Breakfast with Bwana

Predicting the Unpredictable Election

By  Anil Madan

Many of my friends, some right-wing yahoos, some lefty-liberal loonies, others of provenance between those poles, but with a decided list right or left, have emailed or texted me predicting the winner of the presidential election. One Biden supporter even wrote: “I predict Bidet will win.”

Bwana has been hesitant about predicting the outcome because, despite the lead that Biden has in the polls, lots of questions remain. Let’s consider some of them.

First, given the unprecedented numbers of early votes cast and mailed ballots, it is still speculative to predict that total voter participation will greatly exceed historical turnout. We just don’t know if that is true. Simply because a lot of people chose to vote by mail or chose to vote early, this does not mean that even more people than ever before are going to vote on election day. It is reasonable to expect this to be the case. But look at the report from the U.S. Elections Project mentioned below in the Fifth point.

Second, we simply don’t know that there is an accurate gauge of whether voter turnout is inspired by a great love for Trump or Trump hate. Or indeed, a robust declaration by Americans that they have had enough of Trumpiness. It’s hard to see Joe Biden inspiring people in that way. We must not forget that 63 million people voted for Trump in 2016 and that is a lot of people who can make a lot of noise.

We are probably not going to have a definitive result on Tuesday or perhaps for a few days to two weeks later as ballots are counted. Photo – Indian Express

Third, Trump may have miscalculated by panning voting by mail. In effect, he has to rely on a MASSIVE turnout by his supporters on election day. That remains to be seen. I certainly expect his supporters to turn out in droves in Red states but what he really needs is numbers in the swing states. This could be a colossal mistake by Trump that sinks his chances.

Fourth, reports suggest that disproportionately large numbers of ballots mailed in by Democrats are being rejected. Recall that Trump won by 80,000 votes spread across three states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Reject enough votes in those states and you’ve changed the dynamics of the entire election.

Fifth, consider this:

“With Election Day less than a week away, more than 42 million out of the 92 million mail ballots requested by voters nationally had not yet been returned as of Wednesday afternoon, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project, a nonpartisan site tracking early voting.”

It is a given that more Democrats than Republicans requested ballots by mail. We don’t know how many decided to vote in person anyway.

But 42 million ballots is a HUGE number. With some 90 million Americans having voted early or by mail, 42 million additional ballots would put the total vote at 132 million or about six million short of the 2016 number.

If the Democrats lose even a small chunk of 42 million ballots in key states, the result could sink not only Biden but Democrats who have a realistic chance of winning Senate seats.

The U.S. Elections Project report is a week old, but the numbers don’t add up unless this is indeed evidence of a massive voter turnout. Regardless, Biden cannot afford to lose millions of votes in this way.

Sixth, if Biden is as far ahead in Pennsylvania, why is he concentrating on that state in the waning moments of the election? Internal polls probably have the race much closer. And why is Kamala Harris in Georgia? Is that based on the hope that supporting Democrats for the Senate will inspire people to vote a straight Democratic ticket?

Seventh, there are the unknown unknowns. If Biden can tip Texas, Florida, or Georgia to the Blue side, the race may well be over. It does seem that there is a lot in play and much of it tips in favour of Biden.

In any event, we are probably not going to have a definitive result on Tuesday or perhaps for a few days to two weeks later as ballots are counted. A clear win by Biden in Texas might change that. But don’t hold your breath.

Two other factors are at play in a big way. Trump has tarred himself by his handling of the Covid pandemic. He continues to make things worse for himself with his ongoing assault on science and Fauci. On the other hand, the stock market is telling you that Trump is going to win. Yes, I’ve heard some say that the market expects a HUGE stimulus package if Biden is President. But then, that cannot happen before January 2021. So I’m not buying it.

I end this piece by linking The Onion‘s guide to the election.

Take a few moments to enjoy a little levity at this crazy time. A sample:

Alaska – Most critical issue facing this state this election cycle

Conservation: State officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of conserving Alaska’s many species of survivalists, ice-road truckers, loggers, gold miners, fur trappers, and king crab fishermen for future television seasons.


* Published in print edition on 3 November 2020

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