Why Will Trump Win?
To begin with, Trump will win because Joe Biden is just a placeholder.
This year’s Democratic field wasn’t spectacular. Three men over 77 years of age ran (Biden, Bloomberg, and Bernie). Elizabeth Warren, over 70 and with virtually no experience outside of academia prior to 2012, also ran. Then there was the mayor of a very nice city in Indiana, who according to the Constitution was barely old enough to qualify. A Democrat with a fake name and a failed Texas senatorial campaign threw his hat into the ring. And so on.
Biden got the nomination (barely) because he had been Obama’s vice president, didn’t scare his party’s elites, and managed to convince socialist voters that he wouldn’t disappoint them too much. I’ve never personally met someone who was excited about Biden’s candidacy, and that’s reflected in the polls, which routinely show that Trump supporters are far more enthusiastic about their candidate than Biden supporters are. While polls may not be very reliable overall, they’re probably accurate concerning voter enthusiasm, because that doesn’t change based on whether a candidate’s supporters are under or over-represented in the data. Enthusiasm is vital because enthusiastic voters vote and volunteer, whereas history shows that unenthusiastic ones stay home if it happens to rain on Election Day.
The weak Democratic field takes us to the second reason Trump will claim victory, which is that Democrats, in their honest moments, also think so.
How do I know? Take a look at who didn’t run. Hillary Clinton said in a tweet on October 8th of 2019 that she was tempted to enter the race. Oprah Winfrey, who campaigned for President Obama, acknowledged in 2018 that she “prayed” about it. As one of the 100 richest women in the world, possibly the richest self-made woman, and a huge television star, she would have become the immediate frontrunner. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wouldn’t touch the race with a ten-foot pole. Only two of the twenty-plus Democrat governors jumped in, and although seven senators did, only two had completed at least two terms (eighteen senators who caucus with Democrats have served longer). When the big names bow out, you know the prize (nomination) isn’t worth much.
The third reason that Trump wins and Biden loses is a big one: history.
Presidential reelection history is a lot more complicated than most people realize – some presidents have died before getting the chance to run a second time, others failed to get their party’s nominations and didn’t appear on the ballot, some chose not to run again, a few faced unique situations such as the emergence of a strong third-party candidate.
But if we focus on the second half of America’s history as an independent nation, from about 1900 onward, a fairly clear picture emerges.
Between 1900 and 2016, nineteen presidents took office (Trump took office in 2017). With two exceptions (both died before they could run again) all either served beyond the term for which they were initially sworn in, or attempted to secure another term.
That leaves seventeen presidents to consider. Of those seventeen, twelve, or 71%, were successful in securing a continuation of their presidency. Of the five that were not, all dealt with situations that do not apply to the current president. Two-faced serious third-party contenders, two-faced extremely charismatic opponents, one of those facing a good opponent was also dealing with an unemployment rate of 23%, and one was a former vice-president who inherited the presidency after his predecessor resigned in disgrace. For reference, the presidents in question were: Taft, Hoover, Ford, Carter, and Bush Sr. Only three (Ford, Carter, and Bush) served within the last eighty-eight years of our history, thus giving presidents during that period a 75% success rate.
Next, a Biden win would usher in a truly strange era for American elections. Trump won a huge upset victory in 2016 by campaigning vigorously against a lethargic opponent. A Biden victory in 2020 would show campaigning to be nearly unnecessary, as Biden has held extremely few events or interviews for six months. This includes televised or internet-streamed events, which present no risk of spreading the Wuhan virus.
Finally, voters aren’t stupid. The virus that has caused so much panic has created an opportunity for Democrats, but most people understand that Trump didn’t create the disease. They also understand that unemployment was at its lowest level in fifty years before the virus, and that the economy is already a lot better than a few months ago. The Antifa and BLM riots have exposed Democrats as a party of violence and crime, and it’s rare to see voters go against their own safety. Meanwhile, Trump has increased safety through better border control (which included restricting travel with China to slow the virus) and has generally been one of the most active and energetic presidents in our nation’s history.
Based on those factors, I’d give Trump at least a 70% chance of being reelected. But 70% is a long way from 100%.
Why Will Biden Win?
First: The polls, the polls, the polls.
Everyone understands by now that the 2016 polls predicting Hillary Clinton’s victory were biased. They were also sloppy work, and reflected a failure on the part of pollsters to leave their cozy offices and look at what was happening on the ground.
But that doesn’t guarantee that they’re wrong this time, at least if one assumes pollsters have some pride in what they do. Almost all national polls show Biden up by at least five points. Swing state surveys also have Biden ahead, although some appear a bit far-fetched (the Real Clear Politics average of polls has Biden beating Hillary’s performance in Michigan by nine points). Regardless, what polling data the public has seems to be in Biden’s favor.
The second thing to consider is money. Biden had far more on hand than Trump going into the final weeks of the campaign (about three times as much according to the LA Times), partially because Trump chose to spend what he had earlier in the year. This represents a serious messaging disadvantage for a president who is hated by the mainstream media and heavily censored by social media outlets. It’s possible that many Americans will vote completely unaware of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. Of course, with early voting taking place, Biden has to make sure that he doesn’t wait until too late to spend his cash, but I’d rather be in his position than Trump’s in that sense. For what it’s worth in terms of comfort to Trump voters, the president has vastly outraised his 2016 totals.
The third thing to bear in mind is that, despite what I wrote above, the virus isn’t helping Trump. He was cruising to re-election before it hit, and then had to adjust his strategy on the fly, all while dealing with the pandemic itself. Herbert Hoover might have been facing a charismatic opponent in 1931, and the 23% unemployment rate might have been over three times what Trump is dealing with, but just as the Great Depression sunk Hoover’s presidency, the virus could sink Trump’s. Americans have gone through a lot in eight months, and there’s no way to know for sure how they’ll react to that. It wouldn’t exactly be shocking to see them become very anti-incumbent (I myself was angry over the shutdown strategy leaders of both parties advocated). Moreover, the virus was the perfect form of disruption in terms of Trump’s usual campaign strategy of “hold a lot of big rallies” and the perfect excuse for Biden, 78 and in failing mental health (watch clips of him in 2008 vs. now), to stay at home.
Last but not least, simple voter weariness could help Biden. True, the Trump parades popping up everywhere, including in such unlikely places as Beverly Hills, suggest that Trump’s base is pumped. But voters, tired of the riots, impeachment attempts, and the president’s strong personality, could vote for Biden just to get things back to normal. Making voters feel weary of Trump is certainly the Biden campaign’s central strategy, and vicious resistance has been the Democratic Party’s strategy for nearly four years.
It remains to be seen if the Democrats putting all the focus on Trump will return a different result than it did in 2016.