Four miles away from each other and three hours apart, candidates Kamala Harris and Donald Trump were in two different worlds one day before the election.
On Monday, the two campaigns held rallies in the same county, Luzerne, which was one of the three counties in Pennsylvania that switched from blue to red in 2016. With 20 electoral votes (out of the required 270) and a 2016 margin of less than a percentage point, Pennsylvania has emerged as the “tipping point” of this election. Democratic candidate Joe Biden will be in his hometown, Scranton, in the next county on Election Day, while Trump will host an Election Night party at the White House in Washington DC.
Vice Presidential nominee Harris, standing in front of a hundred people outside the office of a grocery store workers’ union, had little flamboyance in her setup or speech. The handpicked crowd — the location was not shared with the public beforehand — remained dispersed as they listened to her in a chilly wind. She spoke of Covid-19, union jobs, and healthcare. There were sombre pauses and few laughs. US Election 2020: Follow LIVE updates here
“Years from now, our children, our grandchildren, others, they will ask us… ‘Where were you at that moment?’ And what we’re going to be able to tell them is so much more than how we felt. We are going to tell them what we did,” she said. Attendees told The Indian Express about virtual canvassing and their hopes of bringing back union voters who had abandoned the Democrats the last time.
A few hours later, Trump flew in on Air Force One to address a packed, roaring crowd of thousands at Scranton airport. The airport parking was full two hours ahead of his speech, so buses shuttled people in from the parking lot of a ski resort nearby. Video clips played on large screens, and the Trump paraphernalia was visible in everything from wigs to dog sweaters.
Trump flitted among his favourite talking points: China, “fake news”, and the “radical left” VP nominee of the “Harris-Biden administration”. Many in the audience spoke to The Indian Express about the economic success of the US under Trump, and the “communist ideals” of the left.
The two campaigns have embraced diametrically opposite strategies. Biden has wagered that voters fearful of Covid-19 would appreciate a safe and modest approach. Party volunteers canvassed over the phone, and started to knock on doors only three weeks ago.
But while the Trump campaign has been going door to door for much longer, Biden has spent almost three times as much as Trump on television advertisements. Should Biden lose, his campaign style, contrasted with Trump’s boisterous concert-like events, are certain to be blamed.
Many analysts do not, however, expect a clear winner to emerge on Election Night (Wednesday morning in India). The record nearly 100 million early votes will take longer to tally, and delays will likely make it difficult to call several battleground states early.
There are two regions to watch: the Sun Belt, which runs across the South of the country, and the Midwest, which juts up against the Northeast. Florida, Georgia, and Texas in the Sun Belt have usually been considered Republican territory, but may move towards the Democrats this season, according to the polls. On the other hand, the Midwest — also known as the Rust Belt, with Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — was called the Blue Wall until these states flipped to Trump in 2016. The two most important states with big chunks of Electoral College votes are Pennsylvania (20), and Florida (29).
The three key states that could be called on Tuesday night are Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. While the contest is tight in all these states, if Biden carries Florida, the election could quickly turn into a landslide in his favour. If Trump takes Florida, he will still have to wait for more results.
Trump holds small leads in Georgia and Texas, the results of which may come in the next day. The result in Wisconsin may be known by Wednesday, while it may take until Friday in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Some states count their mail-ins first, while others release their in-person numbers first. Given the partisan voting, the former would present what is referred to as a “blue mirage”, while the latter would likely show early leads for red.
While analysts have been cautioning against calling the results early, Trump has been adamant on a quick decision. “We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers,” he told reporters on Saturday. He has refused to explicitly state that he would accept the result of the election if he loses.
It will be important also to watch out for racial and gender patterns. Numbers show that Latino and Black men may be, surprisingly, defecting from the Democratic Party. Any fall in numbers there would require Biden to capture significantly more of the White vote, whose working-class segments catapulted Trump to victory four years ago.
The President has doubled down on his base of non-college-educated White voters, rallying in many rural strongholds. While the Biden campaign has made some efforts in the countryside, much of their focus has been on turning out more urban and suburban votes in their favour, especially new women voters. Seniors on the other hand, are predicted to inch away from the President.
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