The U.S. election is upon us, and frontrunner Joe Biden is maintaining a comfortable lead after winning both debates and campaigning in key battleground states. Now it is true that the 2016 presidential favourite, Hillary Clinton, surprisingly lost despite predictions she would win, but the situation this year is markedly different.
For anyone who remembers the 2016 election, Donald Trump’s victory came as a massive shock, especially as it appeared Clinton was leading nationally in the polls, leading to some in 2020 being sceptical of Biden’s lead. While this scepticism may be healthy, Biden’s situation is not the same as what Hillary faced.
Trump, who is now the incumbent, is facing three critical issues as President: the Covid-19 pandemic, a very poor economy, and mass societal unrest over race issues. These are issues which he has not responded well to, with Americans feeling that the country is spiralling out of control, especially as Covid continues to spread at an alarming rate and the economy is still preforming poorly. These issues are combined with Biden’s consistent polling lead over the President. Biden has maintained a lead of 10 points on average since the first presidential debate, only dipping slightly to 9 points on average just before the election.
To explain why Biden is likely to win, we must look at state-level polling and the electoral college.
In a U.S. election, each state has a set number of electors who almost always vote for the candidate who has received the most votes in their state. A candidate needs to win over 270 electors in order to become president. In 2016, state polling wasn’t especially strong for Clinton, with many necessary states being within the margin of error. Looking at the most recent polling, we can see that Biden has a comfortable lead in crucial states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania – states which were crucial to Trump’s 2016 victory.
In fact, Biden is leading in so many battleground states that he only needs to win one or two less-secure states, such as Florida or North Carolina, to secure the Presidency. Even a state such as Texas, which has historically been a Republican stronghold, is looking less secure this election, with Biden only being around a point behind on average in polling. Does this mean that Texas will vote for Biden? Probably not, but the fact that this is a possibility shows that Trump is in serious trouble.
To understand why Biden is winning in areas that Clinton lost, the differences between the two need to be examined. A crucial difference between the two is that Biden has a much wider appeal within the Rust Belt, a collection of states Trump narrowly won in 2016. While being born in the Rust Belt (specifically Scranton, Pennsylvania) certainly helps, Biden’s actions as Vice President under Obama played a large part in saving many automotive jobs in the region; federal money was used to prop up businesses, meaning many ex-Trump working class voters are rallying behind Biden.
Surprisingly, Biden has also successfully avoided being too heavily painted as a part of the ‘liberal elite’, despite being a candidate who is strongly associated with the establishment, having spent more than 30 years as a Democratic Senator for Delaware and eight years as Vice President. The Democratic Party is also much less fractured than it was in 2016, with the rift between Senator Bernie Sanders and Clinton damaging party unity at a time when the Republicans were rallying around Trump. (Clinton’s ‘deplorables’ comment also aided that Republican unity.)
This time around, things are different. While the Democratic primary debates were quite bruising for Biden, the party largely came together to vote for him, and he eventually won a comfortable lead over Sanders. On the other hand, the Republican Party has become less unified due to Trump’s divisive nature, with the McCain family notably coming out against him and anti-Trump groups such as the Lincoln Project pledging support for Biden’s candidacy.
There has also been no ‘October surprise’ this time around, unlike during the last few weeks of the 2016 election when the FBI briefly reopened the Clinton email case, something which Trump used as an argument to not vote for ‘crooked Hillary’. This scandal damaged her polling position enough for Trump to snatch incredibly narrow victories in key states.
Unlike in 2016, even if a large scandal engulfs the Biden campaign within the next 24 hours (which is certainly possible), it is very unlikely that Biden will receive a shock in the polls. Trump’s attempt to damage Biden conspiracy theories has not been successful. We have also seen a record number of Americans cast their ballots early, meaning that an election day shock will be much less effective.
However, it is entirely possible that Trump will steal the election if more Republican votes are counted first and he declares himself the winner before all ballots are counted. He could also win if enough early ballots are thrown out, which would make the race a much closer contest than the polling would indicate. However, since Biden is likely to carry many states by comfortable margins, these tactics by Trump could fall flat on their face.
With the election happening tomorrow, it is unlikely Trump will change the course of this election. Biden is consistently polling higher in the right states, he has avoided major scandals, and he has been fortunate in avoiding the same problems Clinton faced in 2016. This does not mean Biden is 100% going to win, as 2020 has been a wild year and Trump will try his hardest to cling onto power. Nevertheless, a Biden victory is looking highly likely.