A series of recent polls show that President Donald Trump is gaining on Democratic front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden in hypothetical 2020 matchups.
According to the RealClear Politics average of polls, Biden's popular vote lead over Trump has been cut in half to 4.5 percentage points. The 4.5 figure is based on an average of six studies published in December.
An average of six previous general election polls released from mid-October to late November showed Biden leading Trump by nearly 9.8 points.
Biden's lead was cut in half
Several polls exemplify the tightening race.
For instance, a mid-December CNN survey shows Biden leading Trump by just 5 points, which is half of what the network's pollsters found in October. A pair of IBD/TIPP polls showed the same movement during similar periods. Meanwhile, an early December Fox News poll showed Biden leading Trump by 7 points, 5 points better than his 12-point deficit in a survey taken Oct. 27-30.
Polling averages also show that the race would be even tighter should Trump face Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) next year. Against Sanders, the president's deficit is reduced to 2.6 percentage points and he would edge out Warren by 0.2 points, a virtual tie.
Is it the economy?
One possible driver of a tightening presidential race is that the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are increasingly unpopular. In fact, a Monmouth University study found earlier this month that Trump's favorability rating is higher than that of the top Democrats running for president. Among registered voters, the 45th president has a personal rating of 46 percent favorable and 52 percent unfavorable (net -6), compared to a net -7 rating for Biden, -10 for Warren, and -13 for Sanders.
What's also interesting is that the polls show the presidential race tightened just as Trump was receiving overwhelmingly negative media coverage during an impeachment inquiry, an indication that the effort to remove Trump from office may be backfiring on Democrats. Political analysts say that the strong economy may be boosting the president's re-election efforts.
"If the status quo continues, he'll win," said Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, referring to a presidential prediction model he has developed based on a variety of economic factors, as well as the president's approval rating and projected voter turnout levels.
An NBC / Wall Street Journal survey found that 52% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy, a sign that record-low unemployment levels, stable gas prices, and a roaring stock market could help the president get across the finish line next year.