Before the US presidential election, the numbers spoke for themselves. But in the Trump era there are no longer any certainties.
Under normal circumstances, a month before the November 3rd US election date, journalists would use well-worn metaphors such as “The campaign is about to hit the home stretch”. This speaks of the fatigue in our industry, which is already dealing with them two years before these elections, i.e. at the latest when the first reports for the presidential candidacy arrive.
Barack Obama put it this way shortly after his first election in 2008: “Since I started my election campaign, children have been conceived and born who can now walk and talk.”
So under normal circumstances, this excruciatingly long process would finally be nearing completion, and the polls would give an idea of who is likely to win the election and deliver a victory speech to supporters in the early hours of November 4th.
According to the current state of affairs, that would be the Democratic challenger Joe Biden: If everyone voted as the polls currently predict, Biden would win the Electoral College, which comprises 538 voters, with 353 votes against 185, and the Democrats with a majority of 51 against 49 votes Control the Senate and, in all likelihood, defend control of the House of Representatives. All signs point to change – the nightmare of the Trump presidency would be over after just one term.
But the circumstances are not normal, there can be no question of a “home stretch”. The first TV debate this week turned into such chaos that the “Commission on Presidential Debates” is already considering rule changes.
The President refuses to guarantee that he will recognize the election result and is fueling fear of major electoral fraud through increased postal voting due to corona. Right-wing extremist militias are preparing for upcoming clashes – fueled by Trump, even if he suddenly claims that he doesn’t even know the “Proud Boys” whom he called on Tuesday night’s TV debate to “be ready”. And hardly anyone assumes that the election winner will be announced on election night.
In addition: Biden’s lead in the polls is solid, but the memory of 2016, when the polls also forecast a clear victory for Hillary Clinton, not only makes journalists cautious. Nate Silver, founder of the analysis portal FiveThirtyEight.com, tries to reassure the doubters: Even if you subtract those 3 percentage points from Biden’s lead by which the polls were wrong in 2016, Biden would win a majority in Electoral College.
According to the current state of affairs, everyone can see for themselves on the RealClearpolitics.com site: Trump won in Michigan by 0.3 percentage points at the time – Biden is currently 5.7 percentage points ahead. In Pennsylvania, Trump won by 0.7 percentage points, Biden now leads with 5.7. And it’s almost the same in Wisconsin. In Arizona, Florida and North Carolina it is getting tighter: Here Biden is currently only just under 1 percentage point ahead.
But even if he loses these three states and Ohio, where he currently leads by 3.3 percentage points, he could win the 270 required votes in Electoral College and thus the election with the recovery of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – always provided that that double-digit survey leads in other countries do not yet turn into their opposite. In short: The current polls suggest Biden’s victory, so it only seems open whether it will be a landslide, a “landslide victory”, or rather close.
What none of these polls can take into account, however, is the special circumstances surrounding this election, which includes Trump’s repeated suspicions of postal voting fraud. Overall, Democratic voters attach greater importance to the corona pandemic than Republicans, which is why it is suspected that they tend to vote by postal vote, while Trump voters go to the polling station.
In the count on election night in one of the voting states, Trump could be just ahead. The votes cast by postal vote are only then counted. If Trump declares himself the winner that night and declares the postal votes to be fraudulent, while reports of alleged double postal votes appear on Fox News, a tangible crisis would be evident.
It could be weeks before there is an election result and the whole thing ends up before the Supreme Court – which by then will in all likelihood be made up of 6 conservative and 3 liberal judges. Leftists would demonstrate against Trump’s authoritarianism in the streets, while right-wing militias could march against it – a scenario shortly before the civil war. And no one should hope that Trump will suddenly take responsibility to prevent that.
There are a number of other scenarios that make it clear that polls, or even majorities, are not the only factors in these elections. What could take the wind out of the sails of these horror ideas: a victory by one of the two candidates, which is so clear that it cannot be seriously doubted.
But November 3rd is not just about the residents of the White House. The impotence that the Democrats are now seeing again because they have no way of preventing the appeal of the conservative lawyer Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court makes the battle for the Senate all the more important. There are currently 53 Republicans in the Senate, as opposed to 47 Democrats and independents coaling with them (such as Bernie Sanders from Vermont).
In the 2018 mid-term elections, the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives, but had little chance of regaining the Senate – simply because the majority of the Senate seats up for election were already occupied by Republicans. It’s different this time: 23 of the 35 seats available for election this time are held by Republicans – and at least eight of them wobble significantly. Should the Democrats win even half of them and defend their own seats, they would have a majority in the future Senate.
If that happens, but Donald Trump stays in the White House, it would be a situation that President Barack Obama was also confronted with after the Democrats lost the House of Representatives in 2010 and the Senate majority in 2014: Obama was President, but had no longer a chance to cast any reform plans into legal form, and had to govern by decree as far as this is legally possible.
However, if the poll trend is confirmed and control of all three instances goes to the Democrats, the nightmare of those Republicans who warned in 2016 that Trump could permanently destroy the party would come true. Your problem will then be that the electorate loyal to Trump would not have disappeared with his defeat, but Trumpism would have pushed the party so far into a conspiracy-ideologically inspired right-wing corner that it no longer wins elections.
Especially since after Trump’s departure, loyalty issues would have to be renegotiated in a party that has got used to Trump critics being punished immediately. That would also be the case if Trump remained President. Because from the mid-term elections in 2022 at the latest, it will be about the successor.