US Election 2020: The Final Countdown

3 weeks ago 9

With the Big Fight now in its final bout, the focus of both presidential candidates is on a few battleground states where the polls are closer and the suspense is nail-biting.

More than 90 million Americans have already voted either in person or via mail-in ballots or 66% of the 135 million votes cast in 2016 and voters seem ready to break all records. The 2020 election is seen as seminal, one that pundits say will decide the very nature and future of American democracy.

Most national polls continue to show Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden in the lead but the race appears to be tightening. From an average of a 12-point lead three weeks ago, Biden now enjoys only a single digit lead in most national polls. The average of national polls showed him with a 7.8-point lead on Saturday afternoon, according to data compiled by RealClearPolitics.

President Donald Trump is fighting for his re-election with renewed energy after a bout of Covid-19, holding big rallies and talking for an hour on average at each of them. His frantic last-minute push in battleground states seems to have changed the dynamic somewhat and even the discourse to some extent.

Trump's combative, aggressive style on the one hand and a distant relationship with facts on the other has raised fears in the minds of "undecided" voters. He has relentlessly portrayed Biden as a "puppet" of the Left who will shut down the economy, take away oil and gas industry jobs and allow protestors to rule the streets.

The highly exaggerated claims repeated incessantly and magnified by social media and sympathetic websites have dented the Democratic narrative about Trump's mishandling of the pandemic even as the president continues to hold big rallies of thousands without social distancing rules or even compulsory mask wearing.

A Stanford University study released Friday linked 30,000 new cases of Covid-19 between July and September in counties which hosted his rallies.
With three days to go, Trump spent Saturday in Pennsylvania, the state that has emerged as the most crucial of all battleground states. The "keystone" state's 20 electoral votes could indeed be the "key" to victory and the winner collecting 270 on the way to the White House.

Trump focused on rural counties to bolster his prospects in areas that lean Republican, while giving cities a pass where the Democrats are stronger. The urban-rural divide is one of the many cleavages for the two parties while women, white men without college degrees, seniors and minorities are some of the others, each group laden with complexities that strategists must decipher in time and target for votes.

Trump told his audience in Newtown, Pennsylvania, a "red wave" was forming because economic recovery was already underway and the country had "turned the corner" of the virus -- two major themes as he barnstormed. He repeated the claim that Biden would "shut down" the economy and "open the border" to let thousands of illegal immigrants in.

Biden is expected to blanket Pennsylvania on Sunday while his wife Jill Biden and running mate Kamala Harris will hold separate events to multiply the "in-person" effect. The Democratic campaign is largely being conducted in the virtual realm, leading to some criticism by Democrats running for House and Senate seats who want Biden to visit their constituencies.

Biden was in Michigan on Saturday, a state Trump carried in 2016 as he did Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The three states used to be the "blue wall" that fell to the "red rage" of Republicans the last time. The memory of Hillary Clinton's grievous error of taking them for granted haunts Democrats as they try to woo the threesome back.

The star power of former president Barack Obama was deployed in Michigan for a drive-in rally to energise the African American vote. Obama pummelled Trump for his rallies. "What is it about crowds and the president?" asked Obama, recalling Trump's obsession with the size of the crowd at his inauguration in 2017.

Obama mocked and attacked Trump with gusto while talking about Biden as a caring, sharing leader who would restore the "soul of America."

Kamala Harris, meanwhile, was in Florida, another big prize in the struggle to collect 270 electoral votes. Her speech focused on Trump's mishandling of the pandemic and the needless suffering caused to thousands of families.

The virus is raging through the country, with 90,000 new infections reported on Thursday, shattering the record of daily count. The Republican explanation is that all countries are struggling against this lethal virus.

The Biden-Harris strategy of restricting themselves to small events is responsible as the campaign is at pains to emphasise but is it effective is the question some are asking in the final lap. Holding a "Black Economic Summit" with just 16 attendees in North Carolina is unlikely to convince "independent" voters to vote for the Democrats, critics say.

But the Biden campaign is flooding the airwaves and the digital outlets with ads, flushed as it is with funds. In fact a new term has been coined for the unprecedented flow of funds to Biden. It's called "fund-raging" to signify the anger against Trump that is fuelling people to part with their money in the shape of small donations.

Both campaigns have raised over $1.5 billion each but Biden has a cash advantage with $177 million in the bank while Trump is way behind with $63 million.

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