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Election Day 2020: Trump Fights to Defy the Polls, Again, in Battle with Biden

President Donald Trump raises his fist during a campaign rally at Dubuque Regional Airport in Dubuque, Iowa, November 1, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
He’s down in the polls, written off by the pundits, and facing a candidate boosted by the media establishment. The question is: Will history repeat itself?

President Trump finds himself, once again, the underdog on Election Day.

He’s down in the polls, written off by the pundits, and facing a candidate boosted by the media establishment. The question only the voters can answer is: Will history repeat itself?

Pollsters and pundits alike have predicted Joe Biden will more than likely become the next president of the United States. Trump defied similar predictions to beat Hillary Clinton four years ago. But 2020 is very different, with Trump now the incumbent as opposed to the outsider vowing to “drain the swamp.” The coronavirus pandemic has cast a pall over the entire country, with resulting lockdowns undermining economic gains during his administration.

He clearly trails in the national polls, and in many key battlegrounds, going into this Election Day.

Yet some Democrats, afraid of being burned again, are wary to believe Biden’s victory is all but assured.

A Trump win is not entirely out of the question, but rather unlikely at this point, many experts say. FiveThirtyEight, the website run by polling analyst Nate Silver, says Joe Biden is “clearly favored” with a 90 percent chance of winning, though Silver has stressed that “a 10 percent chance isn’t zero.”

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t still a path for Trump,” Silver writes. “Trump might be the underdog, and he needs a big polling error in his favor, but bigger polling errors have happened in the past.” 

A FiveThirtyEight national polling average shows Biden leading by 8.4 points. The forecaster says there is only a three in 100 chance the president will capture the popular vote.

Meanwhile, the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan outlet dedicated to analyzing and predicting elections, shows Democrats with 290 electoral votes in its “solid,” “likely” and “lean” Democrat categories, which would allow Biden to sail over the 270 votes needed to claim victory. Republicans, by contrast, hold 125 electoral votes in the “solid,” “likely” and “lean” Republican categories and would need 123 electoral votes that the forecaster has labeled “toss-up” as well as 22 votes labeled “lean Democrat” to win.

A New York Times/Siena poll shows the former vice president leading in four battleground states: Wisconsin by 11 points, Arizona and Pennsylvania by six points, and Florida by three. Trump led in the same poll in all four states in 2016. This time around Biden is being boosted by support from voters who did not participate in the 2016 election.

Still, recent polling has worried Democrats who are skittish from Trump’s unexpected 2016 win. 

A recent Marquette University poll shows Biden with only a five-point lead in Wisconsin, a smaller lead than Hillary Clinton held in the same poll in 2016. A new poll in Iowa from the Des Moines Register and Selzer & Company shows Trump leading in the state by seven points, the same lead he held four years ago.

However, in 2016 there were far more voters who identified as undecided than there are now, meaning the gap between final polls and actual results are less likely to be so far off because there are fewer swing voters for Trump to capture in the final days of the campaign, pollsters say.

In any case it’s certainly possible a victor will not be named by the end of the night, unless either candidate does exceedingly well and wins in a landslide. All eyes will be on key battleground races and whether a representative share of the vote has been tabulated, a prospect made difficult by the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots cast in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The president has repeatedly claimed mail-in voting, and extended deadlines to count mail ballots, would lead to widespread voter fraud and recently alleged that the Democratic governors of Pennsylvania and Nevada would interfere in the count. 

“I think it’s a terrible thing when ballots can be collected after an election. I think it’s a terrible thing when states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over,” Trump said on Sunday. “I think it’s terrible that we can’t know the results of an election the night of the election. … We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers.”

According to Axiosthe president has told confidants he plans to declare victory if he appears to be “ahead” — a scenario that would likely involve a win or a strong lead in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, Arizona and Georgia.

However, Trump has denied that he would prematurely claim victory.

Republicans will look to maintain control of both the presidency and the Senate, where they currently hold a 53-seat majority.

Twenty-three Republican-controlled seats and 12 Democrat-controlled seats are up for election: seven of the spots, all of which are currently Republican-held, have been rated a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report.

The “toss-up” seats are those of Senators Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue (Ga.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Susan Collins (Maine), and Steve Daines (Mont.). Elections for two Republicans — Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Cory Gardner (Colo.) — are listed as leaning Democrat.

In Georgia, both Senate seats are up for grabs and may be subject to a runoff race held on January 5 if a candidate cannot pass 50 percent of the vote by Election Day. If one or both Georgia seats go into a runoff, that could leave the fate of the Senate unknown for weeks after November 3.

In the House, Democrats will look to maintain or grow their majority, which currently stands at 232 seats to Republicans’ 198. The Cook Political Report lists 25 House seat races as “toss-up,” 16 of which are Republican seats in danger of flipping.

While six of those seats are open, the rest are currently held by Republicans: Representatives David Schweikert (Ariz.), Mike Garcia (Calif.), Rodney Davis (Ill.), Jim Hagedorn (Minn.), Ann Wagner (Mo.), Don Bacon (Neb.), Jeff Van Drew (N.J.), John Katko (N.Y.), Steve Chabot (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Chip Roy (Texas). 

Assuming there are no vacancies and no members from a third party, Democrats or Republicans need a minimum of 218 seats to ensure control of the House of Representatives.

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