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Poll: Third party voters from 2016 are backing Biden 2-to-1

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Joe Biden accepts the nomination for president during the last day of the Democratic National Convention in Wilmington, Del, on Aug. 20, 2020.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — One of the major differences between 2016 and 2020 is that this year’s presidential contest features a smaller third-party vote than four years ago, and Gary Johnson/Jill Stein voters from 2016 are breaking more toward Joe Biden than they are Donald Trump.

Given Trump’s narrow win four years ago, that movement — if it holds — is a big deal.

The combined national NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls from this year have interviewed 215 voters who said they backed either Johnson or Stein in 2016, and Biden holds a 2-to-1 advantage among them.

Forty-seven percent say they’re voting for Biden, 20 percent are supporting Trump, and 33 percent are unsure or say they’re backing another candidate.

Here’s why this is significant: In 2016, Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, while the combined Johnson/Stein vote was 223,599. (So Biden getting 47 percent of that third-party vote to Trump’s 20 percent easily overturns that ’16 margin.)

In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes, while there were 196,656 Johnson/Stein voters. (Again, Biden winning those third-party voters by a 2-to-1 margin reverses that outcome.)

And in 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by 22,748 votes, and the combined Johnson/Stein total was 137,746. (Ditto: Hillary Clinton would likely be president today if she had won those third-party voters by a 47 percent to 20 percent split.)

Now Johnson and Stein voters from 2016 aren’t monolithic: Stein voters tend to be younger and more liberal.

And remember, the NBC News/WSJ poll is a national poll; it doesn’t tell us how third-party voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are breaking.

But these Johnson/Stein voters are significant. And right now in 2020, they’re more likely to be Biden voters than Trump voters.

Trump, Biden battle over protests and unrest

This afternoon, Joe Biden will give a speech in Pittsburgh, Pa., that will likely sound a lot like the statement he delivered on Sunday.

“The deadly violence we saw [Saturday night] in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same,” Biden said.

More: “We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you. A country that vows vengeance toward one another. But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.”

And: “The job of a president is to lower the temperature. To bring people who disagree with one another together.”

Meanwhile, President Trump is set to visit Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday to support law enforcement and vandalized businesses, but isn’t scheduled (as of yet) to meet with Jacob Blake’s family.

And his remarks are likely to resemble what he tweeted on Sunday: “The only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!”

Kenosha’s mayor and Wisconsin’s governor have both asked for Trump to NOT come to Wisconsin for this visit.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

6,020,701: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 131,084 more than Friday morning.)

184,309: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,717 more than Friday morning.)

77.06 million: The number of coronavirus tests administered in the U.S., according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

25.2 million: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the globe, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

720 percent: The rate of increase of COVID cases for children and teenagers from May 21 to August 20, according to American Academy of Pediatrics data analyzed by the New York Times.

2020 Vision: Trump’s small to non-existent bounce

Four different polls show that President Trump got either a small bounce – or no bounce at all – from the GOP convention.

An online Morning Consult poll released over weekend found Joe Biden ahead by 6 points among likely voters, 50 percent to 44 percent – down from Biden’s 10-point lead a week ago.

Another poll, the online Yahoo/YouGov survey, also had Biden up 6 points – down from his lead of about 9 points.

But an online ABC/Ipsos poll, which didn’t measure the horserace, had Trump’s favorability at 31 percent (down from 32 percent a week ago), while Biden’s favorability was at 46 percent.

And the online USC tracking poll shows Biden maintaining his double-digit lead.

CNN’s Harry Enten sums it up: “What I see right now is Ipsos favs indicating no movement for Trump, YouGov panel indicating 2.5 pt movement to Trump, MC indicating 4 pt, USC (only partially post-convention) indicating no movement. Not exactly screaming BIG BOUNCE.”

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch takes a look at the Massachusetts Democratic Senate primary, the biggest Senate primary still on the calendar.

Key progressive groups and candidates have mobilized for Ed Markey, whose campaign has seen new life in recent months. But Joe Kennedy is pressing hard and recently won the backing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

It’s been Kennedy with the spending edge on the airwaves — his campaign has outspent Markey’s $4.5 million to $2.9 million through Sunday, per Advertising Analytics, and his aligned super PAC, New Leadership PAC, has outspent the pro-market United for Massachusetts $2.8 million to $2.2 million.

We’ll find out Tuesday (hopefully) whether that spending edge will be enough to show Markey the door, or if the incumbent can hold on.

No more in-person briefings on election interference

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will no longer hold in-person briefings for congressional intelligence committees about election security and foreign election interference, NBC’s team reported on Saturday.

The committees will continue to have access to classified written intelligence reports, but committee members will no longer be able to question officials about anything in the written products.

In a statement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff called the decision “shameful” and said that the “Trump administration is engaged in a politicized effort to withhold election-related information.”

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in his letter to Congress the change will “better protect our sources and methods and most sensitive intelligence from additional unauthorized disclosures or misuse.”

You can read more about the change here.

The Lid: A tale of two (very different) conventions

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we looked at how the Dem and GOP differed in so many ways.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

In 14 states, including some battlegrounds, election officials can’t begin counting mailed votes until Election Day, as officials expect an influx in ballots sent by mail because of the pandemic.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn sent Chief of Staff John Kelly a 2018 memo pushing for Jared Kushner’s security clearance to be downgraded, a new book from the New York Times’ Michael Schmidt claims.

The brain trust behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is launching a new super PAC this week to boost President Trump.

A new White House pandemic adviser wants the administration to embrace “herd immunity” on coronavirus, the Washington Post reports.

The Wall Street Journal explores the impact of remote learning on children with disabilities.