Trump is not yet ‘toast’: despite polls placing Biden far ahead, Modi’s friend can still win, say experts

With the countdown to the November 3 election, Donald Trump’s window for a comeback is closing fast. And though he reportedly squandered the ‘Town Hall’ grilling, he can still pull it off

Trump is not yet ‘toast’: despite polls placing Biden far ahead, Modi’s friend can still win, say experts

Saurabh Kumar Shahi

A less than stellar performance in the first presidential debate coupled with the mishandling of his CoVOD-19 diagnosis has started factoring in the polls and in most of the surveys Trump is seen to be trailing by over 10 per cent in national polls. The national polling situation appears so bad at this point that even Rasmussen, which openly leans Republican and has always given better numbers to Trump than any other poll, has posted a 12 points lead for Joe Biden. Whichever way you slice it, it is not good news for the embattled president.

However, polls were wrong the last time, weren’t they? Yes, they were. And that is why most of the pollsters appear to be far less certain about their model this time. However, this is not to say that they have not factored in the lacunas of 2016. For example, the gold-standard of all polling in the US, FiveThirtyEight by Nate Silver, appears to deduct at the bare minimum a couple of voters from Biden’s national figure and adding them to Trump’s to correctly reflect the standing in the battleground states. After all national polls in the United States mean nothing as it is the Electoral College that ultimately decides the President. Trump, after all, had lost the national poll by over five million votes to Hillary Clinton and yet trounced her in the Electoral College numbers.

Nate Silver’s national polling average, for example, is giving Biden a lead of 10.4 per cent as of Monday evening; however, another poll of his that factors in individual states gives Biden only an eight-point lead. This difference of around 2.5 per cent factors in several things including massive errors in polling. It is also important to understand that these load factors are not being added to the figure just to save their skin, but also because polls suggest that Biden has weaned off White voters from the Republicans in solidly Republican states more than the toss-up states.

That gain will come to nought as come what may, Biden will not be able to flip those solid Republican states and since Electoral College seats are distributed as per winner-takes-all formula and not proportional representation it won’t help the Democrats. Having said that, at the time of writing this report, Biden was leading Trump in all of the six toss-up states in Real Clear Politics polls of polls average. The lead was above five per cent in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan and below five in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona.

So, does this mean that Trump is toast? Short answer, no.

There is a small window of opportunity still open for Trump even though polls are just three weeks away at this point. Trump can bounce back if he performs well in the next presidential debate scheduled on 22nd of this month. Trump came to the first debate with his self-destruction cap on. You don’t sabotage a debate when you are trailing in the polls. You take the opportunity to send your message across to the voters. Pollsters say that a good performance in a debate is equivalent to a week of political advertisement. Now that Trump has been diagnosed with CoViD-19, it is possible that the third presidential debate might not take place at all. So whatever jabs he has to land he shall have to do it on the debate scheduled for 22nd. Also, Trump’s steroid-induced megalomaniac drive last week only further eroded his chances. One fine morning he woke up and declared that he is scuttling the financial package negotiations with the Democrats. This sent shockwaves all across the country but especially to Wisconsin, Arizona and Michigan where many of the industries are located. The lead for Biden saw a jump in Florida as well where Republicans appeared very confident only a week before.

It is important to understand that if Trump loses Florida, there is no way in hell that he can win the Electoral College. Nate Silver’s model at this point suggests that Biden will be able to carry the Electoral College even if he loses Florida, Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin. So Republican losing Florida will finish the game before the half-time.

One area where Republicans are betting big is on the record number of voter registration among the White males in all the toss-up states. Since this demography will break towards Trump, he is expected to poll more than what he did in 2016. However, at this point, this is more than compensated by his poor performance among the suburban voters and females who are appearing to be breaking for Biden. Also, because of the overall demographic change, the percentage of non-College degree Whites among all electorates will go down by four per cent. Trump’s base shall have to first compensate for that four per cent before even thinking about pulling the rug from under Democrats’ feet.

Trump was also hopeful that his continuous refusal to accept the adverse results will likely deflate democratic enthusiasm. The idea here was that if Democrats believe that he will steal the elections anyway, they wouldn’t come out to vote at all. Republican strategists initially pegged their hope on this but when they realised that this is also dragging down the down-ballot races for the Senate and the House, many of the Republican stalwarts had to appear in public and assuage the fear. Democrat leaders are also appealing to their base to not give heed to Trump’s threat and come out in huge numbers to vote. They are driving home the point that it is not in the hands of Trump to not vacate the presidency when he has lost the polls. This message appears to be finding traction among the likely Democrat voters.

Strategists are therefore now looking at the possibility of the proverbial October Surprise coming from Trump’s armoury. Experts have believed that an increasingly unhinged Trump, pumped with steroids for the treatment of CoViD-19, might start a conflagration with either Iran or Venezuela or both.

Then there is a small matter of releasing all the classified documents without redaction related to the ‘Russia Gate’ allegations. Since the allegations have fallen flat, Trump might selectively release the non-redacted documents to show how Democrat Party, Obama, Hillary Clinton and FBI collaborated to pull this hoax. This is one area that can drag Biden down as he is seen as a direct successor to Obama and Clintons and hence carries the dead albatross of ‘Russiagate’ on which Democrats had pinned their hopes and squandered three crucial years of rebuilding.

Trump will also likely tighten the race when new unemployment numbers and other economic indicators kick in. Quarterly GDP figure that will come just days before polls is expected to show a V-shaped rebound, and since the economy is just about the only issue where Trump is polling ahead of Biden, this will help him close the gap.

The only problem is, the gap appears to be a tad too big at this time.

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