Economy & Politics explains what you need to know about the final spurt before the US election

Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the final TV debate before the presidential election on November 3rd
Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the final TV debate before the November 3rd presidential electionimago images / UPI Photo

In our series explains we give a condensed overview of current economic topics. This time: “Final spurt before the US election” – with the digital boss Martin Kaelblewho has been following the election campaign closely for months.

Joe Biden is well ahead of Trump in the polls. How secure is this lead?

You have to be careful with the polls until election day. In the nationwide survey, Biden has a comfortable lead of almost eight percentage points. That is unquestionably considerable. Because of the special electoral system with electors from individual states, it is well known that the national lead does not decide who becomes President of the United States. The so-called swing states are the decisive factor. In the last election, Hillary Clinton won the so-called popular vote nationwide with almost three million more votes, but ultimately just lost the election, especially in the swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In the polls in these states – like Biden now – she was clearly ahead of the election. That should basically keep us cautious with predictions that are too certain before election day.

Which swing states are decisive this time – and how does Biden stand here?

Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will again be important, here Biden is ahead by at least four percentage points, in some cases well beyond the margin of error for surveys. But the decisive swing states include a number of other states: Arizona and North Carolina, for example. Here, too, Biden is ahead everywhere. What is remarkable: Biden currently even has an – albeit extremely narrow – lead in some states that traditionally go very clearly to the Republicans – including Georgia and Iowa, Ohio was one of them at times. The very fact that there is now a head-to-head race in these states shows how difficult it is for Republicans at the moment. One of the most important states in which the election could ultimately be decided, however, will be another state: Florida, which is where a particularly large number of electors come from. A state that has determined the outcome of the presidential election in the past – for example, in 2000 for George W. Bush. In Florida, Biden was now up to four percentage points ahead of Trump, now it is two percentage points. One thing is clear, if Trump doesn’t get Florida, the choice is made – in Biden’s favor.

How meaningful are the surveys anyway?

One thing is certain, in 2016 they were wrong in some swing states. And unforeseen events in the last two weeks leading up to the election can cause everything to tip over again. However, there are a few differences to 2016: The approval for Biden has been significantly more constant throughout the entire election campaign so far than that of his predecessor Hillary Clinton, who in the meantime was also behind Trump in the national polls in 2016. That has never happened at Biden in the past few months. In addition, we learned from the surveys in 2016, in which the white non-academics of the swing states were not weighted enough, and the surveys were adjusted. And then, beyond the pure survey figures, you always have to pay attention to the context, the major topics and moods of an election.

Which important context factors would that be in this choice?

First of all, of course, the corona pandemic. The issue has hurt Trump a lot – due to the mismanagement of the US government and all the unfortunate remarks and appearances around the wearing of masks, for example. Here Trump has lost approval, especially among an important group of voters: the pensioners. In 2016, they helped him win the election – especially in the retired state of Florida. Corona has also severely affected the economy. Based on experience from past US elections, it is quite unlikely that an incumbent president will be re-elected amid a recession. Another factor is the anti-racism protests. In general, in the US, if the Democrats manage to mobilize the African American electorate, it will be very difficult for the Republicans. That could happen on an unprecedented scale in this election, as many African Americans consider Trump a racist. In general, the overall mobilization could be a very big factor this time. Trump polarizes; many voters see him as a threat to democracy – and want to do everything to remove him. That could lead to a historically high turnout, as the millions of votes already cast already indicate. Last time, many undecided voters were not very enthusiastic about Clinton and thought – also based on the polls – that Trump would not win anyway. As a result, some did not vote. Nobody in the democratic camp will make this mistake a second time.

Who has the bigger war chest in the election campaign?

Trump poses as an entrepreneur and is a multimillionaire, but Biden was actually able to mobilize significantly more donations for his war chest – especially after the penultimate debate. According to its own information at the beginning of October, Biden’s campaign team can fall back on 432 million dollars. Current figures from Trump’s team are not yet known, but as of August the budget was $ 210 million and was well behind Biden at the time. The New York Times reported repeatedly that the Trump campaign was running out of money on Biden. In the campaign for election campaigns, Biden seems to be ahead of the game. No wonder, since New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg actively supports the Biden camp with large sums of money in Internet and TV advertising – in Florida alone with $ 100 million, as he announced in September. November 3rd will show whether these enormous investments will pay off.

Trump has repeatedly said that he would not recognize Biden’s election victory. Would he stay in office then?

In theory, Trump can be expected to do a lot. A tight election, the counting of which takes days because of postal votes, for example, could be used by Trump to create unrest. Such a choice could actually only be decided in the Supreme Court, after weeks of uncertainty. With a clear election victory for Biden, on the other hand, Trump will probably not have much chance of escapades either. In principle, the question also arises to what extent the Republicans would support Trump’s quarrels. The majority leader of the Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has already assured that there will be an orderly transfer of power “as has been the case every four years since 1792”. A landslide victory for the Democrats currently seems very possible. The following applies here: If Florida lights up blue on the TV screens on the evening of the election, the winner will be determined very early – regardless of how many postal votes still have to be counted.

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