Tuesday, June 16, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Election Day Cometh

The days now seem to be passing with extra speed, even as
the national economy reopens. “Normalcy” is not likely to
reappear for some time, but the calendar insists on some
fixed points --- including the change of seasons, holidays ---
and election day.

Believe it or not, Election Day, 2020 is now only four-plus
months away.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that too much is unsettled
in the country to discern any dispositive election trends yet,
but there is also some evidence that, despite recent
extraordinary events, the 2020 cycle will be decided on the
two traditional factors of a second-term presidential election
--- voter judgment on the incumbent’s first term and voter
attitude about the economy.

What complicates this “traditional” circumstance is the very
“un-traditional” current character of both the incumbent and
the economy. The closest recent historical parallel seems to
be 1972 when a much despised (by liberals and the media
establishment) incumbent, Richard Nixon, won an historic
landslide victory (all but two states) against George McGovern
whose policy views had turned off many moderates who had
voted for Hubert Humphrey in1968 when Nixon had barely
won. By 1972, Nixon had not yet ended the unpopular Viet Nam
war, Watergate had just happened, but the economy was in a
boom, so the parallels are limited.

Joe Biden is no George McGovern, but since clinching his
party’s nomination, he has been appealing notably to the
present-day version of the McGovern wing (Bernie Sanders,
Elizabeth Warren. et al) that was rejected by voters in most
of the Democratic primaries this year.

The Biden strategy is to cause a huge turnout of his party’s
base, and to count on anti-Trump sentiment to bring him to
the White House in January, 2021.

The Trump strategy is to cause a huge turnout of his party’s
base still fiercely loyal to him, and to count on a backlash to
current Democratic party policies.

Where the voters will be in only about four months will
determine which  of these strategies will be most successful.

I suspect that the state of employment will be a key. Voters’
personal attitudes about Mr. Trump are not likely to change.
Anti-Trumpers will remain strongly negative to his style and
personality.  Mr. Biden might not be charismatic, but he is
“not-Trump” --- and that might be enough. On the other hand,
some voters could override their personal feelings to vote
for what they might consider to be their own best interests.

It needs to be remembered that U.S. senate and house races
are often determined by local and state issues, and that some
of these contests considered “safe” many months before
election day become very competitive in the final days of the
campaign. As well, the quality of individual candidates, both
incumbents and challengers, often outweighs general voter
trends. Finally, not all the party nominees have been chosen
in some very competitive races. In short, control of both
houses of Congress remains uncertain.

Polling so far doesn’t tell us much, especially if they are only
of registered voters and are national  polls. Some current
polls are contrived or presented for campaign fundraising
purposes by candidates of both parties, and can be regarded
with skepticism.

As we get closer to election day, however, unbiased polls of
likely voters in the competitive states will tell us much more.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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