Trump is struggling against two invisible enemies: the coronavirus and Joe Biden


David Smith, University of Sydney

The US presidential election is being shaped by the two crises that have defined 2020 so far: the coronavirus pandemic and the national reckoning over police brutality and racism.

COVID-19 has infected millions of Americans and killed 125,000, while causing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Camera phone footage of George Floyd’s brutal killing sparked America’s largest wave of protests at least since the 1960s.

The term “unprecedented” has been used widely to describe these events, but they are just the latest versions of the two oldest and biggest problems in American politics: government dysfunction and racial injustice.

The “winning” years

In 2016, Donald Trump presented appealingly easy solutions to these problems.

Untainted by government, he would “drain the swamp” of bureaucrats and his business acumen would fix problems that conventional politicians could not, from trade deficits to crumbling infrastructure. Harnessing racial resentment and a backlash against Black Lives Matter, Trump promised white Americans an end to the painful reckonings of the Obama years, instead offering them a fantasy of black gratitude for white success.




Read more:
The backlash against Black Lives Matter is just more evidence of injustice


For three years, Trump crafted a re-election narrative around his “winning” approach, based mainly on an economy that was already booming by the time he became president. The partisan polarisation of the 2016 election continued into his presidency.

Trump’s approval rating has always been relatively low despite the strong economy, but it has also been resilient in the face of scandal. Trump faced few crises in this period not of his own making, although there was one that foreshadowed the disasters to come: Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

Trump hands out paper towels in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
AAP/EPA/Thais Llorca

The federal government response to the hurricane was slow, uncoordinated and under-resourced. Trump showed little interest in it and took no responsibility for it. He briefly appeared on the island to congratulate himself and throw paper towels to residents. When the death toll was revealed to be nearly 3,000, revised up from initial reports of 64, Trump claimed Democrats made up most of the deaths “to make me look as bad as possible”.

Pandemic politics

The Puerto Rican tragedy was largely ignored and forgotten, but COVID-19 has replayed many of its themes on an even bigger scale.

There were bewildering government failures, despite the nation’s immense wealth and resources. There was an absence of coordination between different parts of the government. There was a visible disregard among some whites for non-white lives. And there were familiar claims by Trump that his opponents were exaggerating the scale of the crisis, this time to sink his re-election chances.

Even now, as experts stress the need for widespread testing, Trump complains that testing inflates coronavirus numbers, and says it should slow down.

You can’t fight a pandemic with racial slurs. After a very brief “rally round the flag” boost in polling, voter ratings of Trump’s handling of the pandemic have been poor, and are dropping.

Meanwhile, the kinds of experienced public servants Trump and his allies deride are enjoying much higher approval as Americans rediscover the virtues of scientific expertise.




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Donald Trump blames everyone but himself for the coronavirus crisis. Will voters agree?


The pandemic itself may be less electorally consequential for Trump than its economic effects. It is very rare for presidents to win re-election during a recession.

Trump’s re-election hopes rest on a swift economic recovery, but that is unlikely while infections continue to surge, driven by attempts to reopen too quickly.

Black Lives Matter

The wave of Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis has damaged not just Trump’s electoral prospects, but the political order he represents.

For decades, conservatives have used the prospect of black unrest to scare white moderates, and Trump’s Nixonian rhetoric suggests he expected the same effect this time.

Instead, public opinion has solidified in support of the large, multiracial protests. The protests have changed minds, including white minds, about the systemic nature of racism in the United States. Racist backlashes may be less potent when there is a polarising white president in power.

A protestor at a Black Lives Matter rally in Washington DC.
AAP/EPA/Michael Reynolds

Trump has floundered in response to the protests. He has paid lip service to the cause of justice for George Floyd, but has shown more genuine sympathy for those who worry about being called racist.

Ultimately, he has retreated to his comfortable daydreams of black gratefulness. When announcing better-than-expected job numbers, Trump said:

Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country.

African American unemployment is actually getting worse, and Trump’s response to the protests is costing Republicans support across the country.

What about Biden?

Joe Biden has been much less visible than Trump during the pandemic, which so far is working well for his campaign. Trump seems desperate for a fight with Biden, and his campaign is reassuring nervous supporters that things will turn around when they get the chance to “define” Biden.

Biden is hard to paint as a radical. He has been quick to distance himself from proposals such as defunding police, and he has never supported “Medicare for all”, despite its popularity with the Democratic base and relevance during the pandemic. As president he would be unlikely to bring the kinds of lasting changes that most Democrats want to see.

This is why Trump and his allies cast Biden as “sleepy” and senile. They warn that he would easily be manipulated by radicals, and Trump is really running against the “far left”. So far, however, this approach has compelled Trump to talk a lot about his own physical and mental fitness.

