270 to Win – The Electoral College, Voter Realignment and the 2020 Path to Victory

“No one likes the Electoral College, expect perhaps those who were elected because of it. No one likes gerrymandering, except those doing the gerrymandering. No one likes the filibuster, except those doing the filibustering.”

Kevin Bleyer

This article as I had originally planned was three in a series, looking at first how the Electoral College works and why the popular vote doesn’t matter in the United States, how different tribes of voters seem to be moving parties and taking their states with them and finally looking at the path to victory for both the Republicans and Democrats in 2020. As I was drafting them, I found it increasingly hard not to refer to the other two and for the sake of any new readers I’ve combined them together into a single much longer article.

For my American readers, they can likely skip this part of the article as they know what the Electoral College is, what it does and both its advantages and disadvantages. In simple terms it is the Electoral College that elects the President and the Vice President of the United States and this election happens in December, around a month before the term of office is about to begin. I am already hearing the comments as I wrote the prior sentence: What is the point of the election in November you keep writing about if it doesn’t even elect the President? It is an excellent question and the Electoral College is one of the great quirks of the American Constitution, why it exists I’ll explain later, but when in November the people of the United States vote for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump they are not voting for the candidates they are voting for if their states’ electoral college electors will vote for Joe Biden or Donald Trump. The best way to explain it for those in the UK is that we elect an MP and then the MP elects the Prime Minister. It is an indirect election.

It sounds needlessly complicated and doesn’t feel truly democratic in a country that claims to be a beacon for democracy in the world. The system wasn’t designed to be democratic, it was a system to guard the office of the President from someone who would be unfit to occupy it. The Founding Fathers feared democracy, they had studied classical history and believed it was the democracy of Athens that led to its downfall it was a mistake they wanted to avoid, but they did believe in a Republic so the Electoral College was the compromise where the voters would pick the Electors that went to the Electoral College and the Electors could take the voters in their state under consideration but ultimately it was up to the Elector how to vote went. Over time states have passed laws to force their Electors to vote how the state chose in the election (any Elector that doesn’t vote the way the state says they should is known as a Faithless Elector). Today the Electoral College is rather symbolic, which puts the opening quote into focus, why does the outdated system remain?

The answer to that question is a rather simple one, it would require a constitutional amendment to abolish, which would require 2/3 of both Houses of Congress and 3/4 of the States to pass (there is a second method but has never been used so for sake of simplicity I’ll ignore it), it is a high bar in the first place however it would be very unlikely due to a group of states would unwilling to abolish the Electoral College for what it gives them, a chance to say who the President is. Based on the size of a state’s population they are given seats in the House of Representatives, the smallest state, Wyoming has 1 seat and the largest California has 53. Add to that the number of seats they hold in the Senate (which is 2 for every state), it gives you the number of electoral votes each state holds, Wyoming has 3 and California has 55. The population of Wyoming is 577,700 and California is 39.5 million, per voter Wyoming has more power in the Electoral College than California as if California truly had their representative power in the Electoral College they’d have 205 Electoral College votes. While there is a great difference between 3 and 55 votes, there’d be a far bigger difference if the populations were set based off Wyoming’s voters per Elector.

Due to the Electoral College, the election in the United States is not 1 election but in truth 51, (this is because Washington DC is given 3 electoral college votes, it does have a higher population than both Wyoming and Vermont), different elections. This does mean that the winner of the popular vote can in fact lose the election, this happened in 1824, 1876, 2000 and most recently in 2016 where Hillary Clinton won by 3 million more votes but lost heavily in the Electoral College. Unsurprisingly many in the Democrats have begun to call for a reforming of the Electoral College while the Republicans have become its somewhat reluctant defenders. This is why in the election, ignore the national polls and pay very close attention to the state polls particularly in the battleground states because the number of people voting for a candidate has no meaning, it is whether or not they reach 270 Electoral College votes.

With the first topic explained, the third makes more sense but the second might still seem as an odd choice and I’ll explain, every political party has a group of people they aspire to have vote for them by making policy or pledging to support causes which they believe a specific group of people will vote for. In the UK it tends to be based upon age and economic values (if an individual is more socialist or capitalist). In the US it is far more complicated, age and economic values are certainly a make up but there is far more of a social debate in the United States and sadly a racial one too. For a party to win in an election in the United States they need to create a wide coalition which holds enough voters to get elected.

Broadly speaking the Republicans are supported by those with higher incomes, who are fiscally and socially conservative, White, white collar worker (those with degrees) and those who are older. The Democrats tend to be the opposite getting support from lower incomes, who are more fiscally and socially liberal, minorities such as Black and Hispanic, blue collar workers (those without degrees) and those who are younger. That is how anyone who studies American politics was taught on which groups of people support which party, that however is starting to shift as different groups of voters are starting to move into different camps.

Much like in the UK with university educated people starting to move from the Conservative Party to Labour, we are seeing a similar trend in the United States with the White Collar and Blue Collar workers swapping parties, whilst this is not yet complete you can see it starting to happen Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania voting for Donald Trump in 2016 is a strong example, however these states aren’t out for the Democrats yet either with polling showing that at the time of writing they will likely return to the Democrats in November.

