by Frank Schnittger
Tue Nov 3rd, 2020 at 01:44:19 AM EST
Election day is finally upon us and soon we will know the result - by this evening, if President Trump has his way! 98 Million people have already cast an early ballot - 71% of the total 2016 turnout - and a record turnout is expected. Michael McDonald, a Professor at the University of Florida is predicting a total turnout of about 160 Million - up 16% from 138 Million in 2016.
This is despite increasingly desperate attempts by the Republican party to suppress the vote - culminating in yesterdays court proceedings to invalidate 127,000 votes in Texas because they were cast at temporary drive in centres housed in tents, rather than in a building "structure". President Trump has also said he will send in the lawyers to stop the counting this evening if he is ahead at that stage - as if there is some constitutional requirement to count only as many votes as can be counted within a few hours of polls closing.
It is difficult to envisage a more desperate and defeatist message to send to the electorate than seeking to disenfranchise millions of voters who have cast their ballots in good faith. Democracy be damned. But it also sends a clear message to an electorate which may be less than fully enthused to vote for Joe Biden. A vote now represents an act of defiance against those who would seek to deprive you of that right. It's democracy or fascism, your choice.
Overall, the opinion polls have been remarkably stable over the past few months, giving Biden a lead of between 7 and 11% over that period. Real Clear Politics currently has Biden just below the bottom of that range at 6.7%. but there is little evidence of the race tightening at the crucial state level and 538 currently has the national average at Biden +8.4%.
At the state level Biden seems poised to capture all the Clinton states plus Wisconsin (+8.1%), Michigan (+8.0%) and Pennsylvania (+4.9%), which would be enough to get him past the 270 electoral college threshold. In addition, Biden is favoured to win Arizona (+2.6%), Florida (+2.4%), North Carolina (+1.9%), and Georgia (+0.8%) and has a good shot at winning Ohio (- 0.4%) Texas (- 1.3%), and Iowa (-1.6%). (All figures based on 538.com polling averages).
The polls could be wrong, of course, and it is worth bearing in mind that the current tipping point state, Pennsylvania, has Biden up by only 4.9%, which is why Biden is spending so much time there in the past few days. Biden is not going to make Hillary Clinton's mistake of taking Pennsylvania, where he grew up, for granted. Nevertheless 538 is still giving Trump a 10% chance of winning the election, given the possibility there could be a last minute swing to Trump, as there was in 2016.
Of course the opposite could also happen, with a last minute swing of the dwindling band of undecideds giving Biden an even greater edge. However with 98 Million votes already cast, and so few undecided voters remaining in one of the most polarised elections in US history, it seems unlikely there will be a huge last minute swing either way. Thus Trump's last remaining hopes rest on a huge collective polling error, much greater than that which appeared to lull the Clinton campaign into a false sense of security in 2016.
The risk of such a huge polling error is reduced by the fact that we know the party registrations of nearly half of the 98 Million who have already voted (45% Democrat, 30% Republican, and 25% independent and other). Assuming the vast majority of registered Democrats voted for Biden, and Republican's for Trump, that already gives Democrats a 15 Million vote edge before we consider the fact that polls indicate more independents lean towards Biden rather than Trump. Republicans have a greater tradition of voting in person on final polling day, but they have a mountain to climb if they are to make up for that pre-existing deficit.
Democrats are also favoured in polls to take back control of the Senate, to increase their majority in the House, and to take control of many more state houses and legislatures. Whether the expected blue wave becomes a tsunami remains to be seen, but it would be a major surprise if Democrats do not make significant gains at every level of US politics. Perhaps for the edification of our readers, the US political pundits here might like to put their predictions on the record, before any votes are tabulated, of course. FWIW, My expectations would be on the lines of something like:
Biden +9% nationally, 407 Electoral college votes
Senate - Democrats +6
House - Democrats +15
As you can see from the above, I am being super optimistic from a Democrat point of view, and will no doubt have considerable egg on my face in due course...