With less than two weeks of the November 3 election and a few hours from the last debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, comparisons are increasing between the outcomes of the current presidential campaign and that of 2016.
Just like four years ago, polls show the Democratic candidate leading nationally and in several key states. But, of course, everyone remembers the surprise result of 2016… So, be careful!
In 2016, Donald Trump had lost the popular vote by nearly three million voters, but he had won the electoral college, the decision-making body to ascend to the presidency. It was his unexpected victory in three states that were democratic since the early 1990s – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – that gave him the keys to the White House.
The total votes in favor of Trump in these three states were barely 78,000. But hey … he still managed to sidestep the math. Can he repeat the feat this year?
Democrats are far from taking victory for granted. The organizers of Joe Biden also warned last weekend that Trump can once again squeeze in the lead in the last stage of the campaign.
Even if these remarks, one suspects well, are initially intended to motivate the democratic electorate, and especially to prevent it from erring by excess of confidence.
Already, over 30 million Americans have exercised their right to vote in advance. For seasoned observers, this large participation suggests a trend in favor of the Biden-Harris ticket. Is this a clue that the Democrats learned the lessons of 2016 when they failed to fill up with voters?
A look at the polls
The big difference between the 2020 opinion polls and the 2016 polls is the stability of the data.
For a few months now, Joe Biden has led nationally by more than 10%, not to mention that more than 50% of registered voters say they will vote for him on November 3. He also maintains a steady lead in the three key states that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss four years ago.
But unlike 2016, President Trump’s track record and performance now lies at the heart of this election. And for more than 60% of Americans, managing the pandemic is a crucial issue in their choice of vote.
Quebec pollster Jean-Marc Léger, whose firm is hard at work on the ground in the United States, notes that the lead in favor of Biden is widening week by week. Moreover, Léger has never seen such a small number of undecideds at such an advanced stage in the campaign.
We can, however, predict that Donald Trump’s electoral base will remain loyal to him and show unparalleled energy on voting day.
But to get re-elected, Trump must attract new voters. However, the polls show the opposite.
Meanwhile, Biden is gaining traction with older people and white women living in the suburbs. Trump’s recent attempts to woo these two clienteles demonstrate that the trend is real.
Trump’s campaign failures
The management of the pandemic remains the dominant theme of the presidential campaign. The United States, which represents 4% of the planet’s population, yet accounts for 20% of cases of infection and death from COVID-19.
Trump’s recklessness and his own coronavirus diagnosis have helped to create the confusion. He continues to assert that COVID-19 is on the way to disappearance, and this, while we are witnessing an increase in cases of infection in a majority of American states.
His recent outing against renowned Dr. Anthony Fauci touches the very credibility of the president. All this while many of his supporters do not wear masks and do not practice physical distancing during his large gatherings …
As much as Trump continues to boast of having created “the best economy in history” before the pandemic and predicting its rapid recovery, so far he has failed so far to present a clear vision and agenda for what would be a second term under his watch.
His campaign style is, moreover, similar to his approach to governance: unpredictable, devoid of discipline and divisive for Americans. His reluctance to recognize election results in the event of defeat and his sluggishness in condemning white supremacist groups are just a few examples.
As Senate control has become an issue of this presidential election, Trump is also attacking through social media not only Democratic senators, but also some senators from his own party who dare to voice their dissent. Recently, Republicans Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine were taking their blows.
The president’s poor performance in the September 29 debate and his incomplete and controversial responses in last Thursday’s town hall did nothing to instill confidence and attract new voters.
This is also reflected in the fundraising. In September alone, Joe Biden’s campaign raked in 487 million; Trump’s, $ 248 million.
The last step
To breathe new life into his campaign, Donald Trump has no choice: he must change the game. In recent days, he has been increasing the number of rallies in states that he won in 2016. This gives rise to rallies similar to those we saw at the end of the 2016 campaign.
Is this a sign that his campaign is picking up steam and that Trump could surprise again? Or is it a simple observation on his part that the trend is not in his favor?
Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s campaign is scrambling to get voters out and warn against the elimination of the franchise in key states.
In an attempt to motivate the troops, former President Barack Obama is also returning to service. And unlike 2016, the Democratic Party seems more united and more enthusiastic behind its candidate.
Trump can also be expected to reiterate that he can only lose this election if it is rigged, adding to the doubt that he will not cede power gracefully or without challenge in the aftermath of November 3.
Republican dissent is also more inclined to come out against Trump. We only have to think of the negative comments of ex-collaborators including those, last week, of his former chief of staff, General John Kelly.
That being said, Trump may still have some surprises in store for us in the final days of the campaign. But will this be enough to reverse the trend? Thursday evening’s debate takes on all its importance.