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Biden threatens long-held Republican strongholds

  • Published at 08:01 am November 2nd, 2020
Biden US election 2020
US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden attend a drive-in campaign event at Dallas High School in Pennsylvania on October 24, 2020 Reuters

Many of the new arrivals have come from Democratic leaning states such as New York and California

Four years ago, when Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were in the final days of their campaign, there was talk of an electoral landslide. Polls had her up everywhere except, of course, in Republican strongholds like Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina while her campaign was viewed to be close but not competitive in Florida. 

The national press had moved on to speculating when -- and importantly not if -- Donald Trump would announce his TV channel and media empire to the world. Would it happen on election night, or would he wait a week, hire some talent, and then unleash his brand of pseudo-Republican conservatism on the world? Those predictions ended well.

This time around, another similar narrative has taken over the US media. Joe Biden is leading everywhere, including the long-held strongholds of Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, and the biggest of them all, Texas. 

But unlike last time, where the polls consistently misread support for Trump (coupled with large doses of sexism), Joe Biden looks truly competitive in states which have voted Republican for generations. 

The reason is not just a backlash to Trump and his chaotic brand of governance. In states like Texas and Florida, the demographics have been slowly changing for a long time and it increasingly looks like 2020 might be the year they drastically alter the national political landscape.      

Look at Texas -- this year alone more than three million Texans have registered to vote for the first time, coupled with the fact that at least two million people have moved to Texas in the last four years, with just under four million having moved to the state since 2010. 

Many of the new arrivals have come from Democratic leaning states such as New York and California. On top of all this, within the state, roughly 800,000 Latinx Americans have turned 18. All these groups are more likely to vote Democrat instead of yet another vote for an establishment Republican. 

The proof of this demographic dividend was visible in the 2018 mid-term election when Democratic longshot candidate Beto O’Rourke came within two percentage points and a mere 200,000 votes of winning the senate seat against Ted Cruz. 

The result of that race, while razor thin, was a harbinger of things to come. This year the poll numbers that put Biden marginally ahead of Trump in the heart of Republican country are probably accurate. 

Early voting in the state has exploded with Texas now on course to have as many early votes as it had in the whole of the previous election campaign. Now, while those are numbers that deserve attention, it should be mentioned that, in 2016, Texas was 49th out of 50 states in voter turnout. 

Thus, the huge gains this time around could also be viewed as Texas finally getting up off the bottom of an inglorious turnout record. Whatever the case, it looks well placed to shock the political world by selecting a Democrat over a Republican for the first time in 44 years.

Since 1968, North Carolina has only ever elected two Democratic candidates, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Barack Obama in 2008. That is two out of 13 presidential elections, and even then, there Biden is in the midst of a historic upswing and is currently leading the polls by up to 4%. 

That coupled with a narrow lead over Trump in his new home state of Florida (Trump officially changed his state of residence from New York to Florida last year), as well as a virtual tie in Georgia, has Biden well placed to pick up at least a few traditionally Republican states.

Importantly, these polls have proven to be imprecise, most famously in 2016. At best, polls offer a snapshot in time, and while Trump might be trailing in some traditionally Republican states now, the experience from four years ago have taught us a few lessons. 

Many people give one answer to pollsters on the phone and do something else in the voting booth, sometimes out of a fear of embarrassment for publicly stating a preference for a candidate like Trump. 

While that may happen this time around, the shifting demographics of states like Florida and Texas are here to stay. They might not change blue this time around but will come very close. 

The writing is on the wall for both those electoral college behemoths and the future looks blue.      

Nader Rahman is a freelance journalist based in New York.

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