By Washington Osiro
With both party conventions now in the rearview mirror and November 3, 2020 US Elections less than two months away, the inevitable and predictable has happened: The race between the incumbent President Donald J. Trump and his Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden has tightened and is basically a toss-up – even if all major polls, including the September 7-10 FOX News’ Poll, favor Biden.
Real Clear Politics (RCP) poll-of-polls average has Biden ahead 7.5% (50.5-to-43). He is ahead in the Electoral College (EC) vote tally 211-115 with 211 votes in the “Toss-up” category. This category includes Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Arizona, Nevada, Maine CD2, Georgia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nebraska CD2, and Texas. In this scenario, Biden just needs 59 EC votes to garner the requisite 270 votes. Trump, by contrast, needs one hundred and fifty-five (155) Electoral College votes to hit 270. He trails Biden in ALL key battleground states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania.
Nate Silverman’s FiveThirtyEight polls also have Biden leading – by 7.3% (50.5-42.9). He also offers twenty-two (22) paths/scenarios to Electoral College victory for either candidate – Trump or Biden. The challenger Biden has seventeen (17) paths to 270 votes while the incumbent Trump has five (5) paths to the magic number. Put another way, Donald Trump has his work cut out for him.
The Cook Political Report (CPR) has Biden leading the Electoral College 279-180 with 72 Electoral Votes in the “Undecided”/”Toss-up” column. If this model holds true, Biden will be America’s 46th POTUS since two hundred and seventy (270) Electoral College votes are needed to win the White House. In the “Undecided”/“Toss-up” column are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maine 2nd CD, and North Carolina. Cook’s analysis allocates the EC votes in states that poll “Solid,” “Likely,” or “Lean” – in either Biden’s or Trump’s favor – to arrive at their EC vote totals. I think this is too generous. In the same CPR analysis, the battleground states of Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska 2nd CD, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, states that went for Donald Trump in 2016, now pull the lever for Joe Biden. This is what Prof Allan Lichtman’s model refers to as an “Earthquake” – because the switch from the incumbent to the challenger is significant. It is also in line with Allan Lichtman’s “Earthquake” prediction – see below.
I am adding an interesting discovery to this analysis – Prof. Allan Lichtman’s Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House. Lichtman, a Harvard PhD, teaches history at the American University in Washington DC. He has accurately predicted the outcome of the US General Elections since 1984 – including Trump’s victory in 2016. Using thirteen (13) binary, i.e., True/False “Keys to the White House,” Prof. Lichtman’s model posits that “if six or more keys are false, the party in the White House is on its way out” and the competitor, in this case Joe Biden, will win the presidency. The thirteen keys are as follows:
- Midterm Election Gains? – (F)alse
- No Primary contest? – (T)rue
- Incumbent seeking re-election? – T
- No third-party challenger? – T
- Short-term economic gains? – F
- Long-term economic gains? – F
- Major Policy Changes? – T
- No Social Unrest? – F
- No Scandal/s? – F
- No Foreign or Military Failure? – T
- Foreign Policy or Military Success? – F
- Charismatic incumbent? – F (appeals only to his base)
- Uncharismatic challenger? – T
As with all things political, rational people can agree to disagree) on the facts leading up to Lichtman’s True/False conclusion, on each key. However, the professor’s record since he started predicting the outcome of the race is unassailable. Additionally, and as is the case with most sociological (political) analysis, adjustments are often made to reflect changes in the society being assessed to wit: Lichtman’s model has some caveats that may impact its accuracy. These include (i) Russian/foreign interference, (ii) voter suppression, and (iii) the unconventionality of the Trump Presidency/candidacy. Notwithstanding, he still predicts a Biden victory come November 2020.
Another factor to consider is the on-going social unrest. Even though Lichtman’s model offers that the protests, i.e., “social unrest” is a plus for Biden, I am very curious to see how they affect the votes in Wisconsin, Minnesota and the neighboring battleground states of Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. This is particularly true given Trump’s patently racist and xenophobic “Law-and-Order” campaign. There is also some evidence that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement and its “Defund the Police” battle cry is wearing thin on segments of the population.
While Donald Trump remains the true embodiment of a “Teflon Don,” i.e., a personality who has appeared impervious to scandal, the recent revelations by the September 3rd issue of The Atlantic magazine and Bob Woodward’s latest release Rage may be the tipping point for just enough supporters to chip away at his 35-45% base. Trump is described as disparaging the soldiers who died and are buried in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France by referring to them as “losers” and “suckers” – presumably for joining the military. In Bob Woodward’s second book on his presidency, Donald Trump is caught on tape expressing real concerns about the seriousness and transmissibility of the COVID-19 virus – sentiments that are the polar opposite of all his public pronouncements – about the coronavirus. It is a shocking display of double-speak even from a person with an equally shocking history – of double-speak. I have to wonder how these two issues – denigration of the military and the callous mishandling of a virus that disproportionately affects the elderly – will affect the elderly vote that were key in his 2016 victory in Florida.
All told, I still hold that the 2020 Race for the White House is Joe Biden’s to lose IF he can duplicate Barack Obama’s 2012 turnout in any combination that includes Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio to 270 EC votes; all states that Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in 2016.