The next trend will have to be examined over coming election cycles to see if this is a trend or a one off but older people, which has many surprised, are moving their support over from Donald Trump to Joe Biden in a huge number enough that even if only a small amount of it held for November it would spell a complete disaster for the Republicans in November. Many will put this on Covid 19 and how Donald Trump and the Republican Party as a whole has prioritised the economy over the health crisis, however recent polling as highlighted by Steve Kornacki the MSNBC version of John Curtis (only with a lot more energy) has shown from as far back as July 2019 Joe Biden has been leading among voters who are 65+ by double digits. If this holds out, it’ll be the first time since 2000 65+ voters came out for the Democrat candidate more than the Republican. It also means a lot more states have come into play for the election in November. Specfically Arizona and Florida.

The switching of these groups, combined with the existing demographic support for the parties and changing population nationwide means within 20 years states that were considered swing states in the Midwest will no longer be swing states, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa possibly even Pennsylvania will have become firmly Republican or at least on the balance of probability they’d be called for the Republicans than the Democrats. Whilst the South and South West will look a lot more blue than red with Texas (yes Teaxs!), Arizona, Florida and North Carolina looking more Democrat than Republican. It is the start of a new 20 year cycle that sees states changing hands, Colorado and Virginia are just at the end of their transformation from swing states into their firm holding by Democrats. The mathematics of the Electoral College will be changing very soon.

Now for the reason, many of you are here: the possible paths to victory for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden in November.

For any hoping for a Donald Trump victory in November the paths to victory are not looking good or very plentiful. As the incumbent, there is the disadvantage of playing defence to keep the states that ensured victory last time but beyond that in this election cycle there aren’t any real opportunities for expansion beyond what was won in 2016, from what I’ve heard from reporting the Trump campaign had been hoping to make a move for Colorado and New Hampshire but those plans have seemingly been abandoned in the hopes to protect what saw Donald Trump his victory.

Donald Trump can afford to lose both Michigan and Pennsylvania for victory in November. If he were to lose any other state, he’d lose. What is more worrying is if Donald Trump lost Florida, should Trump lose Florida he could only afford to lose 1 of the states that he won in the Rust Belt in 2016. Unfortunately for his camp, he is currently down in Florida and in all of the 3 Rust Belt states plus Arizona with North Carolina now within the margin of error within polling. Polls in recent days for Georgia and Utah have also been grim news with Georgia having Biden and Trump tied and Utah Trump only ahead by 3.

Joe Biden and his campaign have a long and hard road ahead of them still, but they have many more paths to victory than Donald Trump does the simplest one is to undo what Donald Trump did in 2016, retake Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’d give a very tight win, but it would put the Democrats over the 270 winning line and come January 2021 they would be in the White House.

There are more options, as I highlighted Florida is a must win for Donald Trump, if the Biden campaign takes that then it is game over for Donald Trump. It’d be an easy win as Michigan is more likely than not to flip back to Democrat control.

There is one more path which is getting a lot of attention recently and that is with Arizona, the state has been seen as increasingly Democrat, with the victory in the Senate race in 2018 and Mark Kelly at present looking to completely wipe out Martha McSally in November. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona together would give enough electoral college votes for the Democrats and is in my view if only three states were to change hands in November it would be these three.

It is still 160 days to go until the election in November, a lot can and will change. It seems the states that will be considered the swing states of the election are confirmed, as time goes on I’d expect polling to start to show a tightening of the race, however so far all I am saying is more states won by Trump in 2016 starting to give data that shows the Democrats are coming a lot closer than they should be. This election will be different, it’ll be interesting but no matter what the winner will be the one who gets to 270 in the Electoral College.

On the Vice Presidency

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“Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again.”

Thomas R. Marshall

When looking for a quote for this post, I found so many that are similar to the one used above. The Vice Presidency is considered by many political scholars a pointless role that has nothing to do, it just serves there to be the back up should disaster befall the President of the United States. I even wrote an essay about it myself during my final year at university, how the Vice Presidency exists only to be a stand in for the President other than for a few constitutional obligations that the Founding Fathers gave to the Vice Presidency to give the officer holder something to do.

While history paints the Vice Presidency as pointless, today a Vice President is an extremely important role within any White House administration. Starting arguably with George H W Bush in the early 2000’s with his Vice President Dick Cheney and then moving through into the strongest relationship between President and Vice President with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, this carried on to the current administration with Donald Trump and Mike Pence. The standing of the vice president has grown from being a back up to the President to being their right hand. The question is why? What changed?

To understand what changed, you need to first understand what many saw the Vice President as doing on the Presidential ticket, the Vice President served one function and one function alone: To balance the ticket. For example if the Presidential nominee was young and seemingly inexperienced, the Vice Presidential nominee was older and more experienced examples of this would be John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. If the Presidential nominee was a Washington outsider (as they were not familiar with how Washington DC worked), the Vice Presidential nominee would be a Washington insider the most recent example would be George H W Bush and Dick Cheney. As for what Pence did for Trump, he added governing experience to the ticket and legitimacy among the Republican Party while not a conventional reason, it still stands that the Vice President compliments the ticket. Other balancing checks could be geographic (where in the United States they were from), balancing gender or race and foreign policy experience.

Under the constitution, the only role that the Vice President holds by name is that should the Senate end up deadlocked (50-50), the Vice President as President of the Senate (the title for the presiding officer, for those in the UK it works the same as it would for the Speaker of the House of Commons) would cast the tiebreaking vote with the last one occurring in March 2017. No where else in the constitution does the Vice President appear, although as President of the Senate they are obligated to count the results of the electoral college so in 2000 Al Gore had to announce his own defeat in the election a month previous.

