Tuesday may be Election Day officially, but the contest is already well underway and heating up thanks to exceptional rates of early voting.
States began mailing out ballots over a month ago, and in much larger quantities than ever before. Expanded access to absentee voting and the unprecedented number of Americans utilizing casting their vote before November 3 – both in-person and through the mail- has profoundly affected this race.
The earliest states began accepting ballots mere days after the first presidential debate. Think about how many potentially game-changing stories have broken since then:
- President Trump and Melania tested positive for covid-19.
- The Vice-Presidential debate took place.
- The second presidential debate was canceled and replaced by dueling town halls.
- The Hunter Biden laptop scandal continues to unearth unflattering details of the Biden family’s business dealings overseas – with more being authenticated by the day.
- The media and social media platforms colluded to suppress and dismiss the Hunter story. Highlighting blatant bias and providing valuable insight into how narratives are controlled (as you’ll see later, the effort to bury the details of the Biden son’s hard drive’s content opened my eyes to potentially similar approaches to polling).
- The last presidential debate.
- Trump returned to the campaign trail at a frenetic pace, scheduling multiple events and rallies per day over the final weeks before Election Day.
The explosion of early voting has been an enormous boon for the Biden campaign as it mitigates the consequences of Joe laying low, staying relatively quiet on the campaign trail, and avoiding answering questions about his son.
- How many voters who already cast their ballot for Biden might have changed their mind after the Hunter email scandal broke?
Voting began when Trump was at his most vulnerable – immediately following his coronavirus diagnoses. The President’s odds of reelection tanked after the initial announcement, especially when he was flown by helicopter to Walter Reed for an extended hospital stay.
The news for the next several weeks was all about Biden’s impressive polling leads. People continued dropping off or mailing in their ballots in what looked like a landslide race.
It wasn’t until around the final debate that Donald Trump finally found his footing.
The NY Post published their findings from Hunter Biden’s laptop; the incumbent returned to his 2016 anti-establishment messaging, railing against the former Vice President’s corporatist record and alleged corruption.
- During the last debate, Joe Biden promised to transition the country away from fossil fuels. Republicans jumped on the quote, hoping to flip voters in oil-dependent districts throughout several swing states. How many potential Trump converts had already voted before the debate?
- On the other side of things, are any early Trump voters feeling remorse after watching the President’s aggressive use of campaign rallies, leaving a trail of covid infections and hospitalizations in his wake?
Judging by how many Americans have already completed their civic duty, it appears that the massive momentum shift in Donald Trump’s favor will only have a moderate effect on the outcome of the election.
Perhaps the Democrats sensed Biden fading down the stretch and smartly pushed for early voting in preparation of coasting down the home stretch.
There’s not much time left to get your 2020 presidential election picks in at top-rated political betting sites:
Record-Breaking Early Voting Totals
The most eye-opening election headlines tracked the massive early voting totals as they swiftly climbed this week. According to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida, more than 80 million Americans had already cast ballots by Friday night. That number is estimated to have reached the 90 million mark this weekend.
To put that into perspective, there were 136,452,150 votes cast in total for the 2016 presidential election. Almost 129 million went to either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
Two days before Election Day, we’re already at roughly 66% of the total 2016 turnout! At this stage of the race four years ago, only 47 million votes were submitted before Election Day. The “experts” (becoming a more dubious title by the day in the political handicapping world) are optimistic turnout will easily exceed the 138 million who voted in 2016.
Reuters provided some interesting data concerning the party registrations of voters who have cast early ballots:
“In 20 states that report party registration data, 18.2 million registered Democrats have already voted, compared with 11.5 million Republicans and 8.8 million with no party affiliation. The data does not show for whom the votes were cast.”
I also found this tidbit about new voters to be noteworthy:
“For states where early ballots can be matched against a voter file, roughly 1 in 5 have come from someone who did not cast a vote four years ago in the same state.”
