Though it is being affected by a rather unusual variable, we have entered the thick of the campaign season. As I write this column, the aftermath of the rather underwhelming Tulsa rally held by the Trump campaign, in combination with several other factors and events, has given Democrats reason to become increasingly confident that they can retake the White House this fall.
But Democrats should remember votes are not yet being cast; that it is unlikely that future Trump rallies will be so sparsely attended; that polls, at this stage, are not intended to be predictive, serving only as a snapshot of opinion during a particular window of time; and that those time frames are four months before Election Day.
Still, Republicans have reasons to be worried. It is usually much easier to preserve a positive approval rating for your standard bearer than it is to reverse a negative one. And, right now, Donald Trump is not only upside-down with his approval rating - like he has been for his entire presidency - his trendline is headed further in that direction.
While it may be harder to buoy a sagging approval rating than it is to protect an already good one, it is harder still to do so while still on a downward trajectory.
Trump supporters do still retain one advantage over their Biden-supporting counterparts. It is more psychological than it is likely to be actualized, but it does have value. Besides there still being plenty of time and opportunities to improve Trump's polling and standing with the American public, Republicans can take solace that surveys taken during the 2016 election that indicated Hillary Clinton had more support than Donald Trump were proved incorrect. At least, they were incorrect enough, and in just the right places. The understandable thinking goes, it happened once, so it could happen again that the polling is off just enough in a few battleground states to allow Trump a second term.
They should not carry that thinking too far, though. Nationally, the polling in 2016 mimicked the ultimate result of the popular vote count in which Hillary Clinton earned roughly three million more votes than Trump. This was a margin of just over 2 percentage points. National polls showed a roughly 3 percent Clinton advantage. In the polling universe, that is reasonably accurate. State polls were not as close to the ultimate result. Even though this allowed Trump to rack up unexpected Electoral College victories in the Upper Midwest, there is not much chance of a repeat of that phenomenon. It could happen, but Trump supporters would do well not count on it.
That is especially true since Biden's polling leads seem to be both slightly larger and more durable than Clinton's were four years ago. However, the "unusual variable" referred to earlier is a pandemic that has limited the ability of the candidates to truly hit the campaign trail.
Encouraging polling and fundraising advantages, both of which have fallen in Biden's favor over the previous month, may not be as indicative of the state of the race as they normally are. And, to further emphasize the point, it bears repeating that four months lie between now and Election Day.
Could the polls be just wrong enough in just the right combination of states to give Trump another victory? Republicans correctly say it just happened and still remains possible. But Democrats can respond that while the chances of Trump's hitting the electoral equivalent of a quadruple bank shot twice in a row are not zero, they are close.
Four months to go.
Jason Nichols is District 2 Democratic Party chair, an instructor of political science at Northeastern State University, and former mayor of Tahlequah.