Just as Donald Trump prepared to jet to Orlando to formally kick off his bid for a second term in 2020, a new Quinnipiac University poll was released that showed the President trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in the Sunshine State by 9 percentage points.
Which is a big headline! After all, Trump isn’t choosing to announce his 2020 bid in Florida by accident. It’s a state he won in 2016 and one that he knows he badly needs if he wants to win in 2020. So a poll that has him losing by almost double digits to the Democratic front-runner feels like a Very Important Development.
And it might be! But there’s also reason to take this latest Florida poll with a grain of salt. Actually several grains. Consider:
1) The November 2020 election is 504 days away. Which is – and this is a technical term – a long way away. And lots can and will happen in Florida and nationwide between now and then.
2) Past Florida election results don’t bear out a blowout, which a 9-point win would be, for either side. Here are the victory margins in Florida in the last five presidential races: 2016 (Trump +1), 2012 (Obama +1), 2008 (Obama +3), 2004 (Bush +5), 2000 (even). There’s just nothing to suggest any Democratic candidate would beat Trump by 9 points. (Or that Trump would beat any of the Democrats by that margin.) The story is the same in the 2018 statewide races in Florida; Republicans won both the governor’s office and the Senate race by razor-thin margins.
3) Speaking of those 2018 GOP victories, Politico’s Florida expert Marc Caputo reminded me that the final Q polls in both the Senate and the governor’s race had the Democratic nominees winning by 7 points. Both lost narrowly. That’s not to say Quinnipiac is a bad pollster – it isn’t – but it is to suggest that its idea of what the Florida electorate might look like heavily undersold the Republican nominees for Senate and governor in 2018.
The Point: Florida is going to be one of the handful of most competitive states in 2020. And the eventual Democratic nominee may wind up beating Trump there. But there’s reason to be suspicious that the Q poll represents what the race might look like 500 days from now.