“These new voters — who may have moved to a new state, turned 18, or just sat out the last presidential election — will probably play a pivotal role in choosing the next President.”
It’s a small sample size, but 20% of those states’ early ballots being cast by people that didn’t vote in 20016 has to be meaningful in some way. If they’re young, first-time voters, that’s a good sign for the under-30 vote’s potential to impact this race.
There are concerns that the group’s substantial early voting numbers are only a result of zoomers casting their ballots earlier and not indicative of a significant improvement to total youth turnout.
If a decent portion of the 20% who skipped 2016 but early voted in 2020 are 18 and registered for the first time, maybe the youth voting block is growing after all. We will know for sure very shortly.
Democrats Falling Short of Lofty Early Voting Expectations
Since early voting numbers have begun pouring in, most chatter has been centered around the Democrats’ favorable margins. But while the focus has shifted to Biden’s optimistic turnout, the leads he’s showing aren’t as pronounced as the forecasts anticipated.
The Democratic ticket is falling short of their mark in several battleground states.
In Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, Biden is well behind the 70% share of early votes pollsters and strategists anticipated over the past month. Democrats counted on a healthy head start to defend against the flood of mail-in-voting-skeptical Republicans showing up to the ballot boxes on Tuesday.
“The Democrats have not opened up a large enough lead in the early vote totals, and they know it,” said Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh. “They have now realized that they put too many eggs in the vote-by-mail basket, and they’re not hitting the marks they need.”
A little historical cue: when 3rd party vote share declines from the prior election an incumbent is on the ballot, the incumbent has won every time, even in cases where the 3rd party vote share was *thought* to be an anti-incumbent voter group — 1916, 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2004.
— Robert Barnes (@Barnes_Law) October 31, 2020
After months of hearing about how GOP strongholds like Iowa were in play, Trump is surging late and making a lot of that talk look like it was little more than a pipe dream. The latest Des Moines Register poll shows the President with a 7-point lead over his Democratic challenger.
The Real Clear Politics average for North Carolina has Biden up by +0.3, but it’s a CNN poll that gave the Democrat a 6-point lead that’s throwing off the curve. Three of the four most recent high-quality polls show Trump winning the state; the other called a tie.
Once again, the Democrat-Republican early voting gap is underwhelming. Biden’s early voting lead has dropped to roughly 285k. Clinton went into 2016’s Election Day ahead by 310,000, only to lose the state by three points.
This would be the stage of the race Biden was supposed to be dominating if his campaign was going to hold off the GOP hordes hitting their polling stations on Tuesday.
TEXAS — Trump 51% Biden 47%
OHIO — Trump 51% Biden 47%
FLORIDA — Trump 50% Biden 48%
IOWA — Trump 50% Biden 49%
MICHIGAN — Trump 49% Biden 47%
ARIZONA — Trump 49% Biden 45%
I have been guaranteed that these numbers are …
— Cotto/Gottfried (@CottoGottfried) October 31, 2020
Registered Democrats requested 811k more absentee ballots than Republicans in Florida. As of Sunday afternoon, they’re ahead by fewer than 100,000 votes! Biden’s lead over the incumbent today is narrower than Clinton’s was in 2016.
The numbers coming out of Miami-Dade county are alarmingly weak for Democrats. Politico reported:
“No Democrat can win Florida without a huge turnout and big winning margins here to offset losses elsewhere in the state. But Democrats are turning out at lower rates than Republicans and at lower rates than at this point in 2016 when Hillary Clinton won by 29 percentage points here and still lost the state to Donald Trump.
“One particular area of concern is the relative share of ballots cast by young voters of color and less-reliable Democratic voters. Part of the problem, according to interviews with a dozen Democratic elected officials and operatives, is the Biden campaign‘s decision to discourage field staff from knocking on doors during the pandemic and its subsequent delay in greenlighting — and funding — a return to door-to-door canvassing.”
If GOP voters show up as expected on Election Day, it’s going to be a landslide for Donald Trump in the crucial southern state.
