Landslide or Narrow Upset, Impossible to Call

5 mins read

With polling stations now open right the way across the US and voters casting their ballots from Boston to Honolulu the US presidential election 2020 is firmly underway. In 2016 the country was deeply divided and a hotly contested presidential race between Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump resulted in later upending polls and predictions right the way across the nation.

Trump lagged in the polls in 2016 and 2020 looks no better. In the last polls that ran from October 31 to November 2 Biden leads the way comfortably beyond the margin of error. Polls have him anywhere from 51/46 up against the incumbent president to a staggering 53/43 lead. The average lead across the polls is in the region of 7 to 8 points in Biden’s favour. The former running mate of President Obama and Vice President for 8 years from 2009 to 2017 looks set to win the popular vote by a strong margin.

This will bring little comfort to Democrats who led firmly in the polls in 2016 with Hilary Clinton winning just over 2 per cent and almost 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. Conventional wisdom assumes that whilst the presidential race is not a popular vote, the candidate who wins the popular vote takes the White House. Donald Trump in the 2016 race proved to be anything but convention while his presidency and his campaign this year have continued to take the US political landscape down the rabbit hole.

The electoral college system grants each state a number of electoral votes that are typically won by the candidate with the highest share of the vote in that state. The first candidate to the now almost hallowed number of 270 wins the presidency. Electoral votes are not distributed with outliers like Alaska, Biden’s home state Delaware, and the Dakotas all receiving only 3 electoral votes each while behemoths like Florida, Texas and California receive 29, 38 and 55 respectively.

Many states are essentially tethered to one party or the other by huge concentrations of Democratic and Republican voters with states like Illinois and New York being firmly in Democratic hands. Elections are won and lost in what are popularly referred to as the battleground states where support for the parties and their candidates swings between the two with many polling within the margin of error between Biden and Trump.

There are 11 key battleground states this time round with Biden going in with an advantage of 233 to Trump’s 188 votes. Across the battleground states Biden enjoys a marginal majority in polls for most states with notable exceptions being Ohio, Texas and Iowa that are all polling slightly ahead for Trump. There are very few clear gaps across the swing states with the biggest gaps being in Wisconsin where there is up to a 6 point advantage to Biden while key state Pennsylvania is showing up to a 5 point swing in the same direction.

The key states to watch out for tonight as the votes come in are:

Florida 29 

Pennsylvania 20

Ohio 18

Michigan 16

Georgia 16 

North Carolina 15 

President Trump faces an uphill battle of daunting proportions tonight and if he is to stop Biden in his tracks then Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan will be key. While Biden enjoys close races in Georgia and Florida, winning these states would be a seismic shock that could spark a landslide. For Biden to win he must secure Pennsylvania and either Ohio, Michigan or North Carolina which will put him but one swing state from victory.

Almost every poll and the electoral math put this 2020 in Biden’s favour but despite an even stronger situation than the build-up to 2016, Democrats will be wary of any early celebrations.

The complexities of the US political landscape this year, the historic 96 million and more postal votes, the pandemic affecting turnout, and the armies of lawyers from both camps in states across the nation make any prediction on a winner all but impossible.

The two outcomes that seem the most likely given the current figures and sentiment in the country are a Biden landslide or a narrow Trump victory.

As the election sweeps up the embers of 2020 the world watches and waits on a contest too chaotic to call.

Featured Image: Brig Newspaper

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Journalism Studies undergraduate at the University of Stirling

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