Trump is a classically charismatic leader, whose hold on his supporters stems from their perception he is blessed with unique powers. This might be why Trump worries about any sign of weakness or change in his image – why he refuses to wear a mask, feels the need to physically prove himself, and is crushed by the sight of empty seats at a rally.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama at a Democratic virtual fundraiser in June.
AAP/Sipa USA/CNP

Biden, whose support stems from a perception that he is safe and familiar, having served as vice president in the Obama adminstration, chooses instead to display certain vulnerabilities. This helps explain his rising support among older Americans during the pandemic.

And in a year when race is a defining election issue, Biden has a vast advantage with African American and Hispanic voters, despite parts of his legislative record and his cringeworthy “you ain’t black” interview. He also owes his nomination to African American voters. As Juan Williams put it bluntly, “Joe Biden would be retired if not for the black vote”.

The polls look bad for Trump, but the race remains unpredictable

Averages of national polls currently show Biden leading Trump by between nine and ten points. Even without the pandemic, Trump was never going to have an easy contest against Biden.

Before he secured the nomination in March, Biden had an average lead of 5% in hypothetical poll match-ups with Trump, which is the likely reason Democrats settled on him as an alternative to Bernie Sanders.

Polls still show Trump’s supporters are a lot more enthusiastic about voting for Trump than Biden’s supporters are about voting for Biden, which could be important if voting becomes a health risk.

But enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate may not matter. The 2018 midterm was effectively a referendum on Trump, and the 2020 election will be an even more focused one.

There is reason to believe the race could tighten, if only because no candidate has won a presidential election by more than 9% since 1984, and partisan divisions have become a lot sharper since then. Many conservative-leaning Americans who are undecided about the election may return to Trump. Closer to the election, many pollsters will restrict their samples to people who they believe are likely to vote, rather than just able to vote. These likely voter screens may reveal Trump’s standing is stronger than it currently looks.




Read more:
As Minneapolis burns, Trump’s presidency is sinking deeper into crisis. And yet, he may still be re-elected


Of course, the election isn’t decided by a national popularity contest. Democrats are haunted by the 2016 election, in which Hillary Clinton got 2.8 million more votes than Trump but still lost the state-based electoral college. Currently, The Economist’s election forecast gives that scenario about a 10% chance of happening again.

Democrats are haunted by the 2016 election, where Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but not the election.
AAP/EPA/Gary He

Everyone will be watching key swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina, as well as newly competitive states like Arizona and Minnesota.

Polls show Biden leading in most of these contests, but these leads are smaller and more volatile than his national lead. The quality of many state polls has also been questionable, raising the possibility they will repeat the same mistakes as last time.

Biden is discouraging complacency. Referencing a recent NYT/Siena poll that showed him leading Trump nationally by 14%, Biden tweeted:

COVID-19 has sabotaged the usual election-year registration drives that bring millions of new voters into the electorate, which could disadvantage Democrats who traditionally benefit from younger voters.

Coronavirus is also likely to cause increased mail voting. There is currently no evidence increased use of mail voting advantages one side over the other, and state officials from both parties have pushed to increase voting by mail. Mail voting could alleviate the electoral chaos recently seen in places like Georgia, where the pandemic kept election workers home and shut down polling places.

But mail voting brings its own problems. Most states currently do not have the infrastructure or rules to required to quickly process mail ballots, which means we may be unlikely to see a result on election night if the contest is close.

An uncertain result hinging on a prolonged mail ballot count could lead to the nightmare scenario of a disputed election outcome.

Would Trump accept defeat?

Trump already seems to be preparing to dispute the election. He has repeatedly claimed, with no evidence, that mail voting will facilitate massive voter fraud.

In March he said increased mail voting would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”, and he recently tweeted:

These fraud claims have been repeatedly debunked, and Twitter was so worried about Trump attacking the electoral process that, for the first time, it flagged two of his tweets as misleading.

Trump may believe, with reason, that Republicans could benefit from in-person voting disarray on election day. Minority voters are far more likely than white voters to have to wait for long periods in lines at polling places.

In 2018, a federal court ruled for the first time since 1982 that Republicans could mount “poll watching” operations without prior judicial approval. This involves organising volunteers to challenge the eligibility of voters at polling places. Courts have previously found these tactics are used to intimidate and exclude minority voters, and they result in even longer delays. Republicans reportedly want to recruit 50,000 poll watchers for the 2020 election, including retired military and police officers.

But the purpose of Trump’s war on mail voting may simply be to delegitimise the election result in advance. He did this throughout 2016, saying the election would be “rigged” when it appeared he was set to lose. Even after he won, he claimed for years that he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”.

