If you want to understand why the White House resumed its COVID-19 pandemic briefings, and why they now feature only the President, you should have listened in on Ipsos' most recent "Election 2020" tracking presentation Thursday. The analysis, which covers a wide range of projection sources for predicting the outcome of the election, said voters sentiment currently hinges around one central issue: whether the government has a "robust plan to help the nation recover from the impact of coronavirus."
According to Ipsos Public Affairs Senior Vice President Chris Jackson, it is the No. 1 issue by a wide margin, regardless of political affiliation.
No. 2 is whether the candidate has the ability to "restore trust in American government."
In both those cases, the incumbent has a major deficit and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden has the edge.
No. 3 is the economy, which the current President still has a marginal advantage on, but after that all other key issues trail as a factor for the 2020 contest.
It is the President's performance on those two top issues, Jackson said, that has driven his national polling below water, even for an incumbent, and making Biden the likely winner "if the election were held today."
While a lot of things can happen over the next few months leading up to the election, Jackson went through all the major election projection sources that Ipsos tracks -- including national polling, polling in the key swing (ie. "battleground") states, as well as an interesting heuristic analysis of the main Presidential problems, and with the exception of a marginal advantage in the swing states that will influence the electoral voting, the incumbent is under water by a margin of negative 7%.
In terms of Ipsos' "down ballot" projections, Jackson said Democrats would likely retain control of the House, but the Senate looks like a 50/50 toss-up, which would make the next Vice President a "tie-breaker."
Jackson did not handicap who Biden might pick, but said it likely would not have a significant effect on the outcome of the presidential election.
One of the most interesting unknowns that came up during the Q&A was what would happen if the incumbent refutes the outcome of the election.
Jackson said Ipsos did some polling a couple of years ago and the consensus among both Democrats and Republican respondents was that "if you lose, you should leave."
But he added that there are no projections for what might happen if the incumbent "discredited" and/or "cast enough doubt" on the election results to "make it all murky."
He noted that Republican voters and leadership have already demonstrated they have been willing to take the President's word, even when their are facts disproving it, "and that is a cause for concern.
"You're getting at this whole, 'what is truth,' and that is much harder to tell," he said.