by Frank Schnittger
Thu Oct 29th, 2020 at 09:29:21 PM EST
For a variety of reasons, I have been internet free for the past couple of days, so today has been about playing catchup in an attempt to discover what, if anything, has changed in the US election. As always, there is a danger that you get caught up in a bubble of partisan thinking, and simply don't understand some of the many changes under way.
Certainly there have been some negatives in the data from a European point of view. Biden is said to be doing less well with Latino/Hispanic voters than Clinton did. The addition of Harris to the ticket hasn't made some black voters feel any less taken for granted. Texas still feels slightly out of reach, not helped by Biden's comments about transitioning away from oil in the second Presidential debate.
But the reality is you have to dig pretty hard to find negative data about the prospects of the Democratic party and its candidates at all levels of the election. More and more Senate seats seem to be in play and polls at Congressional district level have been outpacing the national polls for quite some time. Biden's lead has stayed remarkably steady and solid in the 7-11% range for the past few months, and even "lean Republican" states like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio seem to be trending his way.
The point is Biden doesn't need to win any of those states to win the electoral college, and with Trump 2016 states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania firmly in the Democratic camp his victory is assured bar any but the most outrageous polling error or last minute swing in voter sentiment.
So far Trump's attempts to gin up some dodgy Hunter Biden dossier into a "Comey moment" has been an abject failure. With 81 million voters having already voted (59% of the total 2016 vote) and so few remaining undecided voters available to be persuaded, all the risks are on Trump's downside and a landslide of historic proportions against an incumbent is quite a distinct possibility. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 47% to 30% among the roughly half of those early voters whose party affiliation is known, and Biden is favoured in polls amongst the 23% of ballots posted by registered independents who have voted to date.
The early voting stats were always expected to favour Democrats as they have traditionally dominated mail and early voting, but those proportions have remained remarkably constant as early voting has progressed. Republicans would want to win Election day in a landslide to make up the increasing deficit in absolute numbers in their vote. This puts them at the mercy of inclement weather, technical hitches, and long queues should voting on election day be any way depressed.
Nate Silver has consistently listed Pennsylvania as the most likely "tipping point" State, the most marginal state which will determine which candidate will win the electoral college majority. He lists Biden as having a 5.2% edge in the average polls there, enough to give him an 86% chance of winning the state. Others beg to differ and feel the polls are again underestimating the enthusiasm of Trump supporters. It would certainly take a polling error of major proportions to make their wishes come true.
The elephant in the room is, of course, the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, which shows every sign of getting worse, despite Trump's attempts to wish it away. The pandemic is getting ever worse in key mid-western states and eroding Trump's approval ratings amongst seniors and rural voters vital to his hopes. Although the pandemic initially struck hardest in many Democratic leaning cities, the more recent growth in infections has been predominantly in Republican leaning states. Much more of this, and a gathering Democratic tide could turn into a flood.