That they were off the mark when he was pitched against Hilary Clinton four years ago cannot be denied. But then, those polls had shown Trump trailing only slightly in the presidential election. Eventually, he won thanks to razor-thin victories in some crucial swing States besting Clinton, who lost despite being marginally ahead on the popular vote. This time round, the polls, almost unanimously, reveal a huge gap between challenger Joe Biden and Trump. With the former enjoying an average lead of around 8 per cent, and hints that even a traditionally Red State may go Biden’s way, is the presidential election already done and dusted?
Not surprisingly, many – including a fair number in the Republican Party – believe so. But it is still a tad early to write off Trump altogether. There are still around a hundred days to the US election and as the saying goes, even a day is a long time in politics. There are theories that the poll findings could be influenced by people who dislike disclosing that they are voting for Trump, as was evident in 2016; of course, the question is whether the gap is too much for this so-called “silent majority” to bridge. And finally, there is the historical statistic. Of the 45 presidents who have held office in the US, only 10 have failed to be re-elected for a second term, the last being George HW Bush in 1992.
Quite clearly, the fall in Trump’s approval ratings is linked to perceptions of his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, an approach marked by a series of gaffes and flip flops. His response, which was initially to blame China for not alerting the world quickly enough of the threat, has escalated into something of a diplomatic and trade war. As the economy stumbles and unemployment rises, he has promised, far from convincingly, better months ahead.
With rallies cancelled and with Biden sequestered “safely and responsibly” at his residence in Delaware, the theatrics of an election – something that Trump revels in – is missing. Whether the traditional television debates closer to the election will have an impact on how people vote remains to be seen. But even ardent Biden supporters, in the mainstream liberal media, feel he will be bested in TV debates, with some recommending – somewhat extraordinarily – that the Democratic challenger finds a way to avoid having them.
Biden has had his share of issues coming into this election – including charges of sexual assault and inappropriate touching, moments when he seems like he is lost and confused, and charges that he is being hidden away by his campaign team as a result of a mental eclipse. Talk of an expedited coronavirus vaccine is making the rounds, and the Trump administration is hoping that it will be able to issue an emergency use authorisation for vulnerable populations before polling day. It is on such indeterminate factors that the fate of this US election may hinge on.