So little did the Founding Fathers seem to care about the office of Vice President that when William Henry Harrison, the first President to die in office no one was sure if his Vice President, John Tyler would actually assume the Presidency or would he just be Acting President? If the Vice President had to assume the office of the President, could a new one be elected or appointed? No one knew so if the Vice President had to take over for whatever reason the office would be left vacant. It took the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963 for the issue to be truly thought about and with the passage of the 25th Amendment in 1967 ensured that this glaring omission was finally fixed along with the line of succession in case of complete disaster. It also resulted in Gerald Ford being the only President of the United States never to have won an election to either the Presidency or Vice Presidency as he became Vice President after Richard Nixon’s first Spiro Agnew resigned and then Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal. The quirks of the United States constitution highlighted right there.

9/11 was truly a turning point in the world, it has never been the same since that day and that event has cast a shadow which children who are born today will never know or understand. In my mind, it was also the day that the Vice Presidency changed. President Bush was in Florida visiting an elementary school when the attacks took place and was soon in Air Force One for his own safety, with the President potentially uncontactable it fell to Vice President Dick Cheney who was in the White House to coordinate as much of the response as possible. In the days that followed Dick Cheney transformed the role from being the back up to being the chief advisor to the President, Bush and Cheney worked hand in hand from that point onward. Cheney was challenging his experience as a former Chief of Staff but from that point on, the Vice Presidency wasn’t going to be put back in the box.

Barack Obama when elected in 2008 had run on the promise of bringing affordable healthcare to everyone in America. It was a bold idea that many political commentators did not think was achievable, Obama had been a Senator for 4 years prior to his election to the Presidency, he hadn’t even served one full term (a Senator is elected for a 6 year term), he didn’t have the experience or political capital to use to pass it despite his electoral mandate. He didn’t, but his Vice President Joe Biden, a 36 year veteran of the Senate did. You will hear in election adverts for the 2020 election now that Biden pushed the Affordable Care Act through Congress, he did and he made Obama’s promise a reality. It proved the value of a Vice President.

Obama and Biden worked as a partnership during their time at the White House, after the Sandy Hook shooting it was Biden that Obama gave the task of working out how the administration could respond. When Ebola was a risk of becoming the global pandemic (how times change), Obama asked Biden to oversee efforts and ensure that America was ready. These were big responsibilities and ones that no Vice President before had, not even Cheney. In my view, it is Joe Biden that has defined what the Vice President can be.

Despite Donald Trump’s hatred for all that Obama did and stood for (at this point it is difficult to say this is just an opinion) he has come to rely on Mike Pence as much as Obama did Biden and Bush with Cheney. As the world currently battles the Covid 19 crisis, Donald Trump gave his Vice President responsibility for the Coronavirus Taskforce, a group of individuals responsible for organising the response.

Whether or not you believe they have done a good job is irrelevant for this argument, the point is that Donald Trump gave it to his Vice President. This would have been unthinkable when Walter Mondale (the oldest current living Vice President) was in office, it was also unthinkable during the time when the West Wing was being filmed in the late 1990s. When President Bartlet exclaims he doesn’t want to do something his wife Abby suggests they send the Vice President instead because “isn’t that what they were for.”

The timing of this post isn’t by chance, it was done deliberately and with purpose. We’ve reached the time in the electoral cycle for the 2020 race where the Vice Presidential nominees are being considered before being formally announced and confirmed at the party conventions (if they end up happening at all this time round). First let’s look at the Republican Party as this will be straight forward.

Mike Pence will be the Vice Presidential nominee for the Republican Party, there have been some commentators that Trump will dump Pence in favour of former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to counteract who Joe Biden will select as his Vice Presidential pick. I don’t think this will be likely, I am sure within the campaign the idea has been floated around but with Pence handling the Covid 19 response and being seen as the only hope the administration has right now, it will be hard to see Pence being dumped. (On a side note, keep a watchful eye on Nikki Haley for a run in 2024. She is someone who is very likely to run and do well.)

Now for the Democrats, the truly interesting Vice Presidential pick as there is no easy go to. Spoilers, but whoever the nominee will eventually be they will be a woman, Biden committed to picking a woman during a debate against Bernie Sanders in March and that won’t be a pledge he’ll break. If he did the Democrat base would be livid. Beyond that much, we don’t know for certain and while he is being pressured into picking a non white woman, he hasn’t ruled out any woman.

Before I go through some of the potential VP picks we could see appearing on the ticket there are a few things we need to consider. First, Joe Biden is one of the oldest Presidential candidates in history, therefore picking someone who is likely to outlive him is a must, therefore a younger candidate will be more likely. Second, Joe Biden knows exactly what it means to be Vice President as I said above he has defined what the role now is, he will have set his selection committee strict criteria. Third, they have to be someone who Biden has chemistry with, as a politician Biden is famous for not hiding what he thinks. Whoever is selected Biden will want to consider a friend, not just someone to help him get elected. So, here are my suggestions of who might be likely and unlikely to be on the ticket.

