US presidential election: polls show it’s a close race in swing states

The United States of America stands on the cusp tomorrow (Wednesday NZ time) as 257 million Americans vote for their next president and a host of Congressional and senatorial candidates. On the eve, President Donald Trump trails by 10% among voters facing substantial public anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic but with broad approval of his management of the economy, according to the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump, 52% to 42%, in the poll’s final reading of voter opinion before Election Day, essentially unchanged from Biden’s 11-point advantage in mid-October. In particular, women and seniors have turned against the president, the poll finds, with both groups favouring Biden by double-digit margins.

Surveys finds the race tightening when the landscape is narrowed to a set of 12 battleground states.  Biden holds a 6-point lead across those states, 51% to 45%, compared with a 10-point lead last month.

As we have constantly pointed out, the popular vote is simply that. What matters is the Electoral College where Trump or Biden must win 290 votes to win. In the final hours, the campaign has been rivetted by Trump’s varying comments that he will declare victory whatever on Tuesday night – despite the fact that November 8 is the final date for vote-tallying.

Some commentators, not far from the White House, suggest Trump might concede if he secures a promise from Biden for a presidential pardon – similar to Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon – if  the results are close and he wants a clean exit.

Then his supporters have mounted roadblocks and shunted Biden’s bus, all of which suggests the Republican Party is panicking on the eve of polling day. The latest alarm has come from an interview given by Trump’s latest medical adviser, Dr Scott Atlas, a radiologist with no infectious disease training (but a medical commentator of Fox TV).

He  told TV channel  RT there had been panic over the coronavirus in the US and the herd approach was preferable. Problem is RT is actually “Russian TV” and a Moscow propaganda arm. His interview was filmed in the White House grounds.

Biden’s advantage in swing states is within the poll’s margin of error and corresponds with the many swing-state surveys that show close races and a potential path for Trump to build an Electoral College majority without winning the national popular vote, as he did in 2016.

There are indications that voter turnout in 2020 could reach the highest levels in decades—if not the highest in the past century—with a surge of new voters potentially producing the most diverse electorate in American history.

Pre-election voting has now surpassed two-thirds of all ballots cast during the 2016 presidential election. More than 91.6 million Americans have voted so far, as a majority of states are reporting record early voting turnout in the 2020 election.

While it is too soon to know how that record turnout will translate to Election Day results, the massive early voting numbers suggest a high level of enthusiasm for voting this year, despite the obstacles of a pandemic. Pew Research suggests more Democrats tend to vote early.

These votes represent about 43% of registered voters nationwide, according to a survey of election officials in all 50 states and Washington, DC, by CNN, Edison Research, and Catalist.

Sixteen states have already seen more than half of their registered voters cast. The surge may not dislodge the central role of the predominantly white and heavily working-class voters who tipped the three Rust Belt states that decided 2016 – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Even amid a tide of new participation, those same voters could remain the tipping point of the 2020 election.

We will provide analysis of results which promises to be a drawn-out affair.

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