The US election could be a runaway Democratic win, or not? Polling heavily favors the Biden ticket and a Democratic takeover in Senate. However, after the surprise Trump victory in 2016, a wary attitude to polling and the contest would seem to be in order.
Join FXStreet senior analysts Yohay Elam and Joseph Trevisani for a thorough look at the state of the electorate, the polling questions and the possible policies of a Biden administration.
Joseph Trevisani: Polls are giving Biden a 90%+ chance of victory. Is there any reason or reasons to doubt that verdict?
Yohay Elam: There are 18 days to go, so Trump could still bridge the gap. But with every day that passes, his chances are falling. I think that the presidential debate could be the "last chance saloon" for the president
Joseph Trevisani: That of course presumes polling accuracy, and certainly there are reasons to be skeptical, aside from the nearly universal failure in 2016.
Yohay Elam: There are several differences between 2016 and 2020. National polls came out with around 5% for Clinton, and the result was 2%, within the margin of error. State polls in several states were more off. In 2012, polls underestimated then-president Obama. Polling errors can go both ways
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, at the final accounting, but at this stage, there is little difference between the Clinton polling and Biden's. In the RealClearPolitics average of swing states Trump is slightly ahead, 0.5% I think, of his position in 2016. Agreed. Between the technological changes that make people harder to reach, the distrust of the media in much of the country, and polling is just an extension of the media, and the documented reluctance of many voters to answer polls truthfully, there is good room for question.
Yohay Elam: Biden has substantial leads in what was then called "the blue wall." Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Another reason to be optimistic about pollsters is that there are far more high-quality state polls and that pollsters have incorporated education as a factor. White non-college-educated men were undercounted last time. In 2016, 20% disliked Clinton and Trump. They broke 45% Trump, 30% Clinton, and the rest to third-party candidates. 2:1 break of undecideds that polls failed to capture in critical states. This time, there are fewer undecideds, and Biden has over 50% in many national polls, something that Clinton never got close to
Joseph Trevisani: Fewer undecided if folks are telling the truth... I do not know how pollsters would compensate for deliberate misrepresentation, and that seems to be running about 10%. However, it was about at this point in October that Clinton's decline began. If over the next 10 days or so there is no change then I think the Biden campaign can breathe a bit easier. There is also the imponderable of twitter and facebook's blatant censorship. The media is hugely unpopular and distrusted in the US, and I will opine here, deservedly so.
Yohay Elam: Indeed, this is the time in 2016 when the Access Holywood tape came out and damaged Trump´s chances. But late in October 2016, Comey came out with the reopening of the investigation, something that devastated Clinton. In general, if news reinforces the public image of the candidate – either good or bad – it has a stronger impact
Joseph Trevisani: Exactly. Perhaps that is why the media refuses to cover the Ukraine corruption of Biden's son Hunter.
Yohay Elam: I would say that if nothing changes one week before the vote, it's over. I cannot say that now. Facebook has been fertile ground for Trump-supporting conspiracy theories, and Trump thrives on Twitter
Joseph Trevisani: Still, the censorship on Twitter which shut down the Trump campaign account and that of the press secretary and the House GOP, is truly unprecedented and frankly un-American.
Yohay Elam: Social media has been helpful to Trump. The NY Post story caused many to cast doubts, potentially fueled by Russia
Joseph Trevisani: There is no justification for censorship. My point is that it is so blatant and wrong it may well hurt Biden.
Yohay Elam: It's un-American and unprecedented to call dead soldiers suckers and losers. Trump broke many norms and evaded taxes. Up to now, the Trump campaign failed to stick anything to Biden. It was easier against Clinton. Socialist, captive of the radical left, mentally incompetent. Was too tough on crime but will be weak on crime. So I don't see a change based on any Ukraine-related story
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, Clinton was palpably unlikeable, a bit like Ms. Harris.
Yohay Elam: Trump's approach is very macho. Huge gender gap. Appealing to the base is insufficient
Joseph Trevisani: I agree the story has been out in most details, the only new point is that the Post claims Biden did his son's bidding in introductions. I checked the major TV networks yesterday, CBS, ABC, and NBC did not carry the story, NPR did but it was about the Twitter censorship, not the Post story itself. When you compare this to the coverage of every silly, preposterous story about Trump the difference is glaring. My point is not which of these stories is true, but that the public resents being misled, and that shows up in the voting.
Yohay Elam: Trump has a long history of preposterous claims
Joseph Trevisani: True, but so does Biden.
Yohay Elam: Such as that he is a billionaire. Trump misled on coronavirus
Joseph Trevisani: It is for the public to decide, the voter, not the media.
Yohay Elam: COVID-19 is the No. 1 issue
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, for the Biden camp and the media. For others, it might be the economy.
