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ACEC News / Fall Conference

October 30, 2020

Charlie Cook Sees Uphill Battle for GOP to Keep White House, Senate

Legendary political analyst Charlie Cook captivated a Virtual Fall Conference audience Friday with an analytical deep dive into the upcoming Presidential and Senate elections. A leading authority on U.S. political trends and publisher of The Cook Report, Cook painted a problematic task for GOP prospects in the upcoming general elections, highlighted by the race for President.

While he intensely studies polling data, he cautioned that election polling “doesn’t always tell you who’s going to win the game” but certain numbers can reveal a most likely outcome. He cited latest polling results that have the President currently tied or slightly behind in several states he won convincingly in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. Those include Arizona (Biden leading 3-4 percentage points); Florida (Biden up 2-3 percentage points); and Texas, a state the President won by 8 points in 2016 but is currently ahead by a slim margin.

He also pointed to the President’s job approval ratings, not just currently, but throughout his term. “When you don’t have an incumbent, it becomes a choice-election,” Cook said. “When there’s an incumbent, it becomes a referendum ‘do you want to extend this President’s contract for another four years?  Those voting decisions are generated over years, not just a day.’”

Cook also considers job approval ratings a key polling statistic, noting five of the most recent re-elected Presidents all had job approval ratings of 50% or higher going into the election. Trump’s job approval rating in the first year was 38%, the second year 40% and 42% last year. He enters the election with a 43% job approval rating.

He emphasized the pandemic will be Trump’s biggest hurdle while noting the many scandals throughout his term never really affected his approval rating. “Then the pandemic hit. He was behind Biden but still in striking distance, then his credibility became strained.” At the time Biden was leading in national polls by 4-6 points.

Cook said the President’s COVID-19 response began to make voters question “Do I believe what he says?” and “Why doesn’t he listen to the health experts? Then came the first debate, and BOOM! right through the ice,” he said.

When addressing the Senate, Cook believes the GOP is fighting against the “political environment which has metastasized down to them,” and where leaders are hoping to keep seat losses to 2-3. “There are 9 GOP seats on the knife’s edge, and others where the GOP have leads but  slight.”

He pointed to Senate races in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Iowa, Georgia, and South Carolina as much-watch races on election night.

“It all comes down to survivors,” Cook said. “This is a heck of an election.”

All comments to blog posts will be moderated by ACEC staff.


October 30, 2020



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