Kamala Harris has to be top of the list. A Senator from California, who served as Attorney General of the state prior. She too made a bid for the nomination in 2020 but fell short dropping out of race before the first contest was even held. She is seen as a good pick as she is African American, for her efforts in the Senate especially on the Judiciary Committee where viral moments of her against the Attorney General William Barr were praised by many Democrats. She is seen as someone who would compliment Biden’s weaknesses and would excite parts of the party which haven’t been energised by Biden being the nominee. If she were selected, her now vacated Senate seat would be filled easily by a Democrat not risking the potential tight balance that’ll be in play after the election. In many ways a perfect candidate for selection and should she not be selected if Biden wins in November, I would struggle to see her not being appointed as his Attorney General. While there are no glaring issues with Harris as a candidate, if she was a strong candidate for someone who could potentially be President, what stopped her winning the Democrat nomination? Is there something behind the scenes we don’t know about that might disqualify her? No candidate is perfect and while I struggle to find an issue, others won’t. It is something to keep in mind for all potential picks.

Next I’ll address Stacey Abrams as she is a pick who has been constantly being talked about, even before Biden announced his campaign. The former minority leader for the Georgia House of Representatives (for those in the UK, Leader of the Opposition in the County Council) and failed gubernatorial candidate for the Democrats in Georgia in 2018 where she narrowly lost. She too is African American and has excited many Democrats who have not been excited by Biden’s selection as the nominee. Abrams has been outspoken about her desire to be Biden’s VP pick and her willingness to serve if asked. There is just one glaring issue with Abrams that could easily undo her push to be picked, she has never held a national or state wide office, also known as she doesn’t have the experience under her belt many would want from the VP pick nor since her defeat in 2018 has she made an effort to change this, she didn’t go for the Georgia Senate seat up in 2020 and has faded largely from view beyond her media appearance to hype up her own desire to be Vice President. Another smaller issue is that Stacey Abrams hasn’t been tested on a national campaign before, she would be a risky pick that could blow up in the Biden campaign’s face. I personally cannot see her as the nominee, a potential cabinet pick but not a Vice President.

Elizabeth Warren, the liberal firebrand Senator from Massachusetts and former 2020 candidate for President. This is a very interesting candidate for the VP spot for a few reasons, first she was rumoured to be Joe Biden’s personal choice if he had chosen to run in 2016, second she would ignite the progressive side of the party that was disappointed with Biden’s selection as nominee (although seemingly not the Bernie or die types as anyone other than Bernie won’t be good enough) and third she is extremely effective at taking down her political opponents when needed as she did with Mike Bloomberg in the primaries completely crushing his chances of taking the nomination. There are some negatives to Warren however, while Biden has moved some of his positions to match Warren’s they aren’t the hand in glove that many believe Biden is looking for. Then there is age, Warren is only 7 years Biden’s junior many suggesting that with age gap being too small for this election, especially given Covid 19 and finally there is race, while people should not be selected or disqualified due to the colour of their skin many within the party are pushing for a non white pick and Warren is white. In my view Warren is an unlikely pick, she’d make a good pick but unlikely.

After dropping out of the race after South Carolina’s primary and then her endorsement of Biden days later, Amy Klobuchar was seen as delivering Joe Biden victory in her home state of Minnesota. The Senator was seen by many, including myself, as Joe Biden’s Vice President after those events. They share the same ideology, agree on almost all issues and more importantly would give Biden a lot of support in the Rust Belt, the area of the country Hillary Clinton lost for the Democrats in 2016 and with that loss gave Donald Trump his victory. Having her on the ticket would ensure Minnesota was no longer a risk to lose, Wisconsin would become more likely to win (and with it being seen as the bell whether state for the election being critical to victory) and would sure up Michigan which would also need to be flipped back to Democratic control. There are some issues that need to be addressed with Klobuchar however, first her race for the same reasons I said with Elizabeth Warren as much as I disagree, second the Senate seat she’d vacate if she was chosen and Biden won. Unlike California where even if a Donkey had a blue ribbon on it it’d be elected, Minnesota is far more vulnerable and if the seat vacated was taken by a Republican it could spell disaster for the Biden administration as I have said before the Senate maths is difficult anyway for Democrats and Mitch McConnell has shown he will never be bipartisan as Senate Majority Leader. Also with my own anecdotal evidence, many are struggling to see Klobuchar as the pick, while personally I believe she’d be a strong pick for the reasons I’ve pointed out, mainly due to the Senate I don’t believe she will be the VP candidate.

The final potential candidate I will be highlighting is the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer. She holds many of the same qualities of Klobuchar, she’d easily lock down Michigan for Biden in the electoral college and help him secure the Rust Belt for victory over Trump. She is a famous moderate beating out a Bernie Sanders endorsed progressive for the primary to be selected as the Democrat candidate for Governor in 2018. She holds experience of an office that is state wide, even if only for two years it is more than Stacey Abrams holds. Again as with Warren and Klobuchar, race will be a issue for Whitmer however it is a tiny issue compared with the issue that will ultimately mean in my view she won’t be the VP pick and why I chose to highlight her as my final candidate analysis. She is a Governor. There is the Covid 19 crisis and (rightly or wrongly, you choose) Donald Trump has made it so that it is the states that will respond and organise how that response will go. Michigan as of the time of writing is continuing to see a rise in cases and the state healthcare system is at crisis. Michigan cannot afford to have her Governor thinking about her run for the Vice Presidency, nor can any state especially as many believe a second or even third wave of the virus will hit the United States in the autumn. I sincerely doubt that any Governor will be the VP pick in 2020.

