Five days until U.S. election: Polls show Biden leading, but Trump still sees path to victory

By | October 29, 2020

TORONTO — This time next week, Americans could know who their next president will be. But there’s a pretty big chance that the results will still be up in the air.

Early voting is well underway across the U.S., with voters rushing to drop off ballots as the deadline for mail-in voting draws tighter. But, as experts have been warning for months, the anticipated surge of mail-in ballots could mean the final election results won’t be called until several days after Nov. 3 as election workers diligently count every last vote.

Each state has its own rules about when they can count mail-in ballots. Some battlegrounds, such as Florida, will have results almost immediately, while others, like Pennsylvania, have warned that tabulating ballots could take days.

Of course, when we’ll learn the final results depends entirely on whether this race is a nail-biter or not.

With five days left in the campaign, here’s everything you need to know about the state fo the race.

WHAT THE POLLS SAY

Pollsters have long described this election’s polling as unusually steady, with little movement in the polls.

When we first started covering polling averages 40 days ahead of the election, Biden was holding a seven-point lead, according to Real Clear Politics and the New York Times.

Today, Biden has slightly expanded his lead to 9 points nationwide, according to the New York Times, while Real Clear Politics has him holding steady at 7.1 points.

Either way you slice it, a boost in national support or stable polling are both good signs for Biden, who has been leading in national polling averages for months. It’s also pretty bad news for Trump, who polls suggest did not gain much support, if any, from the two debates.

FiveThirtyEight, which weighs polls and other factors such as past voter behaviour, suggests Biden has an 88-in-100 shot of winning the election, up from 75-in-100 at the 40-day-out mark.

Consider what was happening this time in 2016. This month, Biden’s lead in polling averages has swung by three points, between 7.2 points on Oct. 1 to a peak of 10.3 on Oct. 11. In Oct. 2016, Hillary Clinton’s lead varied by nearly 5 points, between 2.5 points and 7.1 points.

Even Clinton’s highest polling average in October 2016 doesn’t crack Biden’s lowest point this month. Of course, there are still three days left in October, but polls have shown little sign of a dramatic change.

Trump’s path to re-election lies in holding onto the states that voted for him in 2016, even as state-level polls show Biden leading in crucial battlegrounds such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump’s campaign schedule has made an all-out push to rev up voters in these Rust Belt states, and if he can pull off these key victories, he dramatically increases his odds of winning re-election.

In the days to come, be mindful of paying too much attention to standalone polls, which only offer a glimpse of the race at any one time and aren’t as accurate as polling averages, which help offset unusual outliers and biases to present a broader picture.

13 BATTLEGROUNDS SHAPING THE RACE

Thirteen states are considered battlegrounds this year, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report, which uses the latest polling to determine the state of the race. Those battleground states account for 132 million people, or 40 per cent of the total American population, and analysis shows that both campaigns spent disproportionate amounts of time and energy campaigning for those voters.

This year’s battleground states include perennial swing states, such as Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire, along with historically Republican states such as Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona. Rust Belt states that Trump won in 2016 — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — are also considered essential for both parties, with Pennsylvania representing one of the most fought-after battlegrounds.

The majority of the battlegrounds voted for Trump in 2016, indicating that the president will be playing defence on election night as he tries to hold on to voters who supported him four years ago. What’s yet to be seen is if new voters in those states turn up to vote, or if third-party voters dissatisfied with both major parties will change their minds this year.

Follow along on CTVNews.ca on Nov. 3 as we track live results in the battleground states as the roll in.

EARLY TURNOUT

A note of caution: early turnout is not indicative of the overall state of the race, and the COVID-19 pandemic throws a wrench into any guesses as to how or when most voters will cast their ballots. For instance, this time in 2016, early voting suggested Clinton was seeing strong support in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, all of which voted for Trump.

That in mind, early turnout continues to break records. More than 74 million Americans have voted early, according to tracking by the U.S. Elections Project, which is more than half of all voters in the 2016 election and more than the 58 million early voters in 2016.

Democrats lead Republicans by a nearly 20-point margin in early voting, but not all states report early voting numbers, and Republicans historically prefer to vote in person on election day.

TRUMP’S POTENTIAL LEGAL BATTLES

If Donald Trump loses the election, he could face a series of major legal battles, both new and old. Some cases have been percolating for years, while others could be revived as Trump leaves the White House and no longer has special protections afforded to him by the presidency.

