Tonight marks the culmination of the 2020 US Presidential election, and it’s been a race like no other.
Four years ago Donald Trump ripped up the playbook and then proceeded to set it on fire by claiming a shock victory over Hillary Clinton. He then embarked on one of the most erratic and divisive spells the White House has ever seen. And that was all before the world was hit by a once-in-100-years pandemic that the US was ill-equipped to cope with.
His challenger is former Vice-President Joe Biden, who served as Barack Obama’s deputy and has come across as his successor and a return to policy-orientated governing – and a much-needed adult in the room.
If you can’t tell, I sincerely hope that Joe Biden can win the contest to bring a semblance of normality and vision to a world desperately lacking in both at the moment. There needs to be global leadership on things like the response to COVID-19, climate change, security and more – and as much as Trump’s efforts may have tried to diminish America’s role, it’s still the country that can do the most good on these issues and more.
The good news is that a Biden win is the most likely outcome at the moment. The bad news, or more anxiety-inducing news, is that it’s exactly what we said last time.
But it’s time to be a bit more confident. While pretty much everyone’s 2016 election predictions were confounded, including my own, even those that gave Trump more of a chance last time around seem to think lightning won’t strike twice, and there’s good reason for that. 2016’s polls systematically failed to account for the right number of voters without a degree, meaning that those voting for Trump weren’t picked up. In the 2018 US mid-term elections, pollsters tended to correct the errors of 2016 and got it right on the whole.
Here’s where I think the chips will land when the final results are called:
US elections all come down to swing states – the states that have a large number of electoral votes and are relatively bipartisan. These tend to be areas caught between the rural Republican and urban Democratic votes, such as the Mid-west and Florida, but with population changes in Southern states like Arizona, Georgia and even Texas, there are more avenues to victory than there were previously.
From what the polls have shown so far, Biden has a good chance at winning the swing states he needs to take office. His message has had more cut-through among the voters that flip between the two parties, and the people that voted for Donald Trump to restore their industries or their way of life haven’t seen enough progress to re-elect him.
I don’t think the bigger scalps of the likes of Texas or Georgia are likely to vote Democratic this time around as might be expected in a blowout lead, but the flipping of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin (the three states that arguably won the day for Trump in 2016), will be enough.
Depending on how close the result is, we’ll hopefully have a good idea in the early hours of Wednesday who’ll be taking the oath of office on January 20th – but because turnout being higher than it has been for a century and a massive surge in the number of mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic, the ballots will take longer to count than before and might leave us in the lurch without a result for a while.
This could go in two ways though. We know from registration data in most states where people that have requested mail-in ballots there have been far more Democrats than Republicans, so in states where mail-in ballots can be counted before the close of polls there may be an edge for Biden in the count. But the opposite is true in states where no ballots can be tallied until after the end of voting, so there the Republicans will tend to have an edge.
So the process might be a little opaque, and the winner might not be announced or particularly clear on election night, but no matter when it comes, there will be a result of this election and its consequences for America and the world can’t be understated. My fervent hope is that the voting public of the US choose to make America great again, by electing Joe Biden.