Elections 2020: Will Biden Debate Trump? And Senate Developments


  • Sept. 8, 2020
  • 4 min read


Debates: Last October, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the entire series schedule for both the presidential and vice-presidential forums and the details have only slightly changed. Because of the COVID crowd restrictions, the University of Notre Dame declined to host the first forum. It has been re-located to Case Western University in Cleveland and remains scheduled for Tuesday, September 29th. The lone Vice-Presidential debate then follows on Wednesday, October 7th at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. We return to the presidential debate series on Thursday, October 15th, tabbed for the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami that will feature a town hall format. The finale occurs a week later on October 22nd from Belmont University in Nashville.

Michigan: The new Trafalgar Group poll was released for the battleground state of Michigan (8/14-23; 1,048 MI likely voters) and, has often been the case, this research firm finds a result opposite that of most other pollsters. According to the Trafalgar results, President Trump holds a 47-45% Wolverine State lead over Joe Biden. In 2016, Trafalgar came to national prominence because they were the only firm to correctly predict a Donald Trump victory in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The reason for the discrepancy is Trafalgar attempts to account for what is now being termed as the “shy Trump voter,” that is, a person who is voting for the President but will not say so publicly or to a pollster. Most people believe there is an under-poll for Trump, and Trafalgar is attempting, as they successfully did in 2016, to determine that number.

North Carolina: The Tar Heel State continues to present diverse presidential numbers. The Fox News Poll (8/29-9/1; 722 NC likely voters) finds Joe Biden leading President Trump, 50-46%, while East Carolina University (8/29-30; 1,101 NC likely voters) projects a 49-47% Trump edge. The result diversity is another indication that the North Carolina presidential race is a toss-up. Both the presidential and corresponding US Senate race, however, should be considered within the polling margin of error.


Alaska: Public Policy Polling, without using the push questions they often employ report a 43-43% tie between first-term Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) and Anchorage surgeon Al Gross (I/D) from their just-released survey (8/27-28; 638 AK voters). This is a typical reading in an Alaska race, the electorate from which typically polls close. At this time in Mr. Sullivan’s 2014 race, he trailed then-Sen. Mark Begich (D) by 41-36% (Hays Research for the AFL-CIO) and 45-40% (Harstad Strategic Research) between September 7-14, only to rebound to score a 48-46% win to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

Massachusetts: As predicted in late polling, incumbent Sen. Ed Markey defeated Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) on Tuesday night to win the Democratic US Senate nomination, a victory that realistically assures him of another six-year term. He scored a 55.4-44.6% margin that translated into a vote spread of just under 149,000 with only a few ballots outstanding. It was a solid victory for the 48-year Massachusetts political veteran, and a first-time defeat for a member of the Kennedy family in 27 Bay State Democratic primaries.

Michigan: The Trafalgar Group’s Michigan poll, as described above in the presidential section, also tested the Senate race between first-term Senator Gary Peters (D) and Republican manufacturing company owner John James. This race was polling close before the COVID shutdown but went clearly in Sen. Peters’ direction afterward. We now see the campaign tightening again, and Trafalgar, once more using the sample methodology discussed above, projects Mr. James to a one-point, 48-47%, edge.

Three other pollsters testing the Senate race during the same time as Trafalgar, Change Research, Redfield & Wilton Strategies, and Public Policy Polling, see a different result, however. Change finds Sen. Peters up 50-45%, while Redfield & Wilton posts the incumbent to a larger 48-39% advantage. PPP this time found an unusual pattern. While they show Sen. Peters leading Mr. James, 47-39%, the same sample favors Joe Biden over President Trump by just a 48-44% split.

Minnesota: According to a new Harper Polling survey (8/30-9/1; 501 MN likely voters via live interview), former US Rep. Jason Lewis (R) has pulled almost even with Sen. Tina Smith (D). The HP survey finds Sen. Smith’s lead falling to 43-41%. Her stance on the police has much to do with Mr. Lewis becoming highly competitive. Earlier, the Senator stated that “we need to reimagine the police,” and that something is “dangerously wrong with the role police plays in society.” By a margin of 48-28%, the poll respondents stated they were less likely to vote for Sen. Smith because of her law enforcement position.

New Hampshire: The New Hampshire state primary, one of America’s last as compared to their first-in-the-nation status for the presidential primary, will be held Tuesday. A new University of New Hampshire survey (8/28-9/1; 1,949 Granite State panel members; 703 likely Republican primary voters; online) suggests that businessman Corky Messner (R), who has self-funded his campaign with a series of personal loans totaling more than $3.8 million, leads retired Army General Don Bolduc (R), 52-31%. If these numbers hold, Mr. Messner will advance into a shortened general election campaign as the underdog against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) who seeks a third term.

North Carolina: As is seemingly typical in North Carolina campaign years, polling in the Tar Heel State again appears inconsistent. Once more, we see two survey research entities simultaneously in the field arriving at much different results. Fox News released their latest NC study (8/29-9/1; 722 NC likely voters) that projects Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham leading Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, 48-42%. Conversely, East Carolina University, also polling during the same period (8/29-30; 1,101 NC likely voters), forecasts a 44-44% tie in the Senate race.

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