Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

It feels like August of 2016 all over again. Polls show Donald Trump losing big. Pundits proclaim he can't win. Reporters sneer at Trump voters on Twitter and cable. 

Why it matters: There are several signs that should give the Trump-is-toast self-assured pause.

  • He’s doing better in some swing-state polls than he was at this point in 2016. And his floor of support holds strong, regardless of what he says or does. 
  • Not only is the stock market on fire, but a lot of blue-collar workers in building, plumbing and other manual crafts are doing quite well, too.

Trump’s big bet is that there are a lot of working class voters, especially in rural areas, who did not vote in 2016 but will this time.

  • His other bet is that months of dumping on Joe Biden, often with lies or wild hyperbole, will do what he did to Hillary Clinton: Make the Democratic nominee seem slightly more unpalatable than himself. 

The New York Times profiled a swath of Trump's steadfast supporters who "outlined myriad reasons for wanting to re-elect him, ranging from the pragmatic ... to a gut-level attraction to his hard-nosed personality."

  • And the "social desirability" factor in polling — do we tell the blunt truth? — is a huge unknown this year because of the new attention to racial issues.

Behind the scenes: People in Trump’s orbit feel much better about the race than they did in mid-June.

  • These officials feel the operation is becoming more disciplined, and is more centered around a message — that Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris embrace leftist policies, and won’t stand up to the violent excesses of the far left.

A few caveats: Biden has some strengths that Clinton didn’t. He's viewed more favorably — and is stronger among seniors, eating into Trump’s sweet spot.

  • Women and college-educated whites have continued drifting away from Trump.
  • And Trump now has a record to defend, so he doesn’t have the outsider factor that he exploited last time.

Although Biden isn’t as polarizing as Clinton inside or outside the Democratic Party, the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for social justice and progressive changes are tugging Biden to the left.

  • President Obama recently told The New Yorker's Evan Osnos: "If you look at Joe Biden’s goals and Bernie Sanders’s goals, they’re not that different, from a forty-thousand-foot level."

Remember: A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found 13% of voters remain "in play," enough to tip the election.

  • It also found Trump’s standing with Hispanics is as good if not better than 2016 — and had improved his image by 20 points among whites, who are more than 70% of the electorate.

Go deeper

Cook Political Report moves Arizona from “toss up” to “lean Democrat” in presidential race

Photos: Sean Rayford/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Cook Political Report on Thursday changed its forecast of Arizona in the presidential race from "toss up" to "lean Democrat," citing new polling data that shows the Sun Belt state slipping away from President Trump.

Why it matters: The rating in a crucial swing state doesn't bode well for President Trump's re-election chances. He won the state by more than 3 points in 2016.

SurveyMonkey poll: Suburbs and the safety wedge

Data: SurveyMonkey poll of 35,732 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, 2020 with ±1% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

White suburbanites who feel "very safe" in their communities are more likely to favor Joe Biden, while those who feel only somewhat safe move toward President Trump, according to new SurveyMonkey polling for Axios.

Why it matters: The findings help illuminate how Trump is using safety as a wedge issue ahead of the election — and why he's fanning fears of violent protests bleeding into the suburbs.

Biden on presidential mask mandate: "Our legal team thinks I can do that"

Biden waves as he leaves a hotel in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware Wednesday he believes he would have the legal authority as president to issue a nationwide mandate to wear face masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus if needed.

Details: "Our legal team thinks I can do that, based upon the degree to which there's a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country," Biden said.