There was a lot of commotion last week over a small handful of national polls showing Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton by a few points.
ABC News/Washington Post had Trump leading the likely Democratic nominee by two points while a Fox News survey showed him ahead of Clinton by three, both within each poll’s margin of error but still surprising. A Rasmussen survey even had Trump ahead by five points.
The pro-Trump forces saw these numbers as proof that the presumptive GOP nominee was overtaking Hillary Clinton, and the media didn’t hesitate to take the bait. Trump even jumped on Twitter to brag about his improving numbers.
Left-leaning voters began to panic at the prospect of an impending Trump presidency.
What both reactions miss is why the race tightened – at least temporarily – in the past week.
Like 2008, poll numbers are reflecting a bounce for the candidate whose primary fight is over. John McCain was ahead of Barack Obama eight years ago because he was the only GOP candidate standing while Obama was mired in a heated primary contest.
After the Democrats unified, which they will do again this year, Obama easily beat McCain by seven points.
Now, after a week of the numbers inching slightly toward Trump, it appears the spray-tanned billionaire’s bounce is beginning to taper off – just like McCain’s did in ’08.
The same Rasmussen poll that had Trump beating Clinton by five points last week now shows Clinton ahead by one – a six-point swing toward the Democrat. Another survey today from Reuters/Ipsos has the former Secretary of State ahead by five.
Another interesting poll released this morning showed Trump losing to Clinton by seven points among middle-income Rust Belt voters – a demographic he must win if he has any shot of becoming president.
These polls should still be taken with a grain of salt – they all should when it’s this early in the process – but they reflect the reality that Trump’s uptick may have been the inevitable bounce that is given to a candidate when he or she secures the nomination.
Donald Trump is still deeply unpopular with key voting blocs. Democrats also have the advantage when it comes to demographics, party registration, and the Electoral College.
Still, until the primary process is over and each party rallies around their nominee, perhaps we should all take a break from overreacting to polls taken five months before the election.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.