These claims have also been thoroughly debunked, including by Trump’s own lawyers.

Trump’s resistance to the factual possibility that he could lose has raised fears he might not accept a defeat. Biden, noting that military leaders criticised Trump’s handling of Black Lives Matter protests, has fantasised that the military would escort him from the White House if he tried to “steal the election”.

Extensive lawsuits are a more likely scenario than military intervention, but there is also the danger Trump’s supporters would not accept the legitimacy of a Biden victory.

Given Trump has often warned his supporters that their enemies will take away the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms), there is a possibility of a violent backlash, even if it only consists of isolated incidents.

At the same time, it is increasingly normal that large parts of the population dispute the legitimacy of the president. From Bill Clinton’s impeachment to George W. Bush’s contested victory; from Trump’s “birther” conspiracies about Obama to his own impeachment last year, refusals to accept the lawfulness of the presidency, on grounds real or imaginary, have become a standard part of America’s political repertoire.

A lot can happen in four months, as we’ve already seen this year. The outcome of this race is far from certain, but its ugliness is guaranteed.The Conversation

David Smith, Senior Lecturer in American Politics and Foreign Policy, US Studies Centre, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Polls latest: Labor trails federally and in Queensland; Biden increases lead over Trump



AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted June 3-6 from a sample of 1,510, gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, unchanged from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 42% Coalition (down one), 34% Labor (down one), 12% Greens (up two) and 4% One Nation (up one).

Scott Morrison maintained his high coronavirus crisis ratings. 66% were satisfied with his performance (steady) and 29% dissatisfied (down one), for a net approval of +37. Anthony Albanese’s net approval dropped four points to +3; his ratings peaked at +11 in late April. Morrison led as better PM by 56-26 (56-29 three weeks ago).

This Newspoll maintains the situation where Morrison is very popular, but the Coalition is not benefiting from his popularity to the extent that would normally be expected. Six weeks ago, when Morrison’s net approval was +40, analyst Kevin Bonham said the Coalition’s expected two party vote was between 54% and 60%.

Respondents were asked whether various organisations had a positive, negative or neutral impact on the coronavirus pandemic around the world. The World Health Organisation was at 34% positive, 32% negative and the United Nations was at 23% positive, 21% negative. Coalition voters were most likely to give the WHO and UN poor marks.

Xi Jinping and the Chinese government was at just 6% positive, 72% negative. Donald Trump and the US government was at 9% positive, 79% negative.

Seventy-nine percent thought the Morrison government was doing the right thing by pushing for an independent inquiry into the origins and handling of coronavirus against Chinese objections. By 59-29, voters thought Australia should prioritise the US relationship over China. There was more support for China from Labor and Greens voters.

Queensland YouGov poll: 52-48 to LNP

The Queensland election will be held on October 31. A YouGov poll for The Sunday Mail, conducted last week from a sample of over 1,000, gave the LNP a 52-48 lead, a two-point gain for the LNP since the January YouGov. Primary votes were 38% LNP (up three), 32% Labor (down two), 12% One Nation (down three) and 12% Greens (up two). Figures from The Poll Bludger.

Despite Labor’s weak voting intentions, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ratings surged. Her approval was up 20 points to 49% and her disapproval down 11 to 33%, for a net approval of +16, up 31 points. On net approval, Palaszczuk’s ratings are the same as in a late April premiers’ Newspoll. However, that Newspoll gave Palaszczuk a net approval far lower than for any of the other five premiers.




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Coalition gains Newspoll lead as Labor ahead in Eden-Monaro; Trump’s ratings recover


Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington’s ratings were 26% approve (up three) and 29% disapprove (down four), for a net approval of -3, up seven points. Palaszczuk led as better premier by 44-23 (34-22 in January).

Biden increases lead over Trump

This section is an updated version of an article I wrote for The Poll Bludger, published on Friday. The Poll Bludger article includes a section on the UK polls following the Dominic Cummings breach of quarantine scandal.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 41.7% approve, 53.9% disapprove (net -12.2%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.3% approve, 54.1% disapprove (net -11.8%).

Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost about four points on net approval. His disapproval rating is at its highest since the early stages of the Ukraine scandal last November.

In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Joe Biden’s lead over Trump has widened to 7.2%, up from 4.5% three weeks ago. That is Biden’s biggest lead since December 2019. Biden has 49.6% now, close to a majority. If he holds that level of support, it will be very difficult for Trump to win.




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When Trump attacks the press, he attacks the American people and their Constitution


Trump has over 90% of the vote among Republicans, but just 3% among Democrats. CNN analyst Harry Enten says Trump’s strategy of appealing only to his base is poor, as he has already maximised support from that section. Enten implies Trump would do better if he appealed more to moderate voters.

