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OP-ED: Where are we with the American election?

  • Published at 02:04 am October 5th, 2020
Donald Trump

Everything points towards Biden winning the White House 

Events around the American election continue to amaze. The past few days have brought out many events, largely unexpected. 

On October 2 it was announced that Mr and Mrs Trump tested positive for Covid-19. Mrs Trump is in the White House under quarantine for 10 days. Mr Trump has been admitted to Walter Reed hospital and is being treated there. 

The extent of his symptoms is unknown.  The White House spokesperson, unsurprisingly, describes these as moderate.

Trump is in the hospital and all of his election programs have been cancelled. In recent days, Trump has concentrated on fund raising as the Republicans are short of money to finance election activities, while the Democrats are flush with funds.

Trump has refused to follow the guidelines of the American Public Health authorities, refusing to wear a mask most of the time, violating the social distancing rules and causing those around him to do the same.  

Trump’s debate defeat 

The past ten days have been remarkable. The first debate between Biden and Trump was lost by Trump. His bad behaviour made reasonable presentation of positions impossible.  

It is not that Biden did well, he did not, but Trump  simply spoiled the entire effort. Objectively, we can’t help but conclude that Biden won as Trump lost.

Exposure of financial conditions 

Besides Trump’s defeat at the debate, The New York Times issued a report on Trump’s finances. The results were disturbing to say the least. He is in a major conflict with the American tax authorities; he has used the tax laws to avoid paying much tax based on his grave losses in his business enterprises. 

He owes about $450 million to banks. His actual net worth is probably very low and may even be negative. There is a lot of cash flowing through his operations and he is able to divert enough to live a lavish life style.

What emerges from the NY Times report is an unsuccessful real estate investor, but a man who is very clever at managing events.  Trump certainly is very distressed that all of this information has come out. He denies it but even his supporters believe much is true.   

Problems increase with the American economy

The Covid-19 pandemic is gathering strength again and Trump’s words that it is over ring hollow, even before the upsurge in the United States that is coming in no small measure due to his mishandling of events and his drive to open the economy prematurely.

Evidence on the economy is emerging that indicates unemployment may increase; the major hotel chains and airlines are on the verge of bankruptcy, and small businesses continue to close. 

While there has been strong recovery from the second quarter, evidence suggests such recovery is now slowing. Trump failed to work out a second program of support for the economy. Such a program may be on the way but it will come too late to improve things by the election.

New Supreme Court justice nominated

Trump has pushed through the nomination of a new conservative justice for the Supreme Court. This is a very contentious matter made more complicated by Trump’s hospitalization and the exposure of key Republican senators to the virus. 

Trump’s state of mind

More likely, there are two things shaping events: First, Trump has never been seen as a man of courage. At this moment, he is probably very frightened of dying and of bearing the pain associated with Covid-19. 

Like all persons with the virus, as their medical condition worsens, contacts with loved ones also vanish. For his sake we must all hope that his symptoms are moderate and that he recovers.

The second thing is that Trump has now recognized that he cannot win the election. He tried in the debate to literally break Biden down with his vicious attacks. He failed. 

Trump’s own polling is telling him that he is losing and there is no real chance to change things. 

Will Trump resign?

Even if Trump does not become really sick, he may very well resign as president, saying that he is unable to continue due to Covid-19. He will ask people to support Pence and vote for him. He will ask the Republican party to do what is necessary to put up Pence as the presidential candidate. 

This way, Trump can avoid losing, blaming the outcome on Covid-19 and claiming that if he had not become sick, he would have prevailed in the election.

It is typical Trump, when the going gets tough he runs away and dumps the problems on someone else. Poor Pence. He has served Trump loyally, swallowed his pride and acted as Trump’s loyal puppy.  Now Trump deserts the field of battle, leaving Pence to handle the mess.  

Outcome of the election

Trump is going to lose the election. Biden’s lead is overwhelming.  Without doubt, the will of the American people is to turn the Republicans out. 

Biden will win the presidency with a 5-7% margin in the popular vote and 300-330 votes in the electoral college (270 are needed to win). 

Attempts to challenge the elections will fade; Trump will leave perhaps announcing he will be back in 2024. The Democrats will win control of the Senate 52 to 48. In the House of Representatives, the Democrats will increase their majority.  

The Financial Times model assesses Biden with 279 electoral votes, Trump with 125 and 134 toss-ups. With 270 needed to win, this is a clear forecast for a Biden victory. All toss-up states have Biden leading in the polls except for Georgia and Texas. 

The Economist model gives Biden 9 out of 10 chances of winning the Electoral College and 19 out of 20 chances of winning the popular vote. Their median forecast for the Electoral College is 340-198. 

Real Clear Politics has a lead of 7.2% for Biden (50.1% Biden- 42.9% Trump.) The betting odds are 58%-42% in favour of Biden. The analytical models that work with the polls and other information all point towards a big Democrat win. 

Forrest Cookson is an economist who has served as the first president of AmCham and has been a consultant for the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.

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