A US presidential race that defies polls and our idea of America
Alexander Brown writes on a dramatic 24 hours in world politics and what happens next with the US election as the world holds its breath.
Everyone predicted a tight race, and if they didn’t say so they were pretending. Top forecasters fivethirtyeight had Mr Biden winning in 89 out of 100 scenarios, with success for the incumbent in ten of 100.
The idea of a landslide for Joe Biden was always fanciful, and at this point polls are as reliable as a UK Government policy announcement.
But nobody suggested it would be as close as this, a situation where both US president Donald Trump and Mr Biden can both say they expect to win and none of us can tell them otherwise.
With US elections there is no sweet release of a UK exit poll, instead hours, if not days, of anguish as we struggle to establish who is victorious. At this stage, we simply do not know who has won. America and the world are in territory not seen since the George Bush v Al Gore contest of 2000.
At the time of writing, Mr Biden is on 225 electoral votes, with the President on 213, needing 270 to win. In the Senate, the Democrats appear to be struggling, sitting on 46 to 47, but look set to retain the house, currently on 204 to the Republicans 189.
Mr Trump falsely claimed victory in the race for the presidency in the early hours of this morning, despite millions of votes still to be counted.
Addressing supporters at the White House, many not in masks, the former reality TV star declared victory in the states not yet called, and once again made accusations of “fraud”.
He said: “Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it. We will not stand for it.
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.
"So our goal now is to ensure the integrity – for the good of this nation, this is a very big moment – this is a major fraud on our nation.”
His claims appear baseless, which allowed a brief and amusing moment on BBC news where ardent Trump supporter Nigel Farage was skewered over the allegations by Andrew Neil, insisting the fraud was “so new ... it hasn't come to light yet”.
Both Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab refused to call out his comments, the Prime Minister insisting “we don’t comment as a UK Government on the democratic processes of our friends and allies”.
Labour Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy was less diplomatic, insisting “our national interest is very much bound up with a Biden victory”.
In Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, when asked about the impact of the US election on global efforts to tackle coronavirus, said the outcome mattered “to the whole world, even though the whole world doesn't have a say in them”.
Elsewhere, Mr Biden was more cautious, but also told his supporters he believed he was going to win.
The former vice-president, so often seen in sunglasses and short sleeves in the build-up, told voters it was not over until every vote was counted.
Speaking in Delaware, he said: “We feel good about where we are, we really do.
“I’m here to tell you tonight we believe we’re on track to win this election.
“We knew because of the unprecedented early vote, the mail-in vote, that it’s going to take a while, we’re going to have to be patient until the hard work of counting votes is finished.”
Even as Mr Biden was speaking, the President was tweeting and then deleting because of spelling mistakes.
He wrote: “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed.”
The polling continued to narrow through the day, as postal votes began to swing states in Mr Biden’s favour, seeing him surge ahead in Michigan.
Responding with natural restraint, Mr Trump responded by promoting conspiracy theories that yet again saw Twitter slap a warning on his tweet.
He wrote: “Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled. Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the ‘pollsters’ got it completely & historically wrong!”
The Democrats have already dismissed this as nonsense and vowed to fight any attempts to stop votes being counted in court.
Key moments of actual voting have been rare, but of the upsets that did occur, none are more notable than Mr Biden winning the state of Arizona.
Mr Trump’s campaign twice dismissed Fox News over calling it for Mr Biden, struggling to accept they lost a state known as the birthplace of Trumpism.
This on top of the Wisconsin result leaves Mr Biden the turtle rather than the hare, picking up pace as the world screams at election officials to count faster.
Mr Trump’s victories in Florida, Ohio and Texas kept his hopes alive, but his comments on Twitter suggested his was a presidency in its final week.
The truth is, neither man knows. Key swing states including North Carolina, and Georgia are still counting votes, while a Biden win in Wisconsin is getting a recount. These will give a clearer indication of who will take their seat in the Oval Office.
Nevada, currently unannounced, has warned it will not have result updates until tomorrow.
More than 67 million people have voted for Mr Trump. However hateful and incompetent he may be, his ideology and vision has still been embraced and legitimised by voters.
If elected, however, Mr Biden will have the largest personal mandate of any US president in history. He has broken former president Barack Obama’s record and enjoys a massive lead in the popular vote, earning more than 50 per cent of votes.
This election, much like the last one, has once again made clear the electoral college system is not fit for purpose. But unlike last time, the momentum is clear, and hope was tonight growing the US would welcome its 46th president.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.