In the key states that will decide the Electoral College and hence the presidency, it is less clear. National and state polls by Change Research gave Biden a seven-point lead nationally, but just a three-point lead in Florida, a two-point lead in Michigan and a one-point lead in North Carolina. In Wisconsin, Trump and Biden were tied, while Trump led by one in Arizona and four in Pennsylvania.

This relatively rosy state polling picture for Trump is contradicted by three Fox News polls. In these polls, Biden leads by nine points in Wisconsin, four points in Arizona and two points in Ohio. Trump won Ohio by eight points in 2016, and it was not thought to be in play.

Ironically, Change Research is a Democrat-associated pollster, while Fox News is very pro-Trump. Fieldwork for all these state polls was collected since May 29, when the George Floyd protests began.

Other state polls have also been worse for Trump than the Change Research polls. A Texas poll from Quinnipiac University had Trump leading by just one point. Trump won Texas by nine points in 2016. In Michigan, an EPIC-MRA poll has Biden leading by 12. In North Carolina, a PPP poll has Biden ahead by four.

Concerning the protests over the murder of George Floyd, in an Ipsos poll for Reuters conducted June 1-2, 64% said they sympathised with the protesters, while 27% did not. In another Ipsos poll, this time for the US ABC News, 66% disapproved of Trump’s reaction to the protests and just 32% approved.

US May jobs report much better than expected

The May US jobs report was released last Friday. 2.5 million jobs were added, and the unemployment rate fell 1.4% to 13.3%. Economists on average expected 8.3 million job losses and an unemployment rate of 19.5%. An unemployment rate of 13.3% is terrible by historical standards, but it is clear evidence the US economy is already recovering from the coronavirus hit.

The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans currently employed – rose 1.5% to 52.8%, but it is still far below the 58.2% lowest point during the global financial crisis.

US daily coronavirus cases and deaths are down from their peak, and stockmarkets anticipate a strong economic recovery. But it is likely that a greater amount of economic activity will allow the virus to resurge. A strong recovery from coronavirus would assist Trump, but unemployment is a lagging indicator that is likely to recover more slowly than the overall economy.

New Zealand Labour surges into high 50s in polls

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on May 22 that two New Zealand polls had the governing Labour party taking a massive lead over the opposition National, ahead of the September 19 election. New Zealand now has zero active (currently infected) coronavirus cases, and has had no new cases since May 22. It appears they have eliminated the virus.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Third time’s the charm for Joe Biden: now he has an election to win and a country to save



AAP/EPA/Tracie van Auken

Bruce Wolpe, University of Sydney

At age 77, in his twilight years, the third time was the charm for Joe Biden.

He prevailed over a field of 24 Democrats from across the political spectrum and has emerged as his party’s nominee for president in a manner unthinkable in January: a united party, from left to right, across race and creed, age and ideology. He is the victor despite mediocre fundraising, no digital media traction, no base of wild enthusiasts. Voters had to consider his appeals before coming to understand and then accept that it was indeed Joe Biden, who failed in his bids for the White House in 1988 and 2008, who was the strongest Democrat to go up against Donald Trump and take him out.




Read more:
Biden easily wins Super Tuesday after strong comeback in past few days


Biden’s essence is unchanged from that first race more than three decades ago. As Richard Ben Cramer reported in his legendary account of the 1988 campaign, What It Takes, Biden realised:

What Americans wanted from their government [was] just a helping hand, to make the fight for a better life for their kids, just a platform to stand on, so they could reach higher … That was his life: he was just a middle-class kid who’d got a little help along the way … and that was all he had to show. But that’s what connected him to the great body of voters in the country. That’s all he needed!

Fast-forward to Biden as vice president in the Obama administration. I captured his addresses to the Democrats in the House of Representatives. This is how I recorded two journal entries for my book (with co-author Bryan Marshall) The Committee, on Obama’s historic legislative agenda in Congress.

In 2010:

We have to help the middle class and working Americans – the people who sent us here.

In 2012:

It is absolutely clear that the decisions we made are working. And the public understands they are working […] The American people understand that the Republicans have rejected the notion of compromise. That’s not the way the American people want us to do business […] We can’t straighten them out, but the American people will in November […]

We will win based purely on the merits of our position. America is going to get an absolutely clear comparison this year. It’s a stark, stark, stark, contrast […] Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.