“As Florida goes, so goes the nation,” or so they say.
Republicans are leading the early vote in Michigan, 41 percent to 39 percent. Over the past week, Biden’s RCP polling average advantage in the state shrunk from over 9 points to +6.1.
Democrats may be paying the price for Governor Whitmer’s stringent lockdown strategies, threatening to spark a GOP voting backlash. The Trump campaign’s internal polling shows the President ahead by three percentage points so far.
The Biden campaign must be feeling Michigan slip away because they sent Joe and President Obama both to the state on Saturday for events.
Young Voters Driving High Turnout
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times published a report titled, “Young people are driving record voting in Texas and other states.” The article shares an array of promising statistical trends for Democrats, based on the early voting data.
Here are some noteworthy tidbits from the piece:
“More than 6.8 million people ages 18 to 29 had voted early or by mail in the national election by midweek, a 2 ½-fold increase over their voting level at this point four years ago, according to the Democratic data firm TargetSmart.”
“Texas has witnessed a particularly robust turnout among younger voters. As of Wednesday morning, voters under 30 had cast more than 900,000 ballots in the Lone Star State, nearly three times the number as around this time in 2016.”
“Younger voters helped power Texas to an unprecedented 8.2 million total votes by Wednesday, a full week before Nov. 3, the last day to cast ballots. That represents 91% of the votes cast in the state in all of 2016.”
“Other battleground states mirrored that outsized turnout by young people, TargetSmart data showed: Young Florida voters have cast 569,000 ballots, a 42% increase over their 2016 total; some 404,000 young North Carolinians have voted, a 63% jump; and young people in Georgia have expanded their vote by 82% to more than 340,000.”
Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement has examined similar trends throughout the country. Registration among teens and young adults has increased in 32 of the 40 states reviewed by the center.
“Georgia saw among the largest gains in youth registration, with 35% more voters under 30 registered this election cycle. Minnesota (34%) and California (26%) also saw the under-30 set expand their registration numbers substantially.”
These young voter registration booms are encouraging to Biden supporters because, as Tufts analysts have found, younger voters tend to favor Democratic candidates by a 30-point margin.
Young Voters’ Priorities
I find it fascinating how incongruent the Biden campaign’s policy platforms are with young voters’ political ideologies. A Gallup survey identified the following issues as the top three priorities for registered voters under 30 years old:
- access and affordability of healthcare
- climate change and the environment
Joe Biden has spent the final months of his campaign disowning every progressive position he feigned interest in adopting until late in the primaries when building “unity” with Bernie’s supporters was still a focus for Democratic strategists.
The former VP vehemently opposes Medicare for All.
Instead, the Democratic nominee claims to support expanding access to the Affordable Care Act by including a government-assisted public option on the program’s insurance marketplace.
When it comes to the environment, Biden has distanced himself from the Green New Deal and climate activism as well.
The Democratic ticket has almost compulsively promised not to ban fracking – an extremely unpopular stance for many Americans. Republicans made a big deal after the last presidential debate over Biden, affirming his promise for the country to begin transitioning away from fossil fuels. Joe’s been in a panic, trying to prove he’s actually the bigger pro-oil candidate ever since.
The Democratic ticket doesn’t do any better at addressing racism.
Amid widespread civil unrest and demonstrations calling for criminal justice reform, the liberals nominate one of the Drug War’s most aggressive perpetrators. Who played a central role in authoring the crime bill responsible for terrorizing the black community (along with other minorities and low-income groups) for decades.
As far as race relations are concerned, the Democratic Party managed to find the duo deserving of arguably the most blame for creating the conditions for — and perpetuating — systemic racism. Any other combination of DNC primary participants would be responsible for far less suffering (except for Michael Bloomberg + Kamala or Biden) than the pair leading the ticket.
Which brings me back to the question of what high youth voter turnout really means for the 2020 election.
If the early voting numbers aren’t coming at the expense of Election Day totals, and the number of young voters significantly increases, what motivates them to the polls?