I highlighted 5 widely talked about candidates for Biden’s potential pick and there are so many more I could address, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Congresswoman Vel Demmings, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (a very very unlikely pick), Senator Tammy Baldwin. Each of them (excluding Gabbard) are good choices for Biden to pick and would bring a lot of strength and firepower to the ticket.

However there are many names I haven’t said, many names I haven’t even considered because they aren’t being talked about. I need to highlight that due to Biden’s age, he might not make the full term if elected which is why this Vice Presidential search is being talked up so much. But again also due to his age, Biden could only choose to serve 4 years in office with his Vice President being seen as a likely successor. Whoever Biden chooses will be given a platform from which to run their own Presidential campaign later, this is a reason people are watching and waiting to see what happens and who is picked.

I would urge caution at this point to anyone who has their heart set on a candidate right now, Vice Presidential picks are known for being out of left field and being an unknown name to America at large. How many people thought that Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia would be Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016? Or that Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska would be the late John McCain’s running mate in 2008?

The truth is we won’t know who the pick is until they are selected, we won’t know why until they are selected either. All we do know is that they will be a woman. Biden has only just announced his team for selecting his Vice Presidential pick at the start of May and while a shortlist has likely been made a long time before then it won’t be until June or perhaps even July until we find out who Joe Biden has picked to be his Vice President. But of all the nominees in history, whoever Biden does pick she’ll be more than qualified for the job, after all he knows what it means to be Vice President and he knows what to look out for.

State of the Race – 6 Months until Election Day!

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“True, it’s not over till it’s over. And even when it’s over, it just begins again.”

Kate McGahan

Yesterday, Sunday 3rd May, marked the true countdown of the US General Election for many. 6 months until voters go to the ballet box (or post in their votes Covid 19 depending) and America decides do they want Donald Trump to have another term in office or do they want to elect Joe Biden to become the 46th President of the United States. (Yes 46, Grover Cleveland while serving twice had a 4 year break in between.) It therefore felt right to examine the state of the race and work out if the election was held today who’d be sitting in the White House.

Before examining the meat of the issue, a few things to consider. First, as Harold Wilson once said “A week is a long time in politics.”, this is certainly true, the election is still 6 months away and a lot can happen between now and for anyone who studies American elections remember we still have October where a surprise could find itself appearing. Second, Covid 19 will shape this election not just in terms of a health crisis or an economic crisis but as a voting challenge that will need to be answered. The waves of the virus will likely heavily play with what happens. Third, I am very much an election pundit while I have my degree and spend a lot of time examining polls and election history, any and all primary evidence I have is very much anecdotal and should be treated as such.

Realclearpolitics is a goldmine of a resource for anyone with an interest in the election, it shows an average of polling nationally and in key battleground states as well as various Senate, House and Gubernatorial (elections to elect state Governors) elections. I’d recommend it for anyone who has an interest and wants to keep up on the day to day shape of the race rather than awaiting my infrequent posting here. Realclearpolitics also provides betting odds as for who the bookies currently believe will win the White House, I point this out as some readers I know trust the betting odds as opposed to poll numbers.

At the time of writing the polls and the betting odds find themselves opposed to each other with the betting odds in favour of Donald Trump (50.3) compared with Joe Biden (41.8) while the polls have Joe Biden leading nationally by 5.3% and winning in all battleground states excluding North Carolina (although Trump is only winning by 0.3% so they are what pollsters called statistically tied).

I will explain the likely difference between the poll numbers and the betting odds, the former is speaking with voters and asking how they will vote if they election was today or how are they intending to vote in November. Betting odds are looking at trends that history has set, no President since Bush 41 (the older George Bush) has lost re-election and that was in 1992, 28 years ago (apologies to anyone who now feels old). The sitting President has a phenomenon called the incumbency factor, voters know exactly what they are getting and there isn’t the risk of the unknown which the challenger holds.

Out of the two if you were to ask me which I trust, has it not been for Covid 19, I would have trusted anything that put Donald Trump ahead but Covid 19 has blown everything wide open (it is something I will address further later.) I can already hear the thoughts of you reader when you tell me the polls were wrong in 2016, Hillary Clinton is not the President right now. You are indeed correct, I remember election night very well and with my fellow university course mates watched the shock unfold, a lot of whiskey was consumed and most of us had gone home by 3am (10pm Eastern Standard Time) as the result was clear.

I trust the polls this election cycle however for the perhaps counterintuitive reason of that the pollsters were wrong last time. Pollsters had a lot of egg on their face last time around and rightly so, but they will do everything that they can to ensure that won’t happen again, they have spent the last three years making sure these mistakes won’t be repeated and they will be back with a vengeance. That at least to me gives me far more confidence of their credibility and if the polls turn out to be wrong again, I will be shocked and rather annoyed.