This has been Biden’s whole life – connecting with the gut of middle America. His 2020 message is the same as he ran on in 1988. And the task is the same as when he was on the ticket with Obama in 2008: to ensure America recovers from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Biden was responsible for ensuring the delivery of the American Recovery Act – the first piece of major legislation enacted after Obama and Biden took office. Ultimately, it spurred a decade of economic growth and full employment. So Biden has been there and will work to do it again.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House in 2015.
AAP/EPA/Jonathan Ernst

A vice president to pick

We know only that it will be a woman. The oped pages and social media are on overdrive on who is best. Two things are paramount to Biden, because he knows the job and he knows what has to work.

Especially given his age, it is imperative the vice president be fully qualified and capable to step in to serve as president on her first heartbeat after his last – and is seen as such by the American people. This is where Sarah Palin was such a failure for John McCain in 2008.

Other mediocrities, both callow (Dan Quayle under George H.W. Bush) and criminal (Spiro Agnew with Richard Nixon) served but did not ascend to the presidency. Others, starting with Walter Mondale under Jimmy Carter, and then Al Gore under Bill Clinton, and Dick Cheney under George W. Bush, became true partners in governance, with real power and responsibility, and remade the office. That is the Biden template.

Biden insisted on – and received from Obama – a promise that he would be the last person in the room with the president before major decisions were taken, so he could give the full benefit of his judgment – whether the president took it or not. (Obama did not take Biden’s advice on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.)

Biden wants a vice president who can do the same with him. The virtues she would bring to the ticket, such as Amy Klobuchar’s ability to drive votes for Biden in the Midwest, and Kamala Harris, who can bring a surge of African American voters to the polls, are but the icing on the judgment Biden will make.

The second factor is chemistry: Biden has to feel with his selection the same intensity that marked Obama’s bond with him over their eight years together. So a woman who is absolutely qualified and star-studded won’t get it if Biden feels they cannot do great things together through shared conviction and trust.

Given the strike rate of vice presidents who have become president – five of the past 11 since 1952 – Biden’s choice will likely affect the future of the Democratic Party and the country for perhaps the next 12 years.

An election to win

Ask anyone in America who is politically attuned and they will tell you this is the most important election of their lifetimes. President Donald Trump has the bully pulpit of the White House where, as we have seen during the pandemic crisis, he can command the airwaves for hours every day to pound home his message. He has a TV network that has effectively become a state media channel. He has a Republican senate that will provide no check on his misbehaviour and no effort to protect the election against Russian interference or voter suppression.

Trump has 90% loyalty in the Republican Party. He has the power to declare national emergencies and launch military action to defend the United States. His campaign has a viciously effective social media war machine. He will conservatively outspend Biden by well over US$100 million. His base has not cracked – it is solid at 46% – after the pummelling Trump triggers from what he calls “fake news” and “the enemy of the people”, and after the disgrace of impeachment.

Trump’s avalanche of lies will continue unabated. He is the most shameless and relentless campaigner in modern American history. And if gets enough votes in the key states he won in 2016, he can be re-elected.




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Donald Trump blames everyone but himself for the coronavirus crisis. Will voters agree?


Biden’s task is clear: to take back those traditionally Democratic states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin – that Trump won in 2016’s outburst of populist anger at the political establishment, which included Hillary Clinton. And he must withstand and neuter the unprecedented charges of conspiracy and corruption that Trump is unleashing with “Obamagate”.

As of now, Biden leads Trump nationally by three to nine points in the polls. He is leading in three key battleground states, including Florida, and has a chance to capture Arizona and North Carolina. Trump is targeting Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Mexico. The consensus today is if the election was held now, Biden would win.

November is increasingly becoming a referendum on Trump and his management of the pandemic, and whether voters, facing disastrous hardship (over 16 million Americans lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs), trust Trump to restore the economy.

Biden’s message is already clear: Trump’s failures to appreciate the pandemic and act to protect the American people unnecessarily cost tens of thousands of lives. Biden helped bring the nation back from the Great Recession in 2009 – and knows how to do it again in 2021.

A country to heal

Biden’s campaign launch video in April 2019 could not have been clearer:

I wrote at the time [of Nazis marching in Charlottesville in 2017] that we’re in the battle for the soul of this nation. Well, that’s even more true today. I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation — who we are — and I cannot stand by and watch that happen […] The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America America, is at stake. … Even more important, we have to remember who we are. This is America.

In the late stages of the primaries, the overwhelming sentiment of most Democrats was simple: get rid of Trump. As voters could see limits to the appeal of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg simply could not reach critical mass, they decisively concluded it was Biden that everyone knew and trusted to do the job and free the country of Trump.

Because first they want America healed, too.The Conversation

Bruce Wolpe, Non-resident Senior Fellow, United States Study Centre, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

It’s now Biden v Sanders as Super Tuesday narrows the field for the Democratic nomination



AAP/EPA/Cristobal Herrera

David Smith, University of Sydney

Super Tuesday has continued Joe Biden’s recovery from the brink of disaster.

