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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

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Systemic racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor (PA Images)/Getty Images

Advocates are pushing President-elect Biden to tackle systemic racism with a Day 1 agenda that includes ending the detention of migrant children and expanding DACA, announcing a Justice Department investigation of rogue police departments and returning some public lands to Indigenous tribes.

Why it matters: Biden has said the fight against systemic racism will be one of the top goals of his presidency — but the expectations may be so high that he won't be able to meet them.

Pennsylvania certifies Biden's victory

Photo: Aimee Dilger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pennsylvania officials on Tuesday certified the state's presidential election results, making President-elect Joe Biden's win in the key battleground official.

Why it matters: The move deals another blow to President Trump's failed efforts to block certification in key swing states that he lost to Biden. It also comes one day after officials voted to certify Biden's victory in Michigan.

AOC and Ilhan Omar want to block Biden’s former chief of staff

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar are boosting a petition against Joe Biden nominating his former chief of staff to a new role in his administration, calling Bruce Reed a "deficit hawk” and criticizing his past support for Social Security and Medicare cuts.

Why it matters: Progressives are mounting their pressure campaign after the president-elect did not include any of their favored candidates in his first slate of Cabinet nominees, and they are serious about installing some of their allies, blocking anyone who doesn't pass their smell test — and making noise if they are not heard.

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