To borrow a phrase from the great Yogi Berra, this Presidential election is beginning to feel like “deja vu all over again.” In 2016, President Trump was down over 5% in many national polls but managed to pull out a stunning victory. He is down in the polls again, and although the pollsters have done everything to try to assess the situation more accurately, Donald Trump once again is the underdog.
President Trump won the Electoral College vote by winning key battleground states. As my article on 12/20/2015 entitled “Have Polls Lost It?” stated, “A poll has become the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy.” I brought many examples, including Gallup had Mitt Romney beating Barack Obama 50% to 49% in 2012. Obama beat Romney 51% to 47%.
Currently, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in various polls in key battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. CNN has Biden over Trump 50% to 46% in Florida. USA Today has Biden over Trump 49% to 42% in Pennsylvania. Hill/Harris has Biden over Trump in Michigan 54%-43%. Real Clear Politics has Biden over Trump in Wisconsin 49.7% to 43.5%. Fox News polls are not any better, except they have Trump over Biden by 3% in Ohio.
In 2016, with two weeks to go before the election, the numbers were not that much different than the same period now for these key battleground states. For example, Real Clear Politics had Hillary Clinton besting Donald Trump in Florida 47% to 44.6%, in Pennsylvania 47.2% to 42%, in Michigan 47.5% to 37.5%, and in Wisconsin 45.3% to 39.3%.
Although so much is different about this election compared to 2016 - Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton, the coronavirus has killed over 200,000 Americans, the “cancel culture” wars have begun in earnest, and the American people have had a chance to see firsthand Donald Trump as President of the United States for four years – not much is different.
As much as things have changed, so much remains the same. 56% of Americans say they are better off today than in 2016.
Incumbent presidents as a rule usually win a second term. Only in ten instances did an incumbent president lose his second term since 1789. They include John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland (although he lost, he won a second term eventually; he was both the 22nd and 24th President), Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush.
Interestingly, the president who Donald Trump is most compared to, Andrew Jackson, won a second term. Jackson won because of a fervently devoted and strong base of support. Donald Trump has a similarly devoted and energized base. It bodes well for President Trump.
Part of President Trump’s firm, fervent, and devoted base is that of the Orthodox Jewish community in America. It is estimated that Donald Trump received 25% (the number varies but it is close) of the Jewish vote in 2016. The vast majority were Orthodox Jews. A recent Pew survey says President Trump will receive 27% of the Jewish vote this time around. Ami magazine recently published that 83% of Orthodox Jews will be voting for President Trump.
Given the closeness of the race in key battleground states, every Orthodox Jewish vote becomes that much more important and essential. I refer the reader to my article, “The Orthodox Have Come of Age,” dated 12/28/2017. Since President Trump only won by 112,911 votes in Florida and only 44,241 in Pennsylvania, there is no doubt that the Orthodox vote was helpful and that the Orthodox voting bloc can indeed sway an election. This is even more evident in Michigan, where President Trump only won by 10,700 votes. Similarly in Wisconsin, where President Trump only won by 22,748 votes.
Although the Pew study of 2013 indicated that the Orthodox only make up 10% of the American Jewish population, this can be very misleading, because a state like Florida has closer to 20% Orthodox. The Jewish population of Florida is 657,095. This would mean that over 100,000 votes in Florida alone will go to President Trump from the Orthodox Jewish community. This could be the difference. Similarly in Pennsylvania, with a Jewish population of 434,165. I grew up in Pennsylvania so I know it well. Even saying only 10% of Jews there are Orthodox, it would still translate into over 35,000 votes. Again, the Orthodox can be the differential between victory and defeat. Michigan has a Jewish population of 87,905 and Wisconsin 33,455. Again, the Orthodox can seal the deal for the President these states.
Although a lot can happen in the next week or so, my prediction is that President Trump will once again eke out a miraculous victory. Orthodox Jewry has a lot to be proud of. It is clear that they have a profound influence over a presidential election and will help decide who the next president will be.
Dr. Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.