MONDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2020
Yes, he conceivably could: Could Donald J. Trump win re-election?
Yes, he actually could.
At present, Biden is well ahead in the national polls, but we think Donald J. Trump could still win re-election.
Below, we'll share a lingering fear about what could possibly happen. First, though, this is our idea of the worst possible outcome:
Biden: 52 percent
Trump: 46 percent
Biden: 268 votes
Trump: 270 votes
That would be the worst outcome yet, with Trump squeezing by despite a six-point nationwide loss. It's hard to see that the center could hold if our system fails that badly.
How could such an outcome occur? Here's our lingering fear:
We keep wondering how many people will end up failing to vote.
How many people will fail to negotiate the (unfamiliar) process by which they receive and submit a ballot by mail in their state? How many such people will then stay home on Election Day due to fear of the virus?
Could this procedural complication turn a 10-12 point lead in the national polls into a 6-point win by Biden? Could it let Trump squeak by in enough swing states to secure a razor-thin Electoral College margin?
That's our lingering fear. And of course, there are many other factors at play designed to stop anti-Trump votes.
Biden could end up winning huge, but we've been worried about this factor. The margins are thinner in the swing states, and the virus is coming on strong.
In Wisconsin, Biden's ahead by maybe six points, but the virus case load is exploding. How will things look on Election Day? How many "likely voters" will end up failing to vote?
On Morning Joe, we hear Joe and Mika citing Republican "panic" about Biden's lead in the polls. We recall an earlier campaign, when the late Robert Novak reported this in his syndicated column:
NOVAK (9/7/00): Undeniable panic is gripping partisan Republicans, from rank-and-file voters to seasoned political operatives, with two full months left before the presidential election. They are dismayed not so much about the surge by Al Gore but the loss of confidence in George W. Bush.
...Perplexed by the boost the vice president was given by his pedestrian acceptance speech in Los Angeles, they are panicked by Bush's seeming inability to counter it.
Polling at the conclusion of the Labor Day weekend not only shows that the Democratic base has returned to Gore. More troubling are defections of vital independent voters from Bush. Since Los Angeles, it is not so much a case of the Democrats succeeding as Republicans failing. The Bush campaign's attempt to undermine Gore's credibility through its maneuvers on presidential debates has flopped.
The Democratic Convention had taken place in Los Angeles in mid-August. After his widely-mocked acceptance speech, Gore shot to a commanding lead in the national polls—and by the end of the Labor Day weekend, his substantial lead seemed to have hardened.
Novak reported "undeniable panic" in Republican ranks. Our well-connected pals at The Hotline were assuring us on a regular basis that everyone in Washington believed the election was over. (No, we didn't believe them.)
"Undeniable panic" was reported at that time by the uber-connected Novak. On Morning Joe, Republican panic is being cited now. Of one thing you can feel certain:
The mainstream press corps' reaction to that earlier panic won't be repeated today.
Before the week is done, we'll refresh you on what happened when it seemed that the 2000 election was over. Along the way, it involves a conversation between Brian Williams and Howard Fineman, following two brand-new "lies" by Candidate Gore.
These are the stories which haven't been told—the stories which will never be told.
What happened back then has been disappeared. It's part of the larger set of behaviors which have brought us to this very bad place.