President Trump has already lined up his Republican administrators to ‘dig out’ scams involving VP Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

 

With just about 36 days to go for the “biggest battle of the ballot” and perhaps the only news that has gripped the global media after the coronavirus pandemic, I am on a “virtual tour” of the US presidential elections in my column today to take you through what’s simmering in the battleground states. Poll ratings are changing, creating more buzz and speculation among the political pundits, who are holding their final prediction till the last as the battle is set to go to the wires and to the last ballot. It’s getting intense, gripping and fierce, probably threatening to get abusive after the first scheduled debate on 29 September in Cleveland. Many have already started to predict that President Donald Trump, who has taken his re-election as “the battle for his political career” will leave nothing in the way to his march to the occupation of White House from January 2021.

President Trump is set to make his tone stronger, personal and may dig up some “family scams” against his Democratic Presidential nominee and former Vice President, Joe Biden. Recent media reports suggest that President Trump has already lined up his Republican administrators to “dig out” scams involving VP Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. US media this week had reported about Hunter Biden’s “past involvement in a Ukrainian gas company during President Obama’s regime”, in a way taking a direct aim at Joe Biden’s tenure as a Vice President then.

This may be just the beginning as how the US presidential elections are going to be more “personal” from here. To me, Biden has surely gained more dollars in his campaign funding and also a strong Indian-American support, both in terms of when he nominated Indian origin California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. Biden got the political booster he was in need of as it created news, got some media limelight and on top of it, women of both Indian diaspora and Afro-American community pledged generous support to his campaign. But it seems that we are looking at the elections more from the perspective of India, Kamala Harris and Indian American vote bank, which is not going to decide the final results of this election. The Indian diaspora vote bank, currently in the limelight for influencing the US elections, and surely it will, is just 1.8 million out of the over 200 million registered voters in the US. And if going by what political scientists are predicting it to be the “most diverse and highest voter turnout election”, nearly 157 million are expected to vote in 2020, a high jump over nearly 137 million in 2016. So we can’t say at the moment as who really caused this probable large voter swelling for 2020, Trump or Biden. But a few things are clearly visible. Biden and his campaign may have earned more in dollars in his election funds than what Mr Trump has been able to amass; he may have made inroads into Republicans strongholds; he may have got nearly 500 security advisers and many from the Republican camp, including Cindy McCain, widow of Arizona Senator John McCain and Colin Powell endorsing his election, but that also cannot hide Trump’s surge among the Latino and Black voters, raising political worries for the Biden campaign. No one can also deny the fact that Trump has actually split the Indian American vote bank and he himself has got a 12% popularity jump among the diaspora voters in 2020. According to the latest Indian American voter survey, Trump commands 28% diaspora support, a double digit jump from 16% in 2016.

But most important, and what Biden and all should not ignore, that not only has Trump played the “nationalism” card well since the conventions, but he has also narrowed his gap with Biden and his stimulus package is showing off right signals for the Republicans. He’s scored in media polls over economic recovery and has overshadowed his strong criticism over the poor handling of coronavirus. Americans continue to have positive views of the nation’s economy, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

A majority of the public (55%) says that national economic conditions are excellent or good. This has changed little since January, but spells good signals for Trump’s poll report card. The survey by Pew Research Center, conducted on 10-15 July among 1,502 adults, also finds that Americans are generally upbeat about their personal finances: 55% now characterise their personal financial situation as excellent or good. Currently, 79% of Republicans and Republican leaners rate the national economy as excellent or good, with 34% saying it is excellent.

And to his benefit, Biden is also being projected in the media as “working from the basement and not letting Kamala Harris out in open too often, including in the press”.

The game of ratings and the unending surveys make the contest intense, yet making it confusing for the voters. US media reports cite these polls saying, while the five key states hold the key to the political fate of the two Presidential candidates, but it is also that every day, the gap between the two leaders is narrowing and making it a tight finish. A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll finds Biden leading by 5 points nationally, down from a 10-point margin only two weeks ago. That’s obviously very good news for Trump, although we’ll need to see a few more of these before we call it a trend. Biden leads by 7 points nationally. But it is also a fact that in 2016, even 12 hours before the final ballot, Trump was trailing in national polls against Hillary Clinton and he won the states where the polls showed him trailing behind her.

Interestingly, new surveys show Biden running strong in states Trump won easily in 2016, which is alarming news for Republicans. But the bottom line is that while Biden is competitive in traditionally red states, like Texas and Georgia, and in states Trump won easily in 2016, such as Iowa and Ohio. Trump badly needs to win Florida, Arizona and North Carolina, where polls show the race getting closer.

Biden may be leading still in polls, but even the US media and poll predictors do not guarantee him a lock on the White House for strong reasons, the Democratic presidential nominee should not forget. First, Trump’s base of support—Whites without college degrees—is more energized and committed to voting this year than key Democratic constituencies. Second, Latinos, who are key to the outcome in several crucial states—Arizona and Florida, for example—have shown less support for Biden. There will be more absentee voters this time, something similar to Indian polling where strong cadre vote have been crucial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s thumping mandate. Will that hold true for his friend President Trump? US media and analysts say that the narrowing gap between the two and the “undecided voters” are not favourable signs for the Democrats’ poll prospects. And not to forget, the debates will test Biden against Trump in open public eye as how he withstands three 90-minute battles against an opponent known for brutal personal attacks.

From Tuesday, as President Trump, who has been often painted by the left-liberal US media as “politically notorious”, will be in his true colours and Biden needs to be aware of the central fact that President Trump, love him or hate him, has hogged more limelight and press than any other US President in recent times and also his tumultuous presidency has triggered strong emotions among both supporters and opponents. Political scientists in the US are forecasting that he’s surely going to stir “a voter turnout storm of a century in 2020”.

And if he manages to get the vaccine before the 3 November elections, highly unlikely though, but already reported in US media about Trump making such claims, it would be the “booster injection” for Trump and his campaign, ensuring his re-entry to the White House.

Really a perfect time for watching it as an external from the fence without taking sides.