Presidential election review


Photo Courtesy of Tiffany Tertipes

The 2020 Presidential Election is only two weeks away, and it’s shaping up to be contentious. Today we’re taking an in-depth look at the polling to see who’s likely to come out on top.

Polling Overview:

Biden is ahead in most reputable national polls. RealClearPolitics (RCP) has him up 8.9 points in a clear lead, and FiveThirtyEight predicts Biden winning in 88% of cases.

However, that doesn’t mean Biden is a shoe-in. “National polls are nice,” says Ms. Benenson, an AP Government teacher at Oakton with experience in politics, “but they don’t predict the states, and the individual states that are close are well within the margin of error.” The swing state polling she’s referring to is extremely close, although it does indicate a narrow Biden win. FiveThirtyEight lists 9 states to watch out for, and 7 of them are toss-ups or only slightly favor one candidate. The two that solidly favor one candidate are both for Biden. However, both campaigns are spending significant time wooing voters in swing states, so the numbers may shift before election day.

In comparison to 2016:

I’ve been working in politics since the mid-nineties and I don’t know. I really think it is a total toss-up.”

— Ms. Benenson

Causing more uncertainty are the remarkable similarities between Biden’s polling numbers and Hillary Clinton’s. On October 20th in 2016, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast showed Clinton winning in 86.9% of cases, compared to Biden’s 88% on the same day in 2020. That’s only 1.1 points apart, and Hillary Clinton lost. However, the polling in the next several weeks could be the difference; in 2016 Clinton’s lead narrowed significantly from mid-October to November after the FBI reopened its investigation into her emails. Short of a bombshell like that, it’s likely that Biden will enter election day quite a bit stronger in the polls than Clinton did.

Issues that will affect the election:

The Supreme Court will continue to be a hot topic until election day. Judge Amy Coney Barret will likely be confirmed before the end of the month, and the prospect of a strong conservative majority on the court for decades to come is energizing both parties. “It has definitely helped Biden in fundraising” says Ms. Benenson, “but, that being said, this is one of the biggest platforms for republicans, and [Trump] is fulfilling their dreams.” Many republicans are giddy at having a third Trump nominee on the Supreme Court. On the other hand, most democrats are furious that the President and the republican congress are pushing a nominee through so close to an election. Ms. Benenson thinks that “in the end it’s going to be a wash” for the mobilization of the parties, although it’s likely to cause a “higher turnout at the polls.”

Court packing will also play a role in deciding the election. Biden has refused to answer whether or not he will consider adding more justices to the bench if he wins the election, although he has remarked that he is “not a fan”. This capitulation is likely aimed to comfort moderate and independent Biden voters who are alarmed by the idea, while maintaining support among the democratic base. The Trump campaign has been quick to criticize Biden’s non-answer, which Ms. Benenson isn’t sure “serves him. He says he doesn’t want [court-packing] to be a point in the election…but it is because he’s not answering.”

Coronavirus remains an issue at the forefront of American minds, and will be a major factor in the election. Biden has run on Trump’s poor handling of the pandemic throughout the campaign, and will continue to  rely on that issue as cases surge across the country. The breakout of cases in the White House is also likely to play to Biden’s favor, although the struggling economy may not.

The economy has been one of President Trump’s biggest talking points and although many Americans blame him in part for the shut-down due to Coronavirus, Ms. Benenson says that “traditionally republicans are looked at as being better on the economy” and that many fiscally conservative voters will still consider him “the better candidate.” However, unemployment numbers have been high throughout the pandemic and are on the rise again right now, which may turn the middle-class voters that Trump relies on against him.

Finally, high voter turnout will likely change the shape of the election. Record levels of early voting have already been recorded in several states, despite challenges with mail-in ballots. The call to vote is coming loudly from all sides, and it will be those votes that decide the election in the end.