Issue #4: The race is tightening, marginal blue states and more

Edited by David S. Kerr

A product of Morningside Communications

(This week: The race is tightening up — Conventions draw almost as many viewers as “The Apprentice” — The path for a Biden victory is narrow in the Electoral College — An overseas view of the Electoral College)

The race is tightening up

Is the polling gap between Joe Biden and President Trump getting closer?  The answer, and I say this after all but declaring the Trump candidacy over and done with just three weeks ago, is “yes.”  However, maybe in the years long slog it takes to get to the White House we’ve finally reached “that point” in the campaign.  That pivot point when both parties have officially nominated their candidates, and with just two months to go, the public, has finally started focusing on the choices.  So, things, yes, are tightening up.  However, that said, Joe Biden still remains in enviable position.  But, two months is two months.  We have three debates coming up and lots of time for opinion to shift or solidify.

Conventions…did “the Apprentice” get better ratings

The 2020 Conventions in the era of the pandemic didn’t turn out to be the events they once were.  But, to my surprise, they did draw viewers.  Michael Grynbaum in his New York Times article reported that an estimated 21 million people watched the Democratic Convention and 19 million the Republican.  Those were respectable numbers.  Though, I wonder, did the GOP numbers equal those of “the Apprentice” during his reality show days?  Close. The Apprentice’s largest nightly draw during its run was 21 million viewers.  Still, both conventions did what their organizers intended them to.  The Democrats warmed the hearts of their diverse coalition and the GOP offered lots of fire eating rhetoric to their base.  So, with that, not another word about the conventions.

Marginal Blue States a lot closer than Democrats care to admit (highly recommended by the way) is a great site for any political geek who wants to obsess about polls and polling and right now, its showing polling results that should give the Democrats pause.  Nationally, according to several polls, Biden leads comfortably.  However, we can’t forget, indeed it should be a mantra, this isn’t a “national” election.  It’s a series of state elections and when a candidate carries a state the prize is that state’s electoral vote. Win 270 and you can start planning your inaugural.  However, it can be tough game. Al Gore found this out in 2000.  He won the national vote by 500 thousand votes, but when he lost Florida by a few hundred votes, and without it’s 29 Electoral votes, the show was over. 

The same thing happened in 2016.  Though, the outcome of the Trump/Clinton race didn’t hang on single state.  But that election showed that electing a Democrat, given the electoral college’s slight GOP tilt, requires winning a fairly specific group of states.  Indeed, it’s a fairly narrow path. One thing that’s clear is that the Democratic road to victory runs through some critical swing states in addition to solidly blue states. (Numbers in parentheses represent the number of Electoral College votes for each state). 

Yes, Biden will win California (55), probably Washington (7) and Oregon (12), will pick up most of New England (53) and New York (29) as well as Illinois (20), and oh yes, D.C. (3), Maryland (10) and Virginia (13) too. However, to win Biden must carry Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10), and Pennsylvania (20).  These were states Clinton lost in 2016.  Biden will also have to fight for Florida (29).  It’s in serious toss-up territory.  But he needs it.  For insurance, if nothing else.  Biden also looks good in Nevada (6), Colorado (9) and New Mexico (5) but, beyond that, everything else, certainly Georgia and Texas, probably North Carolina too, are stretch goals and would represent a questionable investment of resources on the part of the Democratic campaign.  In many respects, though it looks achievable at this point, the Democratic path to the White House, through the labyrinth of the Electoral College, is a narrow one. 

Our “Correspondent from across the Pond,” Ross Duncan… with some thoughts about and European view of the Electoral College 

Of all the most baffling aspects of the American political system, the Electoral College is perhaps the most difficult for those in Europe to understand. Rooted in history which few Europeans are acquainted with, it feels strangely at odds with America’s modern democracy. 

This bemusement is hardly surprising. After all, without an adequate appreciation of why the Founders’ chose to adopt the Electoral College, Europeans are bound to consider it an inexplicable anachronism in desperate need of reform.  

This scepticism is not limited merely to Europeans, of course. Indeed, the Electoral College will come under mounting pressure in the United States if the Presidential elections of 2000 and 2016 prove to be the dawn of a new trend, rather than mere aberrations.

Yet, even in those challenging circumstances, I’m sceptical that the Electoral College would face an existential threat. After all, any change would require a Constitutional Amendment, with the necessary two-thirds majority in Congress and three-fourths of the States. And, considering just how many of the States benefit from the Electoral College, it’s doubtful that a sufficient number will readily consent to its demise.  

I’m certainly not holding my breath.