It’s not over until the fat fella swings. It is probably too optimistic to hope that the Mango Mussolini’s demise mirrors one of his tyrant heroes but the TV viewing will still be brutal. Yes, this writer has cast off the scars of 2016 and is pretty certain Biden wins. But….the ‘how’ is where the popcorn comes in and we might need more than a one night supply. Let’s start with the boring stuff.
Polling since June has shown Biden winning by a rock steady 8-10 point margin. This is not the 4 point gap Hilary enjoyed before actual voting and the under-polling of non-college white voters. Guess what? Biden is polling much better with white voters than Hillary in 2016. Nate Cohn of the New York Times reckons the Trump white voter advantage has shrunk from 13 points to just 5 points. The indications are even worse for Trump in the seniors(>65) vote.
Exit polls in 2016 showed Trump winning that cohort -18% of the electorate – by 7 points. This time, CNN and…. FFFF..Fox, are finding double digit leads for Biden. Amazing how a senior-killer like Covid-19 can shift priorities from medieval wall building. Anyway, enough of the obvious. Here are 10 things to watch which are far less certain over the coming days:
1. Pennsylvania: This could end up as the ‘firewall’ state. It is conceivable that Trump clocks up early wins in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and North Carolina. None are a sure thing but one can imagine the momentum it would create for a Trump campaign eager to sow doubt and demonstrate a route to victory. If Pennsylvania exit polls can support polling indications of a 5 point Biden win then Trump’s electoral college tally hopes take a major hit.
2. Legal Challenges: As a rough guide it is expected that the early voting total of 95 million votes is running 2:1 for Biden. Conversely, the expectation is that the 60-70 million votes on voting day will possibly run 2:1 for Trump. The scary thing is the early votes(mail-in) might not be known on the night and present a desperate Trump campaign with an opportunity to claim victory and try to stop later counting of mail-in votes. Florida completes all vote counting early so it could become critical in preventing GOP malfeasance.
3. Turnout: The total vote is heading for 160 million thanks to staggering levels of early voting. It will be interesting to see how big the turnout is for independent and first time voters as they could tip the balance in ‘swing’ states and even GOP strongholds like Texas.
4. Youth Vote: Texas saw early voting in the young population increase seven-fold. This voter bloc could be the equivalent of the 2016 under-polling of non-college educated whites. And possibly lethal for the GOP with its dinosaur policies on healthcare, female health, the climate and immigration.
5. The Senate: There are 35 Senate seats on the polling cards this week. The GOP holds 23 and currently control the Senate 53-47. If Biden wins, the Democrats need to win 3 extra seats to flip the Senate. Maine and Arizona look likely wins for Democrats against GOP incumbents so the tight races in Georgia, South Carolina, Iowa and North Carolina could be very spicy.
6. Social Media: Big Tech and social media is under huge pressure to vet information/distribution carefully in a highly charged environment. One can only hope because…..
7. Civil Unrest: Boarded up streets, fences at the White House and terrifying levels of gun and ammunition sales speak to a society stoked with fear. The cult-like certainty of a “win” held by sizeable portions of the US population is real. How people react to a shock is difficult to predict but record gun sales do not augur well for a calm election aftermath.
8. Fox News: Fox and other conservative media platforms like Breitbart and OANN could be faced with an awkward reality if polls enter landslide teritory. The temptation to play the conspiracy card will be strong. So, it be will be both fascinating and unnerving to watch the key Trump cheerleaders like Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs try to weasel more “winning”.
9. Markets: The short term bets are already placed on a Biden win. Potential long tail events which would massively increase volatility would be legal challenges/uncertainty over the result and civil unrest.
10. Hope: A clear victory for Biden and a peaceful transition of power would help restore US leadership on the global stage. It is needed. The Covid pandemic, climate change, income inequality and fundamentalism(home and abroad) are global challenges needing measured leadership, not Agolf Twittler.
Stock up on the popcorn!