Can Mr Donald Trump survive the Joe Biden freight train?

Can Mr Donald Trump survive the Joe Biden freight train?

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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Today marks the beginning of the final two-week sprint towards the November 3, 2020 United States presidential elections — the 59th quadrennial — with challenger and former Vice-President Joe Biden enjoying sizeable leads over incumbent Mr Donald Trump in all the national polls.

It is widely held that more Jamaicans support the Democratic party than the Republican party, and reports out of the US about the excitement among them for Mr Biden's running mate, Ms Kamala Harris, whose father is Jamaican, appear to support this perception.

Despite Mr Biden's perch at the top in all the serious national polls, not even the most hardened pundit is willing to write off Mr Trump, especially with memories of the 2016 elections still fresh, when the polls had similarly predicted a win for Mrs Hillary Clinton.

The US presidential elections are not as straightforward as Jamaica's parliamentary polls, which are based on a first-past-the-post system in which the party with the most constituency wins forms the Government. In the US election, voters cast ballots for a slate of members of what is called the Electoral College. These members then directly elect the president and vice-president.

If no candidate gets the minimum of 270 Electoral College votes required to win the election, the US House of Representatives selects the president from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes, and the Senate selects the vice-president from the candidates receiving the two highest totals.

On election day 2016, against all the national polls showing Ms Clinton up by mostly four percentage points, Mr Trump pulled off a big upset, grabbing 304 electoral college votes to his Democratic challenger's 227.

One major difference between 2016 and 2020 is that Mr Biden is stubbornly holding on to poll leads of up to 13 per cent — something Ms Clinton never managed to do at this point in the election cycle. Mr Biden has also put in play several states which Mr Trump easily won in 2016.

The main issue in the election campaign centres on the impact of the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 220,000 Americans, sickened over eight million, and devastated the US economy, which had been doing well previously.

Prime ministers Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and Andrew Holness of Jamaica were recently returned to power on public perception that they satisfactorily handled the coronavirus outbreak in their countries. The popular perception in the US, based on polls, is that Mr Trump has not.

Other central issues surround the hollowed out state of the US economy by the COVID-19, leading to unprecedented joblessness and business closures; the protests against the killing of innocent black men by police, notably Mr George Floyd, who was seen in videos with a white cop kneeling on his neck; and the apparent rush to confirm a new Supreme Court justice while voting is underway in the elections.

Jamaicans will feel they have a stake in the race in Ms Harris, who is the first African American, first Indian American (her mother is Indian), first Asian American, and the third female vice-presidential nominee on a major party ticket.

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