Before I address the Donald Trump and Joe Biden to see how they have been doing in the race, I will comment on former Republican now Independent Congressman Justin Amash forming a exploratory committee to see if entry into the race seeking a third party nomination with the Libertarian Party would be possible. Firstly, if he was truly serious about running for President he should not have left it to April of election year to jump into the race. That is not how the electoral cycle in the United States works. The first candidate for the Democrat primary (Elizabeth Warren) announced in December 2018 with most candidates having put themselves forward by May 2019. Second, much like Mike Bloomberg found jumping into the race so late, with a lot of contests already held will be a waste of money. What I suspect he is trying to do is make a name for himself as his political life is coming to a close, he would not be re-elected to his seat now he has left the Republican Party and he would never stand as a Democrat (nor would the Democrats likely let him.) Should his candidacy end up anywhere and he actually win the nomination, he will likely end up helping Donald Trump win a second term as the moderate Republicans who cannot tolerate Trump and were going to hold their noses and vote for Biden would have an acceptable ideological candidate in Amash. But I will make one thing crystal clear, Amash will not be President in 2021.

As this election began after the 2018 midterms were over and as we moved through 2019 it was clear Donald Trump was going to win in 2020. The economy was doing well and there had not been any negative scandal that had seriously damaged him, not even his impeachment by the House of Representatives. Everything that Donald Trump could want was there for his re-election, he had the incumbency factor in his favour and Allan Lichtman and his 13 key method only had Trump at 4 of 6 keys lost, with it being unlikely the last two would fall all he had to do was coast to victory and have nothing go wrong, or if something did solve it in a Presidential manner.

Then came Covid 19. American GDP shrank by 5% in the first quarter of 2020, the number of Americans unemployed has reached 30 million (and counting), more dead in 3 months than in the entire Vietnam War and an absence of Federal Government leadership meaning that the States had to handle the crisis. Worst of all and extremely worrying, the suggestion by Donald Trump to inject disinfectant into people and to somehow insert lights into the body to fight off the infection. I will repeat the advice of everyone else in the world: DO NOT INJECT DISINFECTANT INTO YOURSELF.

Polling done since the Covid 19 virus hit the United States has not been good for Donald Trump (I’ll address those figures in Biden’s section.) The most worrying poll has Americans at a ratio of 2:1 believing their Governor over how to tackle Covid 19 than their President. For a President in the middle of a crisis these are not encouraging signs, far more alarming is that the rally around the effect for Donald Trump has already been blown through. It was however the smallest effect in recent history, Bush 43 after 9/11 had his favourable ratings soar to the 90% range, Donald Trump managed just over 50%. An extremely weak response in one of the worst crisis to face the United States in decades.

It is difficult to find much that speaks in favour of Trump beyond the incumbency factor, which this time due to his mismanagement of the Covid 19 crisis I believe will work against him. The only positive I can draw from all of this negative is that the base of supporters that support Donald Trump remains strong.

This is the era of a very heavily divided electorate and one which political academics and commentators are still adapting to. How much of the base will stay? How much could be lost and won again? The truth is, right now we don’t know. All we know is that, right now, Donald Trump’s political life is in a lot of danger.

Now to look at Joe Biden and how he is doing. Before I start I will address the sexual assault allegation made by Tara Reade a former staffer to him in the 1990s. I won’t go into the allegation nor will I comment on if I find the allegation credible. What matters is that these allegations are out there and the American public will have to respond to this, as they did with Donald Trump when he had allegations made against him. On Friday, he addressed the allegation head on in an uncomfortable interview on Morning Joe the MSNBC breakfast news show. After this and further developments over the weekend with Reade cancelling a television interview and her speaking with the Associated Press, I spoke with some American friends on mine ranging from a self described die hard Bernie supporter to a Republican intending on voting for Donald Trump in November. All of them did not believe Tara Reade was credible nor did they believe the allegation would matter in the election come November, Covid 19 and how that was being handled would dominate.

There is a quote attributed to Napoleon: “Never Interfere With an Enemy While He’s in the Process of Destroying Himself”. While I don’t think this is the tactic Joe Biden’s campaign is pursuing, it is the tactic in play due to a struggle to get network time. It has been as Donald Trump’s failure to handle this crisis grows that Joe Biden’s poll numbers grow meaning more and more states come into play for the Biden campaign and more states slip away from the Trump campaign. The 3 states that gave Donald Trump victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) are showing polling which holds Joe Biden ahead by a minimum 6% with Realclearpolitics showing Wisconsin considered by every pundit to be the bellwether state Biden ahead by a very conservative figure of 2.6% (I have seen other polling that places Biden 6% ahead with the other states above.)

It gets better for the Biden campaign with Florida now having polls showing Biden leading from 2-6%, Arizona 2-7%, with Georgia and the symbolic heartland for the Republican Party of Texas tied. I’ve seen polling out of Iowa where Biden is only behind by 2%. Why are these states important? Excluding Florida, Trump carried all of these states extremely comfortably in 2016 and Hillary Clinton was never at play in some of these states. I am not saying that in November that Biden will take all of these states, but to look at how well his campaign is doing right now these numbers prove that and then some. Internal polling by the Trump campaign has been so poor that Trump threatened to sue his campaign manager.

Add to this a very early consolidation of the Democrats behind Joe Biden (those that are being vocal about not supporting him are proving to be increasingly in the minority) and that he and his biggest rival Bernie Sanders are working hand in hand for the policy platform has done a lot to build the bridges the primaries seemingly burned. A well placed Vice Presidential pick will go a long way to helping Joe Biden take the White House in November.

