19 days until U.S. election: Facing historically bleak polls, Trump uses anger to electrify his base
TORONTO -- If you were holding on to hopes that the U.S. election would suddenly take a sunnier, more optimistic turn, you better keep hoping.
Nov. 3 is less than three weeks away, and both campaigns are ratcheting up the attacks. U.S. President Donald Trump, free from the confines of the White House following his COVID-19 diagnosis, is once again hitting Joe Biden with personal attacks, often on Twitter, while simultaneously lashing out at Democratic states like California and New York he has next to zero chance of winning.
Biden’s campaign, which suspended attack ads against Trump while he was ill, has resumed its targeted messaging against the president, with Biden personally painting Trump as a selfish billionaire who’s out of touch with the everyday American family.
Here’s a look at what you need to know this week as we approach the final stretch of the race.
WHAT THE POLLS SAY
Trump faces the bleakest October polling of any presidential candidate in the past four U.S. elections, and each day that passes seems to come with slimmer odds for his re-election.
Biden currently leads Trump by an average of 10 points in national polling, according to the New York Times’ Upshot. FiveThirtyEight gives Biden a 10.3-point lead and an 87-in-100 shot of winning. Real Clear Politics is slightly more reserved, giving Biden a 9.2-point lead.
On battleground states, Trump continues to trail Biden, badly. Trump is behind by an average of four points in Florida, five points in Arizona, eight points in Pennsylvania and nine points in Wisconsin, according to the New York Times. Biden wouldn’t even need all four of those states to win, assuming he carries the states Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
Recognizing those dismal numbers, Trump’s campaign has started to cast doubt on the entire polling industry. Trump’s campaign adviser Steve Cortes recently told Fox News that pollsters are massively oversampling Democrats. To be clear, there is no evidence that Democrats are being oversampled, and all legitimate pollsters release detailed accounts of their methodologies.
How bad are the numbers for Trump? Consider this: in the past four U.S. elections, no candidate has ever led by 10 points at any point in the month before the election. Even Obama’s dominant victory in 2008, where he won 365 electoral votes and beat John McCain by nearly 10 million votes, only peaked at an 8.2-point average lead in polls.
Of course, the polls could be wrong in a way that experts haven’t anticipated. But they’d need to be even more wrong than they were in 2016 for Trump to have a shot at winning. It’s worth mentioning that the polls could also be wrong in Biden’s favour, allowing him to seize an even wider margin of victory than Obama did in 2008.
A lot can happen in the next three weeks. But it would take something explosive to change the direction of the polls, which have been against Trump for months.
‘GONE TO HELL’
Now that he’s back on the campaign trail and once again holding rallies, Trump is hoping to pump up his base by calling out his political enemies, and he’s not just talking about Biden.
Trump targeted blue states in a series of tweets this week, writing the California is “going to hell,” New York is “gone to hell” and “Illinois has no place to go.”
Also on Trump’s hit list: suburban women.
Depending how you look at it, Trump either lashed out at or begged for votes from suburban women, who helped fuel the Democratic blue wave in the 2018 midterms and polls suggest have turned away from Trump this election, too.
“They talk about the suburban women. And somebody said, ‘I don’t know if the suburban woman likes you.’ I said, ‘Why?’” Trump told a crowd in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. “They said, ‘They may not like the way you talk,’ but I’m about law and order. I’m about having you safe. I’m about having your suburban communities. I don’t want to build low-income housing next to your house.”
“Suburban women, they should like me more than anybody here tonight because I ended the regulation that destroyed your neighbourhood. I ended the regulation that brought crime to the suburbs, and you’re going to live the American dream,” he added. “So can I ask you to do me a favour? Suburban women, will you please like me? I saved your damn neighbourhood, OK?”
A JUDICIAL TUG-OF-WAR
Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, was grilled by senators in Washington on her credentials for the job. Barrett faced a barrage of questions from Democrats about how she’d side on issues such as abortion or a decision on the upcoming U.S. election — questions she refused to directly answer.
On the other side, Republicans used the hearing as a chance to highlight Barrett’s qualifications for the job, including her education at Princeton University and how her Catholic faith has informed her decisions.
Trump has vowed to push through Barrett’s nomination before Nov. 3 and suggested that he could turn to the court if he loses the election and challenges the results. Biden has yet to say whether or not he could pack the court with left-leaning judges after he’s elected as a way to balance out the court’s conservative majority.
OBAMA HITTING THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Former U.S. President Barack Obama has been careful not to make Biden’s run for president about him. But with early voting now well underway, Obama is preparing to hit the campaign trail to energize Democratic voters.
In the final two weeks of the race, Obama is expected to campaign on the ground in targeted battleground states seen as key to Biden’s victory. CNN reports that Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin are on the list of possible locations, but have not yet been finalized.
THE STATE OF MAIL-IN VOTING
Mail-in voting is expected to be a major way Americans cast ballots this year. According to tracking by the New York Times, more than 13 million ballots have already been cast. About 1.2 million of those votes are people who cast ballots in person.
Florida has the highest number of absentee ballots requested, followed by Michigan and Pennsylvania. All three states are considered highly competitive this year.
Don’t forget: different states have different rules on counting mail-in ballots. Some states count ballots as soon as they receive them, such as Georgia and Arizona, while others count them ahead of election day, such as Florida and Ohio. Results for mail-in ballots could come in latest for Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where ballots are counted on election day.
If the race is close, it could mean several days of waiting for final results.
THIS TIME IN 2016
At this point in the 2016 race, Trump and Clinton had just faced off in the second debate in which Trump said Clinton would “be in jail” if he were president. His campaign manager dismissed the comment as a quip, but Trump later reiterated that Clinton “has to go to jail.”
The second debate also saw the emergence of an unlikely celebrity: Kenneth Bone, an undecided voter with a red sweater and khaki pants who spawned memes aplenty for his Midwestern-everyman style.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was repeatedly asked to respond to Trump’s comments in the infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump said he could kiss women and grab their genitals because he’s famous.
Trudeau’s response was careful.
"My job as prime minister of Canada is to ensure ... that this relationship goes far deeper than any two personalities at their countries' respective heads," Trudeau said.
"I think, however, I've been very, very clear in my approach as a feminist, as someone who has stood clearly and strongly all my life around issues of sexual harassment, standing against violence against women, that I don't need to make any further comment at this time.”