Each week, Chicago Thinker Vice President Declan Hurley will use this space to succinctly cover the dynamics of the 2020 presidential election. Here is his first rundown:
The debate: Last Tuesday, President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden engaged in a no-holds-barred debate in Cleveland, Ohio. Interruptions were abundant and the atmosphere was one of unmitigated chaos. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer noted that Biden interrupted first, but a Washington Post analysis found that Trump was responsible for 75% of overall interruptions. Biden attracted controversy for deflecting a question on whether he would expand the size of the Supreme Court, and Trump provided fodder for Democratic ads with a less-than-inspired condemnation of white-supremacist groups. Public opinion polling shows that Biden “won” the debate, though not resoundingly.
The coronavirus hits home: In an “October surprise” that few could have seen coming, President Donald Trump and key figures in his campaign were diagnosed with COVID-19. The president went to the Walter Reed Medical Center out of an abundance of caution and was treated with remdesivir, which limits viral replication, and an antibody cocktail. He returned to the White House on Monday.
Generally, Trump appears to be in relatively good health, releasing short videos and waving to supporters who gathered outside of his hospital and from the balcony of the White House upon his return. Meanwhile, supporters gathered nationwide to rally support and pray for his recovery. In New York City, the pro-Trump procession was so large that there was a 30-minute traffic jam on Fifth Avenue.
The constitutional question: While Trump has a very high chance of recovering from COVID-19, some have asked what would happen if he were no longer to be at the top of the ticket. Keep in mind that when Americans vote for president, they are actually voting for presidential electors chosen by state party organizations. This makes the American system quite workable in times of crisis: if Trump withdrew his name from contention, his electors would likely shift their support to whoever is at the top of the Republican ticket.
The horserace: The post-debate polls are a bit fuzzy. Investor’s Business Daily has Biden up by three points (49% to 46%), down from six in mid-September, but a poll conducted jointly by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal has Biden up by 14 (53% to 39%). The average of these extremes is 8.5, which is very close to the RealClearPolitics polling average. Trump will likely command closer to 45% or 46% of the popular vote,* but these extra few points of support are muted by social-desirability bias.
*This range is based on Trump’s approval rating, which is 45.3% per RealClearPolitics.