US election countdown begins: Can Trump make it?

Omar Elshamy from Washington , Tuesday 4 Aug 2020

The US president Donald Trump 9File Photo: Reuters)

In the US, the countdown has begun to election day; less than one hundred days are left for President Donald Trump to make a mark and convince voters to elect him once again on 3 November.

The odds, however, are against him. Various pollsters have Trump trailing the Democrats’ Joe Biden in recent national and swing state polls, as COVID-19 has claimed the lives of almost 150,000 Americans.

What is also worrying for Trump is that there has been a surge in the number of coronavirus cases over the last couple of weeks. If that stays the case through November, Trump’s chances of winning will be limited. So, can he still make it?

Trump is aware of the implications of COVID-19 on his chances of being re-elected. A couple of days ago, he replaced his campaign manager, as polls indicate that he is falling behind in key battlegrounds that originally won him the 2016 election.

These battlegrounds include Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. Biden is leading Trump by 9 points, 6 points, 7 points, 7 points, 5 points, and 1 point in these states respectively. These results are the average of multiple polls conducted by separate outlets in each state.

Nevertheless, Trump’s new campaign manager, Bill Stepien, does not believe that these polls reflect the true state of the presidential race. He thinks that the polls understate Trump’s support. Just a couple of days after Stepien’s appointment, Trump resumed his daily press briefings on the coronavirus for the first time since April, a move believed to be a result of the advice of the new campaign manager.

It is not yet over for Trump; a couple of factors could play into his hand. These factors are the economy’s performance over the next couple of months, and how well both candidates perform in the coming presidential debates.

“One possibility for Trump is just to outshine Biden in the debates. If Biden has a foot-in-his-mouth moment, I believe that will ensure reelection for Trump,” Tim Groseclose, professor of political science and economics at George Mason University and the author of Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, told Ahram Online.

Biden has openly talked about his stuttering, stating that he has had a lifelong problem with it. "It has nothing to do with your intelligence quotient. It has nothing to do with your intellectual makeup," Biden said at a CNN townhall.

The first debate between the candidates will take place on 29 September at Case Western Reserve University of Cleveland. Originally that debate would have taken place at Notre Dame University in Indiana, but the university withdrew from hosting the debate due to coronavirus fears.

“Biden must appear competent. Little else,” Robert Erikson, professor of political science at Columbia University, told Ahram Online.

The economy could be the saviour for Trump. The unemployment rate declined by 2.2 percentage points to 11.1 percent in June, and the number of unemployed individuals fell by 3.2 million to 17.8 million, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That statistic comes as 4.8 million employees were added to the workforce last month.

However, that 11.1 unemployment rate is the highest since World War II, meaning that the economy must recover at a higher rate for Trump to have a better chance at being reelected.

Another spike in coronavirus cases is the last thing Trump needs right now. In the last couple of weeks, a surge in COVID-19 cases began in Arizona, Florida, California, and Texas. Over the last ten days, new daily cases range nationally from 54,448 to 84,818. It can be observed there has been an obvious spike in cases since the start of July.

The White House’s health advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has pointed out that the US has failed in reducing new cases to a feasible level in comparison to many European countries. Fauci fears the worst. The US could reach 100,000 new coronavirus cases each day and “is not in total control” of the pandemic, he told senators in a hearing held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

When I asked Professor Erikson of Colombia University about the strategy that Trump could follow to change the course of the polls; he told me: “By acting presidential, guiding the nation to fight the virus instead of short-term thinking. Or alternatively by creating so much chaos that somehow the nation turns to him.”

Trump has been criticised by health experts over the last couple of weeks for reopening the economy too soon after he pressured governors to reopen their states. Fauci has said that many states such as Florida reopened too soon, without following certain guidelines and checkpoints.

Apart from this, the Trump administration is pushing to find a vaccine for the deadly virus. Earlier this week it was reported that the US government had reached an agreement to purchase a vaccine that is currently under testing. The vaccine is being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The government signed a deal worth $1.95 billion to purchase 100 million doses. However, it is still too early to determine whether the vaccine will work, as it has to pass certain FDA guidelines and it is unlikely that the vaccine will be available until 2021.

The countdown for the presidential election has begun, with less than a hundred days left.

“Yes, Biden’s ahead. But I think the election is still essentially a tossup,” Professor Groseclose told Ahram Online.

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