Does that 30-point advantage among the youth stay firm when the Democratic candidates are so staunchly conservative? During the primaries, the youth vote was overwhelmingly behind Bernie Sanders and virtually nonexistent for the Biden campaign.
- Can we be sure they’ll fall in line for Joe after watching every progressive hero with a young following disrespected and ignored by DNC officials and the Biden campaign?
- How many watched the Democratic National Convention, which showcased numerous Republican speakers but featured minimal input from the progressive caucus?
- Have young voters been affected by the news that Biden plans to appoint multiple GOP members to his cabinet?
Don’t get me wrong; I think the preliminary evidence looks promising for the Democrats.
Young voters are historically more liberal, and they are showing up in droves to cast early ballots. Logically, one would see the early voting push as a sign youth turnout numbers will be higher overall.
I’m just skeptical.
Maybe it’s true that anti-Trump sentiments alone are enough to boost youth voter turnout and that they’ll dutifully get in line behind Biden. The way President Trump has been covered by mainstream media and discussed in popular culture is unprecedented.
Other attempts to win presidential elections by strictly campaigning on the incumbent’s negatives have failed. However, those candidates didn’t have 24/7 hyper-partisan political news outlets dedicated to their cause or anything remotely comparable to Big Tech’s social media platforms.
The societal pressures attached to the anti-Trump movement will play a role in improving young voter turnout, but not by the margins for which they’re hoping.
And I keep coming back to one undeniable fact:
Joe Biden isn’t offering young Americans anything they care about.
Instead of tapping into their enthusiasm as Ed Markey did to fuel his primary comeback over Joe Kennedy III, Biden has rejected their ideas and distanced himself from progressivism at every turn. I don’t think hatred for Trump will outweigh their general apathy when they’ve already been promised, “nothing will fundamentally change.”
Politically active young voters who were inspired by the anti-Trump movement turned in their ballots already. It’s not that they’re voting in greater numbers; it’s just that anyone planning to participate at all did so early.
My prediction is that Election Day turnout for the under-30 crowd will be abysmal.
Once the dust settles and everything averages out, the youth voting totals will only be slightly higher than previous elections.
Polls Undercounting Trump’s Support?
I can’t lie; I’m getting strong 2016 vibes approximately 48 hours before Election Day. Everywhere I look, I’m seeing massive crowds of Trump supporters, a stark contrast to the uninspired scenes coming out of Biden campaign events.
The tone of the media’s coverage is setting off red flags as well. They seem panicked.
One of these candidates has a ten point lead! pic.twitter.com/hSvStNWefs
— Bryan Paris 📈💵🛡️ (@bparispoker) November 1, 2020
Rather than discussing the former Vice President’s huge polling margins and comfortable early voting leads, the focus is all about Trump declaring victory too early or trying to suppress the mail-in votes. They’re worried that after Election Day, he will appear to be the clear winner.
That said, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself.
There’s no guarantee the Republican turnout on Election Day will be as impressive as promised. The Democrats’ early voting advantage could also be more decisive than it looks at the moment. Right now, the data shows us the party registrations of voters who have cast ballots, and we assume they’ll mostly support their declared party.
But Biden has built his coalition around centrist Democrats and moderate Republicans. A significant percentage of the GOP early votes may be Never Trumpers, who never changed their party affiliation.
Either way, this race is getting exciting.
It’s also shaping up to get very ugly when it comes to declaring a winner. I suspect Election Night ends with Donald Trump appearing as the clear winner.
That’s when the Democrats and the media will start pushing to slow things down and extend ballot-counting timelines.
When the Trump campaign resists, they’ll be accused of trying to steal the election. Both sides have every intention of trying to steal the election.
How it plays out from there depends on who has the shrewdest “dirty politics” moves. Republicans have the courts; Democrats have Big Tech, the media, and the intelligence community.
It should be a fascinating brawl – and I suspect I’ll be writing articles about the race well into December.