elected President. In the College, one cannot win with a plurality.
That means a constitutional crisis made more chaotic by the political climate of our times. There would be efforts – seemly or unseemly/legal or illegal – to get electors to change their votes. There would again be efforts to have state legislatures replace electors – which is legal if done properly. But what if all the pressure, lobbying and chicanery does not result in a majority electoral vote for a specific candidate?
Then the matter goes to the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Republicans. While the GOP has a narrow majority in the House, the vote on President would be by one vote per state delegation. California – the largest state in the Union – gets only one vote. As does tiny Rhode Island.
Republicans generally dominate in smaller states, but there are a lot more of them. There is little doubt that the current House would select the Republican candidate even if Biden or that nameless third-party candidate were to have more popular votes or even more electoral votes. It may not seem fair, but that is how the Founders set up the system in the Constitution.
If you think that the current political atmosphere is corrupted by acrimony, just imagine if Trump were to return to the White House not only losing the popular vote but running behind in the electoral vote.
It is not the most likely scenario, but not impossible if there is a credible third-party candidate pulling one-third of the popular vote. On the other hand, it is comforting to know that no third-party candidate has ever gotten a single electoral vote.
Whew! That was a whole lot of speculation based on a relatively meaningless poll.
So, there ‘tis.