Further good news for Joe Biden comes from the modelling of Rachel Bitecofer, until recently she was unknown to me however I came across her modelling and predictions. I found them extremely interesting in how she models but what was more stunning was the accuracy of it, for the 2018 midterms she predicted every seat that would flip and the only mistakes she made were made by her not trusting her model. For anyone who is a politics nerd like I am, I’d suggest giving it a read in the link I’ve embedded above. To summarise her prediction into a single sentence, Joe Biden wins and will seemingly win somewhat comfortably.

I would urge caution to any Democrat reading this and assuming the election in November is a homerun, it isn’t and it won’t be. It will take a lot of work and the lack of Biden appearing on television and being stuck to campaigning from his basement puts him at a distinct disadvantage, there is also the Republican war chest which is extremely full compared with the Democrats. A lot of fund raising needs to be done and Michael Bloomberg needs to unlock that war chest he had promised to the Democrat nominee for the election.

I will remind readers however that this election is still 6 months away and much can and will change. While some are becoming confident to predict a Biden win, I am not. I believe it is now more likely that Biden will win, but I won’t put anything in stone until at most the week before the election itself. However if they election was held today, Joe Biden would be elected.

182 days to go and counting. The 2020 race is really starting and it is one that will certainly be remembered.

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Bernie’s Out! Here’s what he needs to do now.

“And so today I’m announcing the suspension of my campaign. Please note that I do not make this decision lightly. In fact, it’s a very difficult and painful decision.”

Bernie Sanders

In my last post I had said that Bernie Sanders had no path to the Democrat nomination. He too has also come to accept this truth and yesterday announced that was suspending his campaign and certainly it wasn’t due to a lack of ideas or money but due to reality. Bernie Sanders had hoped that he could mirror what Ronald Reagan had done on his path to the Presidency, lose one contest to be the party nominee but use it to springboard his next and ultimately take the White House. Unfortunately for him and his loyal supporters this won’t be the case and by the next election cycle Sanders will be too old to truly consider a strong run.

To Bernie Sanders’ credit, he has done more to shape the Democrat Party without winning the nomination than anyone that I could think of, or my research could turn up. Many consider his achievements far greater than fellow Vermonter Howard Dean, the only person I could find who might come close to what Sanders has achieved. His supporters have a passion for which cannot rival anywhere else in the world, they are far more energetic, loud and proud than the United Kingdom’s equivalent Jeremy Corbyn. However, their work isn’t done yet.

I will leave my message to Bernie supporters until the end, although most reading this could gather what it will be. To the surprise of some Bernie will not be freeing up his delegates and will be keeping his name on state primary ballots in the hope of being able to use the number of delegates to push the party platform more towards his ideas. A bold strategy and a smart one for him, he will never occupy the White House to see his ideas come to pass so he is putting the ideas onto the candidate who will have the chance to and that will be Joe Biden.

I would however mark caution here, liberalism since the rise of populism has retreated more and more into its ideological camp and with every loss it has incurred it has doubled down on this. Meanwhile relatively, conservatism has stayed entrenched in where it is and doesn’t move more towards the purer end of its ideology, or to put it another way stayed where the centre can be picked up.

If the Democrats cannot attract the independents and the moderate Republicans who cannot tolerate Trump as President, they will lose the election coming in November. The Obama coalition as it was called attracted everything from the hardcore left to moderate Republicans, this coalition is what Biden has been shown to be rebuilding. There is just one great issue however which has materialised. The hardcore Bernie Sanders supporters.

Whilst I hate referring to twitter and it is not the be all and end all of the world, the amount of #NeverBiden I have seen is worrying. Part of the reason for Hillary Clinton’s defeat is that the Democrats failed to heal the wounds sustained in the primaries, many thought that Clinton didn’t concede enough ground to the Sanders voters which didn’t help matters. Therefore we have a paradox, staying to the centre whilst also appealing to the left. This is the balancing act that the Democrats will need to manage.

I spoke with some people yesterday in the Unites States both from Michigan, the first was an Elizabeth Warren supporter who was extremely disappointed that Joe Biden was the nominee but told me that she was happy that the primary was over so 2016 wouldn’t be repeated, she explained that to her there was time for the party to heal and unite against Trump. The second was a Bernie supporter who was crying and told me that they wouldn’t vote for Biden and would vote for Trump to spite the DNC who had fixed the result.

In these two people in the same state, a state that the Democrats will need to win back, it shows the issues that need solving. Bernie Sanders supports believe that due to the moderate wing of the party coming behind Joe Biden meant there was a plot to ensure he’d never win the nomination and whilst Sanders did well in the first three contests of the primary season, it wasn’t the DNC but primary voters in South Carolina that put Biden back in the race and sent him forward to eventually win the nomination.

Backing a candidate and losing is painful, especially when you believe in their ideals and their vision for the future is what you aspire to, I’ve experienced the same pain with leadership elections for my party, but whoever the party choose you have to back. Let me put it this way, Donald Trump would not put any of Bernie Sanders’ ideas into policy and would kill the dream many of his supporters want. Joe Biden might not have been the person you wanted in the White House, he won’t put all of the ideas into policy but he will do some. Is it better to have something or nothing?

The Elizabeth Warren supporter said to be something that I felt was the essence of what the Democrats, what Warren, Sanders, Bloomberg, Harris, Booker etc. supporters need to do if they want to win in 2020 and defeat Donald Trump. About swallowing their pride and accepting that the primary season is now over. Another way of saying the liberal broadcaster Rachel Maddow’s famous adage “In the primaries, vote with your heart. In the general, vote with your head.”