After a larger-than-expected win in South Carolina, Biden became the clear alternative to Bernie Sanders in the contest to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the US presidency. Just before Super Tuesday, his moderate rivals, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, dropped out, giving him their endorsements. Just as in South Carolina, the African American vote in southern states proved critical for Biden. He now holds a narrow delegate lead over Sanders.

Sanders held his own on Super Tuesday, especially in California, where he stands to harvest more than 150 delegates. But his campaign will be disappointed that they couldn’t land a knockout blow, especially in Texas where Sanders led in polls but Biden won.




Read more:
Biden easily wins Super Tuesday after strong comeback in past few days


It is now a two-person race, with an advantage to Biden. There have been a lot of crazy, chaotic stories over the past six months. The unlikely rise of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The trials of Elizabeth Warren, widely admired but cursed by self-fulfilling prophecies about her electability. The jaw-droppingly expensive, and futile, campaign of Mike Bloomberg. The demoralising fiasco of the Iowa caucuses.

After all that, we’re back to the two men who seemed the most likely contenders before it all began.

So what can we learn from Super Tuesday in 2020?

The power of the black Southern vote

After his shockingly poor results in the Iowa and New Hampshire races, Biden warned that 99.9% of African American voters had not yet had a say in the primaries. This was Biden’s big gamble – that black voters in South Carolina would redeem him.

Biden boasts long-standing connections with African American leaders and the reflected glory of Barack Obama’s presidency when he served as vice president. But as early losses mounted, campaign money dried up and his poll lead shrank in South Carolina, his prospects looked increasingly shaky.

His saviour was the very senior and respected congressman James Clyburn, who gave Biden his endorsement days before the election. A huge 47% of South Carolina voters said Clyburn’s endorsement was important, and Biden won two-thirds of the black vote there.

African American voters powered Biden’s Super Tuesday victories in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and, crucially, in Texas. Overall, he won more than 60% of the black vote, which makes up a quarter or more of the Democratic Party electorate (and the majority in some southern states). It is widely believed in the Democratic Party that an energised black electorate is critical to beating Trump and winning house and senate races, and this will draw more support to Biden.

But is it important to remember that African Americans are not politically monolithic. These wins in the South reflect Biden’s strengths with older and more conservative voters. In California he won about a third of the black vote.

Don’t forget Latino voters

Bernie Sanders is winning in western states like California, Nevada and Colorado. This is partly because of the enthusiasm he has generated among working-class Latino voters, who are drawn to his economic message.

Latinos, who are about a third of the Democratic electorate in California, are younger than the rest of the population and will be increasingly important in future Democratic coalitions. Sanders won around half the Latino vote in California and 39% of it in Texas.




Read more:
The US presidential primaries are arcane, complex and unrepresentative. So why do Americans still vote this way?


The great promise of Sanders is that he can reach young voters who would otherwise avoid politics. His electability against Trump hinges on large increases in youth turnout. So far, those increases haven’t transpired for him in the primaries. It may well be different in a general election, but we’ll never know if it doesn’t happen in the remaining primary races.

Money isn’t everything

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent an incredible half-a-billion dollars (A$768 million) on his campaign in the Super Tuesday states, and has little to show for it. He has now exited the race, but his money will stay in. He is likely to play a Clive Palmer role, unable to buy office for himself, but willing to spend hugely to get a candidate and a president who will act in his interests.

Bloomberg, who wasn’t on the first three ballots, left his run too late. He got only two debates, the first of which was a disaster. He had no chance after Biden harnessed the moderate vote with his South Carolina win.

This will be a lesson for any future candidates tempted to wait out the early races. But it is a lesson Bloomberg should already have known. The mayor of New York before him, Rudy Giuliani, also gambled everything on the fourth race of the 2008 primaries. He spent US$59 million to get a single delegate in Florida.

Whatever else he may have lost, Bloomberg has smashed the record for flushing money down the electoral toilet.

What now?

The race is now Biden’s to lose, but it is far from over. Biden has so far relied on the patronage of wealthy and powerful people. He is likely to enjoy more of that from Bloomberg, and may hope for the ultimate endorsement from Barack Obama (though it’s unclear that Obama will endorse anyone in the primaries).

But his campaign still has serious organisational weaknesses. While endorsing Biden, Clyburn took the unusual step of publicly pointing out that he lacks campaign infrastructure. Biden has been a less-than-inspirational speaker on the campaign trail. His single most powerful asset is a widespread belief that he can beat Trump.

