A day ahead of the election, President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden are crisscrossing battleground Pennsylvania. However, the focus of the pollsters is not Pennsylvania but Iowa, where Trump has made a late surge to a 7-point lead against Biden.
The poll conducted by Selzer & Co. for the Des Moines Register has some significance. Iowa isn't a significant state in terms of the size of the electoral college votes and Biden's fortunes don't depend on this one state.
Biden is the favorite to win on November 3 according to a vast majority of major polls. The Democratic camp notes that his national lead in various polls is significantly higher than Hillary Clinton's in 2016. That's what helps them ward off lurking fears that 2020 will be a repeat of 2016.
Polls in 2016 could not correctly call a Trump win due to various factors. In hindsight, experts have said there were far too many voters four years ago who moved under the radar, not revealing they would vote for Trump for fear of bad PR. Pollsters have vowed they have fixed the glitches in methodology and sampling this year. If they are right, the polls' margin of error would be narrower this year. By this logic, Biden will win hands down.
This Worries Democrats
But here's why Iowa springs a surprise. The latest Des Moines Register/Selzer poll says President Trump is leading Biden by a 48 percent to 41 percent margin. That's a whopping 7-point lead. That's the kind of lead the President has knocked up only in deep red states like Arkansas or North Dakota this election year. Everywhere else he's trailing or holding on to extremely slim leads. For most pollsters, even Texas is in play.
1. Selzer Accurately Predicted Iowa in 2016
The Democrats are worried the latest Iowa poll is ominous. Even CNN, which is used to running stories of gigantic polling setbacks to Trump, played the story with great importance.
There are some reasons. First, a similar thing had happened in 2016, hours before the election. The Des Moines Register published the results of its latest survey on November 5, 2016, which gave Trump a 7-point lead over Clinton.
The pollsters had noted that Clinton had a significant early voter advantage in the state. Much like in 2020, the Democratic candidate had got far more voters out than the Republican rival, with Clinton enjoying a 22-point advantage over Trump.
Eventually, Trump went on to win Iowa by 9 points.
2. Midwest Battle Can Tighten for Biden
Secondly, Iowa is a bellwether state. Though it's a small Midwest state with a small electoral college kitty, Iowa has been the most accurate presidential bellwether state for the past two decades. Iowa's record of being an accurate predictor of national sentiment was illustrated in the 2008 election, with 54 percent Iowans voting for the country's first African-American president against the national average of 53 percent.
3.Late Surge by Trump
Thirdly, the swing in Iowa might suggest that Trump is making a late surge in the crucial Midwestern battleground states. Notably, the Selzer poll in September had shown that Biden and Trump were tied at 47 percent. If Trump is indeed making that sort of a late charge in Iowa, things can get tighter in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. At the moment Biden is comfortable in all these states but losing one of these can make it tricky for him.