People wait in line to cast their ballots during early voting at the Miami-Dade County Election Department in Florida on October 20, 2020. Photo: AFP / Chandan Khanna

US presidential elections have an impact over almost the whole globe, and that is why they are monitored nearly everywhere.

The victory of Donald Trump in 2016, defeating Hillary Clinton, was a shock to many pollsters and publications. Trump, beating all the odds and defying analysis, defeated the pundits’ favorite, Democratic candidate Clinton. For that reason, this time media groups and pollsters are very reluctant to predict a winner.

However, unlike in 2016, Trump seems in no position to fend off Biden’s challenge, as the latter has run a very organized campaign. According to almost all of the polls and surveys, Biden is leading the national race, and he is also ahead in most of the major swing states. That makes it almost impossible for Trump to get the magical number of 270 Electoral College votes. 

Why Trump can’t repeat 2016 performance

When Trump was pitted against Hillary Clinton, he had an edge, as he had never been tested in the field of politics, whereas she was a seasoned politician, and like any other politician had some successes and controversies on her résumé.

Then the eight-year rule of Barack Obama was another factor, as the American people, especially in small towns and rural areas, felt insecure and had the feeling of being left behind.

There also was a wave of right-wing politics recouping the place it had lost in the power corridors around the globe. Then presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders had a strong support base who thought that the bureaucracy of the Democratic Party ditched him in favor of Hillary. As a result, many Democrats did not vote for her.

Then there were those who did not bother to vote at all, as they thought Clinton was the clear winner. On election day in 2016, the white conservative vote bank of Trump and the Republicans turned out in large numbers and proved almost every analysis wrong.

However, this time, in 2020, Trump is no longer a newcomer. He has spent four years in the Oval Office and cannot simply criticize the Democrats or their candidate as he did in 2016, as he also has to defend his own decisions and policies.

This year’s US election is unique as it is being held during the Covid-19 pandemic and the mishandling of the outbreak by Trump has cost him support. His prime support bank of rural whites without a university degree is with him, but white holders of a degree and the elderly are not impressed by Trump’s performance, especially his handling of Covid-19.

The killing of George Floyd that sparked a protest movement not only in the US but also in many other countries for the rights of black people has also hampered Trump’s chances of getting votes from the black community.

In order to win Tuesday’s election, Trump will need to prove all the opinion surveys and polls wrong on a much bigger scale than he did in 2016, and that seems impossible, as the science of polling always improves after mistakes made in past.

To give one example: In 2016 Hillary in national polls was only ahead of Trump by around 3 to 4 points, while Biden right now is 9 to 10 points ahead. Even if we assume that the data have a 4-to-5-point margin of error, Trump is in no position to hold the Oval Office.

In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton but managed to win the Electoral College vote, but this time the popular-vote margin for Biden will be much bigger than what Hillary had in 2016.

Likewise in key swing states Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Trump is losing to Biden by 6 points, while in Arizona he trails by 11 points and in Florida he is behind by 3 points. These four states are crucial for Trump to win, and even by deducting the margin of error of 3-4 points, he will still be behind Biden in at least three of these states.

Florida is a close call and Trump has managed to reduce the gap, but unlike in Iowa, where Trump has taken a 7-point lead as Biden’s popularity fell there among women, Trump still will need an upset to win Florida and Pennsylvania.

If Biden keeps all the states won by Clinton in the last election and also wins Florida and Pennsylvania, it will be all over for Trump, while Trump will need to win a majority of the swing states even if he wins Florida. 

Biden likely to win

Biden has run his campaign in a very organized manner. He has hit the Trump campaign where it mattered the most, such as the failures in handling Covid-19. The slow economic growth after the emergence of the pandemic also is favoring the Democrats, and Biden is cashing on on this. The sympathy of black voters after the killing of Floyd and the realization of many Americans that Trump did not deliver on his promises – every single factor is indicating a Democratic blue wave.

Though Trump has not performed that badly on the economic front, for most voters, the concern is the mishandling of the pandemic itself. From not understanding the seriousness of the pandemic in the beginning, to criticizing Obamacare and going against the advice of medical scientists, Trump has performed miserably on the Covid-19 front.

Biden also has been able to win the support of university-educated whites and among women and the older age group that is more affected by the pandemic.

Biden, while clearly ahead in swing states like Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and enjoying an edge in key battlegrounds, decided to travel to Ohio on Monday, the final day of campaigning, as he thinks that state is now within his reach. This means that even if he somehow loses Florida, he will not be out of the race, as he is likely to regain the other key states that were won by Trump in the last election.

Famous US-based Pakistani writer Shuja Nawaz also is of the view that Biden is likely to win the election if the surveys are correct. Shuja told this correspondent, “If the early predictions of a huge turnout favoring the Democrats are correct, then this election with its landslide of early votes may favor a Biden win. In any case, by early evening on Tuesday, we will know which way the vote is going, as states like Arizona and Florida come in with their results.

“Biden has been trying to widen his appeal. Trump continues to preach to the converted. And he has angered key blocs, such as suburban women. This may hurt him.”

Shuja also said there will not be any delay in the result as both Arizona and Florida count early votes before election day. So there will be no delay in the final tally. He was of the view that Pennsylvania may be delayed. 

Global impact of Biden victory

A Biden victory will not change the key policies of the Pentagon or the current global order. However, a change in command always has a significant impact.

Democrats traditionally are vocal on human-rights violations and do not support dictatorships. So hybrid regimes and those countries under direct dictatorship will feel more insecure after a Biden victory.

The Arab Gulf countries will be monitoring the election very closely, as Trump’s ties with those states, especially Saudi Arabia, were personal. In the case of a Biden win, it will be interesting to see how Washington will deal with Riyadh.

Democrats also do not support direct wars. We saw this during Obama’s tenure when instead of getting engaged in military conflict his administration backed the manufactured political movements in Arab countries and toppled governments in that way. The Obama administration also was instrumental in backing the Arab Spring in the Gulf region but avoided direct wars.

In the subcontinent, New Delhi after putting its weight behind Trump would like to see him in the office again, whereas a Biden victory will mean a little criticism on the Jammu and Kashmir issue regarding human-rights violations.

As far as Islamabad is concerned, the current hybrid regime will be thinking of the recent past when the Democrats’ famous Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act actually increased civilian aid to Pakistan, unlike the direct military aid of the more distant past. So in a way, Islamabad too will be hoping for a Trump victory, as a Biden win could benefit the genuine democratic parties in Pakistan.

As far as Beijing is concerned, one assumes a Biden administration would be a little lenient when it comes to the trade war and it will avoid unnecessary posturing toward China as Trump did during his tenure.

For the world, a Biden victory could prove to be a turning point in ending the polarization brought about by the rise of right-wing politics and politicians.

Prediction 

While it is almost impossible for any journalist or analyst to predict future events or electoral results, going with the trends and data available, it is safe to bet that Biden under normal circumstances will be able to get around 340 to 360 electoral votes and will win comfortably. Even in the worst-case scenario, Biden still will be able to win at least 300 to 310 electoral votes, while he will win big in the popular votes.

And that’s how it looks in one of the most important elections in the world. 

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.

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