Fewer than 100 days out: COVID-19, not the economy, driving presidential election

VIDEO: Less than 100 days out: COVID, not the economy, driving presidential election

With fewer than 100 days until the November general election the race for the White House has widened, with Joe Biden opening up his largest lead in Florida and nationally. 

It is a lead that election experts say is driven by one issue above all others: Coronavirus.

“Where we were seeing prior to June a five-to-six-point split, which is pretty stable, that has since become an eight or nine point lead for Joe Biden in the averages,” said Patrick Ruffini, a Republican Pollster with Echelon Insights.  

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In the Real Clear Politics average of polls nationally, Biden leads President Donald Trump by 9%. In the RCP average of Florida polls, Biden leads Trump by 7.8%.  In the same RCP average from 2016, Trump held a 0.9% lead over Hillary Clinton nationally and a 0.3% lead over Clinton in Florida in late July.

Underlying these numbers a survey from Ruffini’s group Echelon Insights is showing a drop in approval for the President’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak while at the same time showing an increase in Americans saying the county is on the “wrong track”.

“There is no question that people are really frustrated right now. They are frustrated that after all the sacrifices they made in March and April the (COVID-19) numbers are now going in the wrong direction,” said Ruffini. “What we saw in May and June, there was a lot of unrest with the protects, there were questions about President Trump’s handling, his social media usage during that period that was the catalyst that shifted the race in Biden’s direction, and the trends with the pandemic have kind of continued it.”

While the numbers in the race are likely to move after the conventions and debates, Ruffini said an improving COVID-19 situation could also help the president narrow the gap.

“You could almost say it’s not the economy, it’s the health crisis, and that’s what voters have been saying time and again,” said Ruffini. “Whatever we need to do for the economy, and this is what the polling is showing, comes second to getting the virus under control.”