Released back into the world after his covid sojourn in hospital, Donald Trump wasted no time getting back on the campaign trail.
Speaking at a packed rally in Pennsylvania, the president attempted to shake off any signs of lingering illness, declaring he “felt like Superman” to his fervent disciples. Trump also sought to play down the potency of the virus: “I just had it, here I am” he helpfully pointed out, perhaps momentarily forgetting that 215,000 of his compatriots have died from the disease.
This scene was inconceivable two weeks ago, when it was first announced that Trump had Covid-19. The news sent an already faltering campaign into crisis mode. The president, contrary to what he may himself believe, is not the epitome of good health; many were left wondering how quickly he would be back on his feet.
While there appears to be, at least according to his doctors, no lasting impact from the illness, the damage done to his chances of retaining the Presidency could be irreversible. His opponent, Joe Biden, who was already pulling ahead according to pollsters, now has a seemingly insurmountable lead. Trump being hospitalised with the virus he has repeatedly, negligently downplayed, while deeply ironic, has unsurprisingly gone down poorly with his supporters.
It appears that, despite being the Democratic nominee that no one seemed to want, the race is Biden’s to lose. After turning away a number of more diverse, vivacious candidates, the likes of Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, the party appear to have opted for stability and security in their choice of the 77-year-old.
Biden has hardly led an inspiring campaign thus far, exemplified by September’s presidential debate, where commentators generally agreed that neither party won but America lost. Watching the two ageing men incessantly bicker for ninety minutes was vaguely amusing, until you inconveniently remembered that they were competing for the presidency of the world’s most powerful nation.
Nevertheless, the consensus is that if Biden can avoid slipping up before the 3rd of November, if he can stand back and watch Trump dig a deeper and deeper hole, his status as the 46th president of the United States should be secured. A number of polls place Biden up to sixteen points ahead of Trump, suggesting that the Democrats will attain control of the much-coveted trifecta: Presidency, Senate and House of Representatives.
The contest will ultimately come down to a small number of ‘swing states’, and it is here that signs look most promising for Biden. The Guardian’s poll tracker for Wisconsin, where Republicans won in the last election by a mere 22,000 votes, put the Democrats 7.3 points ahead. The picture is similar in Pennsylvania and Michigan, formerly marginal Trump wins, where now Democrats are 6.4 and 7.9 ahead respectively.
There is, however, a palpable sense of déjà vu lurking around the current forecasts: polls predicted a resounding victory for Hillary Clinton four years prior. It was felt that a Trump victory was an impossibility in 2016, and no one needs reminding of the wisdom of that particular prediction.
The prospect of mail-in ballots adds further complications to the mix. Thousands of mail-in votes are rejected in every election for myriad reasons, and numbers will be higher this year. Biden has been encouraging the electorate to vote by mail due to coronavirus, whilst his adversary has endeavoured to make doing so as difficult as possible.
As such, far more Democratic votes are likely to be cast aside than Republican, with potentially significant consequences. The Atlantic observes that “more than 23,000 mailed ballots were rejected in the presidential primaries in Wisconsin—more than Donald Trump’s margin of victory in that state in 2016.”
The president does not regard mailed votes as legitimate, and consequently there is a distinct possibility that Trump will declare the result, if it spells his demise, invalid and void – a course of action he has continually sidestepped when questioned.
There is no guarantee that Joe Biden will become the next president of the United States. His supporters though, and Trump’s detractors, will hope for an emphatic win to quash any ambiguity in the result. Then will come the harder challenge: repairing the damage that has been inflicted upon both America and the wider world over 4 desperate years. The halcyon days of Barack Obama feel a long time ago. A Biden victory would be the first step in the right direction.
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