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Trump's job rating could tell us a lot about his ballot performance

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.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport on Oct. 28, 2020 in Goodyear, Ariz.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s ballot number in our new NBC News/Marist poll of Florida is 47 percent — versus 51 percent for Joe Biden (a result that’s within the poll’s margin of error).

Trump’s job-approval rating in the battleground is also 47 percent, per the poll.

And that brings up something important to watch on Election Night: There’s historically been a direct correlation between a sitting president’s job rating and his ballot position.

  • In 1984, Gallup’s national October poll had Ronald Reagan’s job rating at 58 percent; he got 58.8 percent of the vote in that election.
  • In 1992, the late October national NBC/WSJ poll had George H.W. Bush’s rating at 36 percent; he got 37.4 percent of the vote.
  • In 1996, the October NBC/WSJ poll had Bill Clinton’s approval at 56 percent; he got 49.2 percent in that three-way race.
  • In 2004, the late October NBC/WSJ poll had George W. Bush’s approval at 49 percent; he got 50.7 percent of the vote.
  • And in 2012, the October NBC/WSJ poll had Barack Obama’s approval at 49 percent; he got 51.1 percent of the vote.

President Trump? His job rating in our most recent national NBC/WSJ poll was 44 percent.

So in a mostly two-way presidential election — with an expected minimal third-party vote — the winning percentage in battleground states will likely be 49 percent or higher.

Which means in states like Florida and elsewhere, Trump will need to overperform his current job rating to win.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

8.933,176: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 73,812more than yesterday morning.)

228,860: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 908 more than yesterday morning.)

139.51 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

45,045: The number of people currently hospitalized for Covid-19 in the U.S., per the Covid Tracking Project.

72,151,154: The number of people who have voted early, either by mail or in person, according to NBC and TargetSmart.

943 points: The drop in the Dow Jones industrial average amid a market selloff yesterday.

52 percent to 46 percent: Trump’s edge with Latinos in Florida, per our latest NBC/Marist poll.

53 percent to 46 percent: Biden’s edge with seniors in the Sunshine State, according to the same poll.

12 points: Biden’s national lead, according to a new CNN poll.

On the campaign trail today

Today the action moves to Florida where Joe Biden stumps in Coconut Creek (which is north of Miami) and Tampa. President Trump also hits Tampa before going to Fayetteville, N.C. Mike Pence is in Iowa and Nevada. And Kamala Harris participates in a livestream with Bernie Sanders.

Raising Arizona

NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard reports from Arizona on Wednesday night:

Since Democrats selected Joe Biden as their presumptive nominee in the spring, Biden has held a consistent advantage in polling in Arizona. But more troubling for Trump is the demographics that have flipped against him: Independent voters, suburban voters and seniors.

In the state where Barry Goldwater birthed modern-day conservatism into the GOP and John McCain held reign as the state’s western, independent voice, Arizona could be the state that clinches a Biden victory and rejects the Republican Party under the helm of Trump.

In mid-October, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon called her shot: "I know we're going to win Arizona.”

And that’s why the president’s final-week efforts today are notable: He is visiting rural Arizona, which makes up less than one-quarter of the state’s population. His first stop [yesterday] afternoon was in Bullhead City, a community in Mohave County, which voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a 52 percent margin.

But Clinton lost Arizona by just 3.5 percent. And now, Democrats hold a 75,000 early ballot advantage over the GOP less than a week before Election Day.

Tweet of the day

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch takes a look at the closing messages to Black voters from the two presidential campaigns.

In a new Joe Biden ad — which started running Wednesday in key swing states like Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio — the Democrat looks directly into the camera to say “Black lives matter, period. I’m not afraid to say it.” He then goes on to describe how he’d tackle systemic racism in America, outlining his plans on things like health care, minority business investment and criminal justice reform.

Trump dropped a spot of his own targeting Black voters on Tuesday, which has aired in states like Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Republican’s mashes up Biden’s controversial comments during the decades-old crime bill debates before a narrator concludes: “We know who Joe Biden is talking about, us. Don’t let him become president.” Outside of the “stand-by-your-ad” line and one photo of Trump with a racially diverse group, there’s no mention of the president.

These two closing ads have starkly different messages: Biden is asking Black voters to vote for him; Trump is asking Black voters not to vote for Biden.

The Lid: Radar detector

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at one of the projects NBC is doing to ensure that we’re catching under-the-radar voters.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Supreme Court will not block the counting of mail ballots that arrive up to six days after Election Day in North Carolina. (The court also punted on a similar issue in Pennsylvania in another victory for Democrats.)

Here’s how the two campaigns are operating in two different realities in Arizona.

Former DHS official Miles Taylor revealed himself as “Anonymous.”

The New York Times looks at the effect that mail votes could have on the timeline of counting ballots.

The president didn’t do embattled incumbent Martha McSally many favors at his rally last night.

Could early voters in Houston make the difference for Biden in Texas?

Three people have been killed after what’s being described as a terrorist attack in Nice, France.