I may have slightly jumped the gun proclaiming Joe Biden as the winner of the presidency.
There is still a chance, probably small but not impossible, that Arizona may be called for Trump. ABC news is not projecting it as a Biden win yet.
Pennsylvania, a key state for Trump, looks competitive and we will find out within the next day or two (hopefully) who has won. Also, Nevada, which is likely to end up in the Democratic camp, looks very close at the moment.
So to summarize, whilst I think it is likely that Joe Biden will narrowly win the election, I haven’t entirely ruled out Trump springing a last-minute win, particularly if you see some mail-in votes rejected should it go to the courts in the coming days and weeks.
Whatever your personal politics, I think we can all agree that that was one hell of an election night!
The stunning victory of President Trump in storming the key swing state in Florida in the early hours indicated that we were about to see a repeat of 2016. On the betting markets, the probability of a Trump victory soared to nearly 80% and the Chinese yuan currency started to crash.
Ohio, another key swing state, where mainstream polls had shown for months that Trump was tied with Biden, Trump smashed it with an eventual lead of 8%. At that point it was probably Peak Trump, because after that, the race got tighter and tighter.
Georgia and North Carolina, both critical seats for the GOP to win, remain to close to call, although both are likely to end up in the Trump camp once all the votes are counted. Arizona, which was always going to be a tight race, surprised me by going for Biden. I really thought that this election cycle it would have stayed in the Red camp.
But it was the Rust Belt that was always key to this election. In my last blog post, I wrote that I was nervous about the Rust Belt, given the very tight polling coming out of those key states, even among the outlier pollsters I followed. That was why I kept my probabilistic forecast of Trump winning at only 60%. It was also a key factor why I kept my betting deposits to a minimum.
In the end, my forecast that Trump would just edge Biden in these battlefield states looks likely to be proved wrong (PA and Michigan remain to be called).
On the negative side, I had underestimated the chances of strong turnout among key demographic groups who were tired of the Trump reality show and shocked by his poor handling of the Covid crisis. These voters voted for Biden in sufficient numbers to overcome Trump’s fired up base in those battlefield states.
For me, the vote by the American people seems to be “none of the above”. Joe Biden becomes president but without controlling the Congress and unable to get his policies and agenda through Washington D.C.
Although the popular vote will go to Biden, his electoral college vote win will be below 300, not a resounding mandate to end Trumpism or reshape America in a radically different direction in the 2020’s.
A Biden presidency will be an interregnum, a slowing down of those long-term trends that had accelerated under the disruptive and populist Trump era.
On a personal note, whilst I have doubts about Biden’s capacity to do the job, he seems like a decent enough guy and on the international stage will do some good. I suspect that in foreign affairs, for all the change in optics and style, the substance will not be materially different.
America will continue to pursue its new Cold War against China which has emerged as a bipartisan consensus under the Trump administration. The new Biden administration will also push the EU to get tougher on China, spend more on their militaries and take greater responsibility for their own backyard (good luck with that!).
A Joe Biden presidency will engage more with multilateral institutions like the WHO and WTO, something that is a net benefit in my opinion, and do more on dealing with climate change. I also think that Biden, who was the most sceptical of the military wars during the Obama administration, will also quietly continue Trump’s diplomacy in the Middle East and efforts to withdraw troops from the quagmires of Afghanistan and Syria.
I may be wrong, but Biden does not come across as a warmonger to me.
On domestic policy, the fact that the Democrats will only narrowly win the presidency, and likely lose their bid to take back the Senate, will highlight that they can’t lurch to the Left. To get those blue-collar voters of all races back they will need to do what Sir Kier Starmer is trying with Labour in the UK, and reach out to those patriotic, small c conservative voters rather than pandering to their progressive base.
So, whilst you may see some progress in areas like infrastructure, I’m sceptical that you see a big shift in domestic politics in the coming 4 years.
Just prior to the 2016 presidential election, I remember agonizing whilst writing my final forecast on the election. Should I stick with my call, made at the beginning of the year, that Trump would win the election, or go with the overwhelming consensus of the Pundocracy that Hilary Clinton would be America’s first female president?
Well, in the end I stuck with my forecast, based on my reading of the fundamentals, that Donald Trump would likely win the election. And we all know what happened next.
The undecided voters agreed that Biden came across as elderly, weak and at times confused. President Trump, on the other hand, was described as controlled and presidential. Not surprisingly, afterwards, only 1 undecided voter planned to vote for Biden, 8 were for Trump with the remaining individual was torn between not voting and voting for Trump.
If, and it is a big if, we see those fired up white rural Trumpian demographics turn out in the Sunbelt and Rust Belt states tomorrow in the numbers some are projecting, a Rural Wave will be unleashed on the Democratic Party.
Massive turnout from the rural white population, some of them who have never voted before, will give Trump the victory in the majority, possibly, in all of the Rust Belt. This would be in line with the primary data from Washington State election results discussed in my last post.
The Democrats haven’t helped themselves either by only late in the stage adopting a get-out-the-vote ground strategy of knocking on doors. If the Democrats lose this election that will be a key post-election theme.
There is a real risk that even with the above; e.g. turnout differential among key Democratic and GOP groups, a possible “hidden” Trump vote among primarily suburban voters and the remaining undecided voters swinging to Trump that Biden could still edge it out in tight battlefield races. And that is why I stick to my call that there is a 40% probabilistic chance of a Biden win.
So, my overall prediction is that Trump will win Florida, probably comfortably and with-it Arizona and North Carolina which have similar demographics.
President Trump faces a tougher battle in the Rust Belt States, and here, I am cautiously confident that he will likely edge out Joe Biden in the majority, if not all, the Rust Belt battlefield states. The biggest risk, however, to my forecast is that this prediction is proven wrong.
I also think that New Hampshire is now likely to go Republican, partly due to the collapse of the student vote that weakens the Democrats but also the energized turnout of rural New Hampshire for President Trump.
I have also made a last-minute change, tilting Nevada, to a tight win for the Donald.
Whilst this is my baseline case for Trump’s electoral college map, I do think there is an outlier chance that the Rural Wave could overwhelm the Democratic defenses in safe Democratic states like Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and so on. Whilst unlikely, that could push the final tally closer to John Greer’s forecast of 350 electoral college forecast. As I said, unlikely but not impossible depending upon the turnout today.
I have placed a series of modest political bets on this outcome via Betfair but have played it cautiously given the risks (40% in my estimation) that I get the Rust Belt wrong and Joe Biden wins the race. However, given the fundamentals, the registration and early voting data and the odds, it is worth a punt. I remind everybody that you should never bet money you can’t afford to lose.
We will find out shortly (hopefully) if I am wrong.
On a wider note, however critical this election may be, ultimately, it is a contest for two elderly white men for the presidency, with both becoming lame ducks by the last year or so of the presidency.
Bigger things are going on. The Long Descent has started, hundreds of millions are facing starvation as a consequence of Covid lockdowns and there are early signs of a religious war brewing between the Muslim world and Europe with innocents being beheaded on a nearly daily basis. Once this election is over I will be covering these massive issues on this blog.
Note: I made a number of minor changes to this blog post on 03.10.2020 (moving my final forecast from 320 to 326).