There are very few straight lines in Nature, and in human activity.
Yes, there are cycles, seasons, orbits, rhythms, patterns and other
repetitions, but almost always the world provides a series of
jagged ups and downs, and curving sideways variations.
I have observed these variations to be especially relevant to the
phenomenon known as American politics. The majority of races in
a national election, including those for the U.S. house, senate,
governorships and seats in state legislatures, are not competitive.
That’s because most incumbents win or because most districts
are made up of voters who mainly support one political party.
Presidential elections are often competitive, as are always s certain
number of all the races. Those which are close, in normal times,
do not proceed in straight lines, but their candidates have ups and
downs throughout the campaign cycle. Undecided voters often
don’t pay attention to a specific race until October or later. Polls,
unless rigorously taken with likely voters and good samples,
rarely are useful.
That’s in normal times.
In a cycle such as the 2020 election, the normal uncertainties are
At the outset, more than a year ago, it appeared that a booming
economy would see the re-election of President Trump, but that
control of he U.S. house would remain Democratic, and that
control of the U.S. senate was up for grabs. Then the pandemic
occurred, and all likelihoods became uncertainties. Shutdowns,
quarantines and the upheaval of social activity preoccupied
voters, and the political environment was complicated by urban
unrest and violence. In recent weeks, media polling has suggested
a negative impact on the Trump campaign and many, but not all,
Republican candidates. Establishment media trumpets this as a
virtually certain victory for Joe Biden and the Democrats coming
in November. In fact, such a victory could happen, but I suggest
it will not happen because a few premature polls and a few pundits
said so four months before election day.
I suggest both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, as well as competitive
candidates of both parties in other races, have a few more ups and
downs ahead --- and before votes are cast.
The key to any competitive election is the timing of their campaign
on the day the votes are cast. A candidate wants to be moving up
then, and his or her opponent moving down. That’s obvious to say,
but often difficult to perform, especially in a volatile environment.
Just as in 2016, some voters who intend to vote for Mr. Trump
seem reluctant to tell pollsters their choice, or even to be
interviewed. It doesn’t take very many of these to seriously
distort a poll. Few Biden supporters apparently have this
reluctance. If the election is a blow-out, this won’t matter, but
there is no evidence yet of a landslide election for either party.
In 2016, it should be recalled, most Democrats and many
Republicans thought that Hillary Clinton would win --- as late
as one hour AFTER the polls in he eastern states closed. It might
be, as I have said, a different story in 2020, but we are not going
to know this until the votes are being counted.
As I wrote repeatedly for 2016, be wary of premature outcomes in
the 2020 election. Much is yet to be said --- and to happen.
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.