Sanders has a genuine movement behind him, which the last two winners of the presidential election also had. His social-democratic agenda has changed the debate in the Democratic Party and the nation. Progressives have decisively chosen him over Elizabeth Warren. But Sanders has an uphill fight now that Democratic moderates have settled on a single champion.The Conversation

David Smith, Senior Lecturer in American Politics and Foreign Policy, US Studies Centre, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Biden easily wins Super Tuesday after strong comeback in past few days



AAP/EPA/Etienne Laurent

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Fourteen states held Democratic primaries on Tuesday US time. Joe Biden is likely to win ten of those states, to four wins for Bernie Sanders. Biden crushed Sanders by 47 points in Alabama, 30 points in Virginia, 19 in North Carolina, 18 in Arkansas, 17 in Tennessee and 13 in Oklahoma.

Biden had surprise wins in Minnesota (nine points over Sanders) and Massachusetts. That is Elizabeth Warren’s home state, but she finished third, with Biden winning 33%, Sanders 27% and Warren just 22%. Biden won Texas by 4%, and is likely to win Maine.

Sanders won just three states: his home state of Vermont (by 29 points), Utah (by 17) and Colorado (by 13). Sanders is likely to win California, where he currently has a nine-point lead. Many more votes remain to be counted in California, Utah and Colorado, and these votes could assist Sanders. Particularly in California, later votes trend left.

A few days before Super Tuesday, it had looked so different. Even though Sanders had only about 30% of the national vote, that appeared enough for a large delegate plurality against a divided field. So how did Biden come back so strongly?

On Saturday, Joe Biden crushingly won the South Carolina primary with 48.4%. Bernie Sanders was a distant second with 19.9%, followed by Tom Steyer at 11.3%, Pete Buttigieg 8.2%, Elizabeth Warren 7.1% and Amy Klobuchar just 3.2%. According to exit polls, black voters made up 56% of the electorate, and voted for Biden by 61-17 over Sanders.

After disappointing results in two diverse states – Nevada and South Carolina – Buttigieg ended his campaign the next day. Buttigieg is the first candidate to leave while still polling over 10% nationally. On Monday, Klobuchar also withdrew, and she and Buttigieg endorsed Biden at a rally.

In the 2016 Democratic primaries, Sanders came unexpectedly close to Hillary Clinton. However, this was partly due to Clinton’s lack of appeal to lower-educated whites, something that Donald Trump exploited in the general election.

Once Klobuchar and Buttigieg withdrew, Biden was able to consolidate the vote of Clinton’s supporters: higher-educated whites and black voters. Biden has a stronger appeal to lower-educated whites than Clinton. So once moderates consolidated behind one candidate, that candidate was able to dominate.

After spending a huge amount of money on Super Tuesday ads, Mike Bloomberg bombed. He did not come close to winning a single state, finishing third or worse in all states contested.

According to the delegate count at The Green Papers, Biden now leads Sanders by 497 to 395, with 65 for Bloomberg and 47 for Warren. Biden leads the overall popular vote by 35.1% to 27.3%. There are many more contests to come, starting with six states next Tuesday that account for 9% of delegates, but Biden is clearly in the box seat to win at least a plurality of all pledged delegates.

Israel and Germany

At Monday’s Israeli election, right-wing parties won 58 of the 120 seats (up three since the September 2019 election) and left-wing parties 55 (down two). Netanyahu’s coalition will be three seats short of a majority. This election was the third in a year after no government could be formed following April and September 2019 elections.

On my personal website, I covered the February German political crisis in Thuringia, in which the far-right AfD and conservative CDU supported a small pro-business party’s leader to become state president. It is the first time that any German party has cooperated with the AfD to form government.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison’s approval ratings crash over bushfires in first 2020 Newspoll; Sanders has narrow Iowa lead



Anthony Albanese led Scott Morrison 43-39 as preferred prime minister in the first Newspoll of the new year.
Marc Tewksbury/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

In the first Newspoll of the new year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ratings have tanked as a result of his handling of the bushfire crisis.

The Newspoll, conducted January 8-11 from a sample of 1,500 people, gave Labor a 51-49 lead on a two-party preferred basis, a three point gain for Labor since the last Newspoll in early December.

Primary votes were 40% Coalition (down two points), 36% Labor (up three), 12% Greens (up one) and 4% One Nation (down one).

Morrison also suffered a drop in his job performance rating, with 37% saying they were satisfied, down eight points from early December, and 59% saying they were dissatisfied, up 11 points.

His net approval was -22, down 19 points since December. Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval, meanwhile, improved ten points to +9.

Albanese also led Morrison 43-39 as preferred PM, a reversal of Morrison’s 48-34 lead in December. Apart from Morrison’s first Newspoll as PM following the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull in August 2018, this is the first time an opposition leader has led the incumbent PM on this measure since Tony Abbott was in office.