Yohay Elam: The media gave Trump free airtime in 2016, and up to now, does not call him up on his lies. Fox is a cheerleader, Pravda. The economy is important for all, and Republicans reject more aid
Joseph Trevisani: I don't think there is much to choose between Trump and Biden in, shall we be charitable, creative speechifying. Perhaps, but if Fox has Trump, the rest of the media has Biden's back.
Yohay Elam: I disagree. NBC, ABC, CBS, which many people still watch only show Trump's most coherent statements. They do not highlight his tweets
Joseph Trevisani: And Biden's most coherent statements.
Yohay Elam: Those watching the evening news and not 24-hours cable only see a normal president. The debate is where everybody sees the same thing. Therefore Trump's last chance
Joseph Trevisani: In last night's presentations, Biden was not asked one question about his son. Imagine if the situation had been reversed and it was Donald Jr. who had been wired $3.5 million from Russia. So the bias is rather plain.
Yohay Elam: I don't think moderators should amplify stories that raise many red flags and maybe totally false
Joseph Trevisani: The media has done exactly that on every negative Trump story for four years.
Yohay Elam: Trump is his own negative messenger. The media doesn't need to help. After failing to disavow the Proud Boys, he did the same with QAnon
Joseph Trevisani: Retail sales for September was much greater than expected, the control group which feeds GDP was also.
Yohay Elam: An antisemitic conspiracy theory. Never underestimate the American consumer. I shop in America and I don't even live there!
Joseph Trevisani: It would seem to argue for a happy or at least not worried consumer. It doesn't quite jibe with the claims numbers and 7.9% unemployment.
Yohay Elam: It jibes with trillions of government and Fed support
Joseph Trevisani: I wonder. Most people know that such help is limited and short term. If they are truly worried about the future would they spend or save? Here are other statistics. In a recent survey, people were asked if they were better off than they were four years ago, 56% said they were better off. The survey was post-COVID. Again it doesn't seem to jibe with the polls and the general media atmosphere. Let's go with the polls. What do you think a Biden administration economic policy would look like?
Yohay Elam: It all depends on the Senate, which I think is what markets will begin focusing on. Three scenarios. If Republicans hold onto the Senate, I see nothing getting done, perhaps only minimal stimulus, around $1 trillion. If it's a minimal majority, I see a large stimulus of around $3 trillion but nothing much afterward. If Dems win 52 or more – even if the wider majority is made of centrists – there is room for longer-term reform which would be good for the public but bad for Wall Street. Bank regulation, broader healthcare coverage, and green policies. There are only two parties in the US, but they are split between moderates and radicals. We've seen the splits in the GOP around healthcare and now around the stimulus, and I think we'll see the currently united Democrats get into infighting once the stimulus is passed
Joseph Trevisani: For the Democrats, it is the left that is driving the agenda. Many of its ideas are profoundly anti-growth. Yes, I agree, the potential for Democratic argument is very high. It would essentially be the old guard against the socialists.
Yohay Elam: Growth has been stronger under Democratic presidents than under Republican ones. Reagan was the exception, but that was when we had more hair
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, very true. Perhaps that was the reason. I don't think the socialists in the Democratic caucus in the House are nearly as strong politically as their media presence might indicate. Still, the policies they support, universal health, the Green New Deal, BDS, higher taxes,are not popular across the country. Will the old guard leadership, and in this case the term is literal, be able to prevent the type of legislation that fostered the Tea Party movement?
Yohay Elam: If Dems get a large majority, it would be by winning Senate seats in red states. It would also mean that Biden would have a greater mandate within the public and the party to impose his will. I think he'll go for popular things like healthcare
Joseph Trevisani: That is true. Elections have consequences.
Yohay Elam: Remember 2018. Dems won on healthcare, Republicans didn't talk about tax cuts
Joseph Trevisani: Yes, the reverse of 2010
Yohay Elam: So healthcare + tax hikes for the rich could work. Pass and be popular. The coal industry was dying due to affordable natural gas and automation. If the Biden administration is smart, it will help coal workers but not the coal industry. I think that there is a greater appreciation for clean air. Republicans would mount fierce opposition to everything. They excel in opposition, not that great at governing
Joseph Trevisani: Coal mining is declining for good sensible reasons, gas is plentiful, cheaper, and less polluting. A market-based solution. It has also helped the US lead the world in reductions in greenhouse emissions.
Yohay Elam: On Monday, October 26, we'll already have several post-debate polls. If the dial doesn't shift, I think markets will fully focus on the Senate
Joseph Trevisani: I wonder. The polls are not going to change much I think
Yohay Elam: One thing I'm sure of – I will not miss the debate
Joseph Trevisani: Same here The debate will be the last big item.
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