27 Oct 2020 17:56 IST

Trump could shock the world again with a win

While the polls point to a Biden win, Trump could still pull a rabbit out of the hat and retain the Presidency

The world’s media outlets are predicting a landslide loss for Donald Trump in the US presidential election next week. Polls are showing Trump losing by double digits nationally, and by six to eight points in many of the battleground states. This situation (and the hope of the establishment) is eerily identical to 2016. Trump shocked the world with a decisive electoral college win.

To be sure, many things are different now. Trump is a known quantity made especially unpopular by incessant negative coverage in the press. He is known to stretch the truth and exaggerate. He viciously attacks anyone who criticizes him.

He rarely acknowledges errors. America’s Covid cases just passed the 8 million mark with 210,000 dead and he insists that he would have done nothing differently. America is even more divided along racial lines today than it was in 2016. Trump was impeached but rescued by the Senate.

But Trump has many things going for him. There were no new global conflicts but many successes. ISIS was rampant four years ago, but, now, it is practically destroyed. No one expected the UAE and Bahrain to sign peace deals with Israel. China finally has someone with the guts to confront it.

Before Covid hit, America’s economy was booming and the unemployment rate was the lowest in 65 years. Even now, America’s recovery is one of the best performing after a month of lockdowns. Americans always reward presidents a second term if the economy - or its outlook - is strong.

Gallup poll

Many polls provide conflicting opinions. While people say that they are supporting Biden, a 47-year veteran politician who has never served in the private sector, a recent Gallup Poll shows that 56 per cent of Americans say that they are “better off” under Trump than four years ago under Barack Obama/Biden. This poll has only been conducted six times since 1996. Each time, whoever won the poll has gone on to win the election.

US presidential elections are a contest between two personalities, indeed two philosophies. The contrasts between Trump and Biden were on full display at last week’s final debate. Biden is running a low-key campaign based on his “character” - as a healer of the American soul after four years of non-stop tweeting from Trump. But Biden’s character was under assault as new charges stem that his son, Hunter Biden, was attempting to profit from Biden’s political connections. The latest accusations — that Hunter Biden got nearly $5 million from a Chinese company simply for leveraging the Joe Biden name — are serious. The media is trying hard to not cover the story and run out the clock, but Biden’s halo is now diminished.

And, there are huge policy differences. Biden went after Trump mercilessly about how Trump handled Covid. But, other than being a proponent of wearing masks, Biden would have done nothing different. Biden admitted that he would like to transition America out of fossil fuels. But for an industry that employs more than 10 million people, this was a serious gaffe. Biden is also in trouble for flip-flopping on fracking, which is very popular in key states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Hidden Trump vote

In Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan, polls held before the debate were showing Biden ahead of Trump. But at this point four years ago, polls showed that Hillary Clinton was even more ahead of Trump. Trump won all four states to win the presidency. Pollsters were then unable to measure the size of the “hidden” Trump vote. They are unable to do so now.

A big unknown could be minority support for Trump. Black men are increasingly saying that they will vote for Trump after many Black stars, such as rapper 50 Cent and Kanye West have openly embraced Trump. In Florida, which has a huge Cuban American population, Trump is popular. Biden is ahead of Trump in the Hispanic vote, but badly trails Hillary’s lead four years ago. This could mean that Florida, which is a must-win state for Trump, may stay in Trump’s column.

There are other clues to his support. When Trump’s campaign announces a rally, thousands of supporters show up 8-12 hours before the event, even in unfriendly weather conditions. His rallies are packed, sometimes to capacities of 20,000, and are loud and boisterous. Trump campaigns hard — visiting two to three states in a single day — and is always available to the media, constantly arguing with reporters. During a town hall two weeks ago, Savannah Guthrie, one of America’s most well-known journalists, grilled Trump for more than an hour. Trump’s responses were sharp as a tack.

Biden, in contrast, is slow in his delivery, reciting from a teleprompter. Journalists throw him easy questions and never challenge his assertions. The media has suppressed all his negative stories (his Senate record, charges of his son’s corrupt dealings in Ukraine and China leveraging his name). Biden rarely leaves his Delaware basement. When he does hold a rally, everyone is social-distanced, with at most, a few dozen people attending.

Biden’s advanced age

If Biden is elected, his advanced age could well propel Kamala Harris to the presidency. But Harris is not as popular a pick as the Biden campaign had hoped. At a recent rally in Michigan, about a dozen people, many of them campaign staffers, were milling around. Harris was yet to appear, but there were very few supporters expected. After the recent VP debate, polls showed that people think Mike Pence is better ready to be President.

Trump’s America-first policies are well known on trade, immigration, national security — and the world can expect more of the same. His friendship with PM Narendra Modi will be a big plus for India. But Biden’s policies would move America significantly leftward on healthcare, the environment, and policing. Kamala Harris’s Indian roots are unlikely to result in stronger US-India relations, as a Biden administration would try to make judgements about India’s human rights central to foreign policy.

On balance, Americans like Trump’s policies but don’t respect the man, which is why the press, which is all in for Biden, attacks Trump with more venom each day, attempting to make Trump even more unlike-able. Americans like Biden but are wary of his policies, which is why the press is keeping Biden’s policy proposals under wraps.

If the press overplays its hands, Americans, who always like an underdog, could warm up to Trump, more now because he is a Covid survivor. This would be a far bigger shocker than 2016.