Among those legal difficulties are new investigations into obstruction of justice, campaign financing charges that led to jail time for Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, allegations of sexual assault and allegations of fraud from his niece Mary Trump.

TRUMP’S LASTING LEGACY

Senate Republicans successfully confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court after a bitterly divided debate with Democrats over how to fairly respond to the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Barrett’s confirmation means the Supreme Court will likely have a conservative majority for years to come, possibly decades. It also means that Trump successfully nominated two judges during his four-year term, following Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination in 2018.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren called the vote “illegitimate” and “the last gasp of a desperate party,” with Democrats accusing Republicans of rushing the vote through ahead of election day.

The unified rejection by Democrats reflects a gaping divide in American politics. In the past 150 years, no other Supreme Court justice has been nominated without at least some support from the minority party.

WHITE HOUSE CLAIMS COVID-19 VICTORY

The U.S. broke its all-time high for new cases of COVID-19 last week with nearly 84,000 new infections. Four days later, the White House Office of Science and Technology released a statement suggesting that one of Trump’s highlights over the last four years included “ending the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Administration has taken decisive actions to engage scientists and health professionals in academia, industry, and government to understand, treat, and defeat the disease,” the statement read.

On the campaign trail, Trump has defended his record on COVID-19 as economically sound and accused Biden of trying to shut down the country. Biden has said his plan for tackling COVID-19 would involve listening the scientists and instituting targeted strategies, rather than sweeping lockdowns.

OBAMA ON THE TRAIL

Former U.S. president Barack Obama has been hitting the campaign trail for Biden in a last-minute effort to get out the vote. Obama has hosted several drive-in rallies in Florida, where he hopes to energize Black and Latino voters who fuelled his back-to-back wins in the state in 2008 and 2012.

Obama has used the events to hammer away at Trump’s record in what many see as his harshest attacks of his successor to date, while simultaneously urging voters to cast ballots early. In Florida, early ballots will be reported first on election night.

Speaking at a campaign event in Orlando on Tuesday, Obama joked that Trump is “jealous” of the media coverage COVID-19 has been receiving and accused Trump of turning the White House into a “hot zone” for the virus.

“Listen, you’ve got a president right now, he wants full credit for an economy that he inherited, he wants zero blame for the pandemic he ignored. But you know what, the job doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to be responsible 24/7. You’ve got to pay attention 24/7. Tweeting at the TV doesn’t fix things. Watching TV all day doesn’t fix things. Making stuff up doesn’t fix things,” Obama said.

SAFETY AT THE POLLS

Anxiety about election day is rising across the U.S., and it’s not simply related to the results. Some voters have expressed concerns about safety of voting in person following a series of violent confrontations between anti-racism demonstrators and opponents earlier this year.

According to an AP-NORC poll released in October, about 7 in 10 voters say they are anxious about the election, with Biden supporters more likely to say so than Trump supporters, at 72 per cent to 61 per cent.

FBI and local law enforcement officials have prepared for the possibility of unrest on election day by carrying out drills. Elections officials have trained poll workers on ways to de-escalate conflicts that could break out, while also offering guidance on issues such as poll monitoring and voter intimidation.

Officials say foreign actors have worked to stoke those fears. Fake emails linked to Iran have tried to dissuade voters from turning out at polling stations by posing as the far-right group Proud Boys. The fake emails, which were busted by intelligence officials, threatened voters if they did not vote for Trump.

FOUR YEARS AGO TODAY

After a wild month of hacks, leaks and the notorious Access Hollywood tape, October 2016 still had one more surprise up its sleeve: the Comey letter.

On Oct. 28, 2016, then-FBI director James Comes sent a letter to Congress alerting it to the existence of new emails linked to Hillary Clinton, saying the agency would review them to determine if they contain classified information connected to a completed investigation into Clinton’s emails.

The revived email scandal — which led to no new revelations or wrongdoing against Clinton — dominated media coverage at the time and continued leading up to election day. Clinton has blamed the last-minute scandal as the reason for her loss, claiming she would’ve won had Comey not sent that letter.

Even so, many polls suggested that Clinton could be cruising to an easy victory over Trump, although some reports pointed out rising support for Trump in places like Ohio and Georgia.

Trump himself continued to hammer away at the narrative of his looming defeat, calling the polls “phoney” and suggesting the election was rigged against him.

“I believe we’re actually winning,” Trump told a crown in St. Augustine, Fla. ​

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