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the home stretch

What the polls said in 2016 and what they say now

The Home StretchBoston Globe

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Let’s play a variation of the game, “how it started versus how it’s going.”

We all know that the polls suggested Hillary Clinton was a heavy favorite to defeat Donald Trump in 2016 – even in the final days of the campaign – but here’s something to consider: Even if the current polls that show Joe Biden leading Trump as exactly as wrong as they were four years ago, Biden would still be considered the frontrunner to be the 46th president, according to these helpful guides from The New York Times and FiveThirtyEight.


Here’s a look at where several swing states are in 2020 compared to 2016.


2016 polling average: Clinton +5.4

2016 winner: Trump +.8

2020 polling average: Biden +8.3 (Via FiveThirtyEight)

Of the states where polling truly missed the mark on Trump for years ago, Wisconsin stands out. FiveThirtyEight’s polling average heading into Election Day 2016 had Clinton up 5.4 percentage points, but we know that Trump eked out the win. This time, Wisconsin remains close, but Trump hasn’t led a single poll there since the beginning of October, and Biden has repeatedly polled over 50 percent for the last several weeks.


2016 polling average: Clinton +.5

2016 winner: Trump +1.2

2020 polling average: Biden +2.2 (Via FiveThirtyEight)

Florida was a tossup state in 2016, and while Biden has a slight lead this time around, it remains one of the key states to watch. Remember, we will learn early voting and mail ballot results on Tuesday, so this is one of the states where we might not have to wait too long to know the winner (unless it’s too close to call). Polls from Emerson College, Monmouth University, and Marist College in the last few days have gotten Biden to the magical 50 percent number, but the ABC News/Washington Post poll had Trump with a tiny lead.



2016 polling average: Clinton +3.7

2016 winner: Trump +.7

2020 polling average: Biden +4.8 (Via FiveThirtyEight)

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver drew a ton of attention this morning after he said on ABC’s “This Week” that Biden would become the underdog in the race if he loses Pennsylvania. And there’s a reason Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Biden, and US Senator Kamala Harris all plan to be in the Keystone State on Monday. The polling average has Biden at exactly 50 percent, although the ABC News/Washington Post poll of registered voters had Biden at 49 percent (with a four-point lead) on Sunday.


2016 polling average: Trump +2

2016 winner: Trump +8.1

2020 polling average: Trump +.3 (Via FiveThirtyEight)

For every presidential election since 1964, it has been true that as Ohio goes, so goes the nation. But the state is a bit strange this year, and there hasn’t been nearly the same amount of polling as in some of the other swing states. The Emerson College poll out today had Biden at 50 percent, but the polling averages suggest this is one of the few states that still has a large number of undecided voters.

Read an important story you may have missed:

Steady hand

Through the roller coaster of a primary that left many in his party doubting him, the onset of a pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans and upended normal life, and President Trump’s erratic handling of the crisis, the constant has been Biden himself. He stuck with a message about healing a divided nation, even when it didn’t resonate much in the early days. And he has campaigned with a quiet sobriety, as well as a newfound sense of discipline, that underlines his contrast with the president. Read more.


It’s not 2016

Just as the heartbreaking Red Sox loss to the Yankees in the 2003 playoffs foretold nothing about what happened the following year when Sox both beat the Yankees and won the World Series, there are differences between 2016 and 2020. Read more

Turmoil everywhere

Between interrupted campaign buses, scrapped campaign events, and face-offs with law enforcement at the polls, here are some rocky moments from the campaign trail over the past few days. Read more.

Repeat or repudiation

Seldom in the history of the world’s oldest democracy — perhaps never in the 57 American national political contests following the two unanimous late 18th-century Electoral College victories of George Washington — has a presidential campaign turned simply on the nation’s verdict on the character, the personality, the style, the behavior, and — important though perhaps not, on election eve, quite so front of mind the policies of one individual. Read more.


Where the candidates are tomorrow: 

President Trump was scheduled to hold rallies in Macomb County, Mich., Dubuque, Iowa, Hickory, N.C., Rome, Georgia, and Opa-locka, Fla. on Sunday. He is planning to attend rallies in Fayetteville, N.C., Scranton, Pa., Traverse City, Mich., Kenosha, Wisc., and Grand Rapids., Mich. on Monday.

— Vice President Mike Pence will hold rallies in Latrobe and Erie, Pa., on Monday.

Joe Biden traveled to Philadelphia for a rally on Sunday. He and Jill Biden will be joined by Senator Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, to campaign in Pennsylvania on Monday. He is also scheduled to travel to Ohio.

US Senator Kamala Harris was in Georgia, and Goldsboro and Fayetteville, North Carolina on Sunday. She’s in Pennsylvania with the Bidens on Monday.

Former President Barack Obama will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, and South Florida on Monday.

Learn something new:

— If you just can’t wait for this election to be over, but you’re so obsessed with politics that you can’t help yourself, here’s a podcast that will get you through the next few days: “Public Official A,” the six-part story of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (yep, the guy Trump pardoned earlier this year). Listen here.

Supporters of President Donald Trump walk to a campaign rally at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville, Pa, Saturday. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.