Based on recent polls and all the problems in the US, many have come to the conclusion Trump is finished. There is no question that if an election were held today, Trump would lose. He is trailing in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and Florida, tied in North Carolina and Ohio, while barely ahead in Texas, Georgia and Iowa. Just the first five states would be more than enough to give Biden a clear lead in the electoral college. Likewise, while it is possible as we saw in 2016 and 2000 to lose the popular vote, yet win the White House, it is pretty much mathematically impossible to be trailing by double digits and still win. Thus with many polls showing Trump trailing by that amount, one could justifiably assume the president to be in a lot of trouble. Even more worrisome for Trump is that he is now trailing amongst senior citizens, one of the most reliably Republican groups. And it is not just public polls, for many people on his campaign team are also leaking the fact that internal #’s are painting similarly grim prospects.
So with all the above, can those of us who have wanted to see Trump gone count down until noon January 20th when he leaves office? Not so fast. In February, prior to coronavirus, Trumps chances for re-election looked good as the economy was doing well and there was record low unemployment. While many people may have not liked Trump’s antics, with things going so well, they were willing to see that as a fair trade off. But then the coronavirus hit, leading to 130,000 deaths and counting, with numbers continuing to rise while most other developed countries have successfully flattened the curve. This was followed by the George Floyd protests, which Trump totally mishandled. It is often said that crises, not good times, tell us who the real leaders are. North of the border, I, like many, thought Doug Ford was a buffoon and lousy premier, but his handling of COVID-19 has totally changed my opinion of him. By contrast, Trump’s bungling has shown how unfit for office he is. However, even with all the signs pointing to his defeat, he still has a narrow path to re-election. More importantly, Democrats need to win the senate in order to advance their agenda. If this does not happen, even if Biden wins, he will be limited in what he can do.
I think it would be a bad idea for those who want to see Trump lose to rest on their laurels. As difficult as it may be, I can still think of a few scenarios that would allow Trump to win. Biden is very gaffe prone and in some ways COVID-19 has been a major blessing for him as he can stay out of the limelight and thus leave the focus on Trump’s screw ups. But he still has three debates to get through and if he bombs those things could tighten. Of the states Trump won last time, only in Michigan is the lead so large that winning it would be next to impossible. In all the other States, a modest swing could bring them back into play.
There are also two other possibilities for a shift back to Trump: that COVID-19 does finally fall back and that the economy sees a strong bounce back. Or maybe in October a vaccine is discovered ahead of schedule in the US allowing Trump to take credit for that. Both of these scenarios would create a kind of optimism that could see the president rebound.
Another more cynical and worrisome problem is if COVID-19 is still ravaging the country it would be unsafe for people to vote in person. GOP, knowing their supporters to be more likely to vote no matter the risk, limit vote by mail. Since States, not Federal governments, run elections, this won’t have an effect in Democratically controlled States where voting by mail will no doubt be allowed. But the case in GOP controlled States will possibly be different, especially since the GOP are long known for dirty tricks. On the one hand that means Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina won’t be impacted, but Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and Arizona will be. And if for some reason, Biden falls short in two of the four Democratic States, this could cost him the White House. The other wild card is if Biden runs on a very left wing platform and chooses a very left wing running mate. The main reason Trump is struggling is because many traditional Republicans, especially college educated whites living in the suburbs, have swung over to the Democrats. Most are fine with a centrist Democratic Party, but not with a more left wing one. In this latter case, this group may vote for a third party, not vote at all, or reluctantly vote for Trump. Biden is thankfully a centrist, so there is much less worry on that score than if Sanders had been the nominee. But in order to excite millennials and progressives, there will be a lot of pressure on Biden to choose a progressive running mate. And due to his age, a running mate may play a bigger role than normal.
So in summary, Trump is in big trouble and if I had to put money on it, I would bet on him losing. By contrast, back in January or February, I would have put money on him winning. But I don’t think it is a done deal yet. If by late September Trump’s numbers are still bad, then he is probably toast. But at the moment, as difficult as it may be, there is still time for him to recover. But that window is closing fast.