US presidential elections: who will win?

US presidential elections: who will win?

Jawdat Bilal August 29, 2020
The writer is a George Washington University Alumni and Public Policy consultant. He has worked on political campaigns in Pakistan and the United States

Congratulations to the Democratic Party on choosing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as their official nominees for the president and vice-president position. Together they form a powerful front of the Democrats for the upcoming presidential elections. Joe Biden is a seasoned Democrat with years of experience in the United States Senate, former vice-president, and a close confidant of the former US president Barack Obama. Kamala Harris is a powerful, confident woman who has been fighting for working-class families. Born in an immigrant family, she became the first black woman to be elected as San Francisco’s District Attorney. After getting elected as Senator in 2016, she has worked to protect Obamacare, increase the minimum wage to $15, and defend the legal rights of refugees and immigrants.

The US presidential elections are mostly decided on the issues of economy and foreign affairs. This time we have a new and crucial topic, and that is Covid-19. This does not mean that issues like immigration, equal pay, gun control, health benefits, and racism will be ignored. But these three issues will take centre stage.

Currently, the Democrat presidential nominee, Biden, is leading the polls by 7.6% over the current US President Donald Trump nationwide. This lead is not just overall, but also in critical states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Michigan. However, polls also favour Trump as he has a slight edge in the red states like Texas, North Carolina, Iowa, and Georgia.

Polls are dependent on public and voter perception. With a few months left in the presidential elections, President Trump would use the upcoming Republic National Convention (RNC) platform to attack the Democrats and their policies. But when it comes to his performance, especially with Covid-19, he will not have a reasonable explanation but will throw the blame on China. After the Democrat National Convention (DNC), the Biden campaign will be expecting to increase the lead in polls further. Hillary Clinton also extended her lead in the polls with almost eight points after the DNC in 2016. She was neck-to-neck with the Trump campaign just before the convention. However, the endorsements of the Democratic camp, especially Obama and Sanders, provided a positive surge in Hillary’s ratings.

The Trump campaign is not even close to what it was in 2016. Even President Trump is not aggressive in his interviews as he was before. In his interview with Jonathan Swan on Axios, the President seemed ‘out of words’ when he was asked to explain the Covid-19 numbers. In the end, he had to admit his failure to tackle the situation by saying that Covid-19 “is what it is”. He also came under criticism of holding rallies in states such as Texas and Florida, where the number of cases has increased tremendously. His promise to strengthen the economy did not go well either. The US economy grew at an annual rate of 1.6% in 2016. Trump had vouched to bring the economy at an annual growth rate of 4%. However, so far, the Trump administration has peaked a maximum 3.5% growth rate. The GDP growth rate is -32.9% by the end of July 2020. The unemployment rate rose to 14.7% in May and 10.2% in July 2020.

President Trump took an uncalculated risk by publicly calling Covid-19 “nothing serious” as it was “just a form of flu”. The obvious intention was not to disturb the momentum of the economy, mostly because he had entered in the election year. The President has been telling voters in campaign rallies that the virus will go away in a month since February of this year. He showed up at meetings and places without a mask. His office routinely disagreed with Federal Health updates on the seriousness of the virus, especially with Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. President Trump in his media briefings went to the extent of proposing people should inject “disinfectant” in their body to stay away from Covid-19. But now, he is wearing a mask and telling journalists that the Covid-19 situation “will get worse before it gets better” in the country.

We have established that polls are in the Democrats’ favour now. They have the right people to fight for the White House. But will this all be a smooth ride from here? The answer is no. The pollsters had the same idea when Hillary Clinton was on the ticket for the 2016 presidential election. She was leading the polls till the end, but she lost. The electoral college was one reason. But another primary reason was that young people did not vote. As per data, only 43% of the youth voted in the 2016 election, compared with 66% between the age of 45-59 and 70% of the age above 70 years. Since 1988, the youth voter turnout has peaked at 48% in the 2008 presidential election, which was won by Barack Obama. That is why now posting ballot through the United States Postal Services (USPS) has come under the limelight. Second, President Trump has been preparing for his second election since he won the first time. Former national security adviser John Bolton had said that Trump’s biggest priority is to win the re-election. He said that when it came to re-election, his attention span is infinite. It’s just too bad there wasn’t more of that when it came to national security. President Trump would try to get the most out of the upcoming presidential debates. He will again use rhetoric and negative attacks on Biden and the Democrats. What we have seen recently in campaigns around the world is that rhetoric resonates with the voter. It justifies their anger towards the system. That is why where most political leaders and political parties have based their campaign on attacking their opponents, they have mostly won. We have the examples of Pakistan, India, the US, the UK and Brazil.

In the coming weeks and months, we expect the presidential debates to be more interesting. Both party candidates for the president and vice president positions will have to have a strong media strategy to give out their message. The key is to perform under pressure and put out your plan, which will bring the US on the route to prosperity.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2020.

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