The only person who can bring his voters to support Biden is Sanders himself, he will need to endorse Biden and actively work to ensure that in November his supports come out to back Biden. He will need to be reminded of the Indivisible Pledge that he signed near the start of his campaign and remind his supporters that while the revolution might not come today, if they want it to start beginning they need to remove Donald Trump from the White House.

For Democrats and those anti Trump, the message in the words of the Elizabeth Warren supporter is clear: “Vote Blue, it doesn’t matter who.”

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Covid 19 & the 2020 Election

“This election is about who’s going to be the next President of the United States!”

Dan Quayle

It has been a long time since I wrote on this blog and much has happened in that time both within the United Kingdom and United States. Boris Johnson won a clear victory in a snap general election and Labour was set back to its worst position since the 1930s, Brexit happened, Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate (to the surprise of no one) and the Democrat Primaries began. I was considering using this post to write about the death and revival of Joe Biden’s campaign and how it should have not been a surprise to anyone who could view the polls in South Carolina, instead I am looking towards November and the effect of the great elephant in the room known as Covid 19.

With the Democrat primaries in effect decided with Joe Biden the nominee in all but name (if anyone believes that Bernie Sanders can win the nomination they need to check the demographics of the remaining states to vote), everyone can look towards the next stage of the election cycle – Election Day. Well, if this was any normal electoral cycle that is and whilst every election cycle presents something new and different for political scientists and historians to look at, 2020 will go down in history as one of the more unique elections. Why? Covid 19 obviously.

In the history of the United States there has never been an election has that happened in these sets of circumstances with it being seen as by many unsafe to leave their homes and vote. The United States has elected Presidents before in the middle of a war (1864 during the American Civil War and 1944 during World War 2), but despite the challenges of ensuring everyone could vote they triumphed. With Lincoln and Roosevelt being elected to terms which purely by chance would see them both dead within 12 months.

Being an observer to the situation within the United States, I hold no confidence in the Federal Government to be able to rise to the challenge of this crisis, in every way they seem to have failed so far with battling Covid 19. The state governments have for the most part been left to stand on their own, particularly New York which has become the world’s pandemic hotspot and whilst twitter should not be considered the be all and end all, the hashtag President Cuomo has been trending often after the Governor’s daily press conferences.

Unlike in 1864 and 1944, it will be down to the states (if the Federal Government continue as they are) in order to sort out the mess that will still likely be in effect during November. That means for those unaware there will be 50 different responses to how to ensure voting happens and if history is anything to go by people will try and weigh the scales in a particular party’s favour, I pity the work the FEC is going to have to do to try and keep this election fair.

Beyond the logistics, observing news coverage in the United States varying from the centrists in CNN and the New York Times (excluding editorial boards) and the partisan Fox News and MSNBC, what do you see? Covid 19 everywhere, no comment on the primaries or the election that is only 7 months away (I say only 7 months, election cycles in the United States begin after the midterms so 24 months roughly). The President is on show all the time showing his leadership, traditionally that benefits the incumbent’s re-election prospects, check Hurricane Sandy in 2012 comparing the coverage of Obama and Romney and you’ll see what I mean.

Only this time I am wondering if having Donald Trump on show everyday is actually helping him? I’ve watched his press conferences and they aren’t making him look good at all speaking from my own view but my own anecdotal evidence with some Moderate Republicans, he isn’t being the President they’d want him to be. They want him to be Bush 43 after 9/11, Donald Trump isn’t measuring up to the mark and in the states where the election will be won and lost in November his poll numbers aren’t doing too well.

This however is not good news for Joe Biden, the same Moderate Republicans are asking me where is he? I know where he is, I follow him on twitter (as I do Donald Trump) and he is giving daily addresses to his followers and launching low key attack ads on what he sees as Trump’s mishandling of the crisis. Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings are also sucking oxygen from time where Biden could be showing himself to be a strong leader in this time of crisis.

Joe Biden is not being given the air time he needs to put his message across, what he’d do differently and what should be done. Part of that will be down to that he isn’t the official presumptive nominee due to Sanders remaining in the race. The only coverage on the news outside of the editorial boards of newspapers is on MSNBC where on Brian William’s 11th Hour (which is always worth watching for anyone interested in what has happened that day in America), Biden was asked how the Democrat Convention in July could happen.

If Biden’s campaign is telling him to keep his head down to avoid any potential gaffes, they will need to change tactics soon. The American people need to remember that an election is happening and in a time of crisis who sits in the White House matters. For Trump he needs to start a true federal response (although it could be too late) and for Biden he needs to show himself as someone who can blow Trump out of the water and rally the centrists, moderate Republicans and Sanders supporters (who if you can believe twitter) would rather have Trump for 4 more years than vote Biden.

The norms are falling, every rule you could count on in previous election cycles (including Biden’s resurrection) has been blown apart. Traditional campaigning is now non existent. What can you do when an act of nature has disrupted how everything should go? Who will the eventual winner in November be? We’ll find out then, but it is a long time between now and November, all we can hope for is by then this global pandemic will be over with.

This election will be studied for years to come and the America of the future could well rely on how we acted today to tell them how to get through their crisis. Donald Trump, Joe Biden – history is watching.