The bushfire crisis almost certainly explains the crash in Morrison’s ratings, but will this be sustained? As memories of a key event fade, people tend to move back to their previous positions.

US Democratic primary polls: Sanders has narrow Iowa lead

As the US Democratic primaries and caucuses are about to begin, here are the latest polls from the US.

Three weeks before the February 3 Iowa caucus, the highly regarded Selzer Iowa poll, conducted for CNN and the Des Moines Register, has shown Bernie Sanders with a slight lead in the state.

Sanders was at 20% in the poll (up five points from November), Elizabeth Warren 17% (up one), Pete Buttigieg 16% (down nine), Joe Biden 15% (steady), Amy Klobuchar 6% (steady) and Andrew Yang 5% (up two).

No other candidate had more than 3%. The poll was conducted January 2-8 from 701 likely caucus attendees.




Read more:
Buttigieg surges to clear lead in Iowa poll, as Democrats win four of five US state elections


The last Selzer Iowa poll had Buttigieg ahead at 25%, but he is down to third place in the new poll. After the last poll, there was much media attention on the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, but he failed to catch on nationally. This failure has probably contributed to loss of enthusiasm in Iowa.

There are four early state primary contests: Iowa, New Hampshire (February 11), Nevada (February 22) and South Carolina (February 29). Fifteen states and territories then vote on March 3, otherwise known as Super Tuesday, when 36% of the total delegates will be awarded. This date could be decisive to determining who will be the nominee.

As I have written previously, the two states at the top of the calendar, Iowa and New Hampshire, are largely comprised of white voters. As such, they do not represent the diversity of the Democratic electorate.

Biden is doing far better with black voters, who made up 61% of the South Carolina Democratic primary electorate in 2016.

A recent poll of black voters nationally gave a Biden a huge lead with 48%, with Sanders on 20% and nobody else in double digits.

Sanders and Warren, the two most left-wing candidates, are leading in the latest Iowa poll. One explanation is that Iowa is a caucus, not a primary. Caucuses are conducted by the parties and are time-consuming affairs that require voters to attend meetings where supporters make their case for candidates.




Read more:
US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


Primaries, meanwhile, are managed by the state’s electoral authority and operate like normal elections. As a result, caucuses have far lower turnout rates than primaries, and are more likely to be influenced by party activists.

In the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Sanders performed far better than Hillary Clinton in caucus states, while Clinton performed better in most primary states.

The bad news for Sanders and Warren is that Democrats strongly encouraged states to use primaries this year. After Iowa and Nevada (February 22), only one state uses a true caucus, while four others have a party-run primary.

According to New York Times analyst Nate Cohn, 14% of pledged delegates were awarded by caucuses in 2016; this year only 3% will be. Left-wing candidates are most likely to be hurt by this change.

National Democratic polls and polls of other early states

The most recent RealClearPolitics national Democratic poll average has Biden leading with 29.3%, with Sanders at 20.3%, Warren 14.8%, Buttigieg 7.5%, Michael Bloomberg 5.8% and Yang 3.5%.

In New Hampshire, the RCP polling average has Sanders leading with 21.5%, followed by Biden at 18.8%, Buttigieg 18.3% and Warren 14.8%.

In Nevada, the only poll conducted in January has Biden at 23%, Sanders 17% and Warren and Tom Steyer both at 12%. And in South Carolina, the only January poll conducted had Biden in the lead at 36%, with Steyer in a surprise second at 15%.

The last Democratic presidential debate before voting begins will be held on Tuesday night at Drake University in Iowa. Six candidates have qualified. There will be three more debates in February.

US jobs still good, but wage growth down

In December, the US economy added 145,000 jobs. While this is down from 256,000 in November, it is still a good performance.

However, hourly wages grew only by three cents in December, and the annual hourly wage growth increased by just 2.9% – the first time it has been below 3% since July 2018.

We do not yet have the inflation report for December, but inflation increased 0.7% in October and November. Higher inflation undermines wage growth.

The US uses two surveys for its jobs reports. The number of jobs gained and wage growth are based on an establishment survey, while other statistics are based on a household survey. In December, the household survey was steady for the three most important indicators: unemployment at 3.5%, labour participation rate at 63.2% and employment population ratio at 61.0%.

The strong jobs reports and the fact the Dow Jones surged to near 29,000 are good news for President Donald Trump. The economy represents Trump’s best chance of re-election in November.

Trump’s ratings and head-to-head polls

With all polls, the FiveThirtyEight aggregate has Trump’s ratings at 41.8% approve, 53.5% disapprove, for a net approval of -11.7%. With polls of likely or registered voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.9% approve, 53.0% disapprove (net -10.1%).

In mid-December, Trump’s ratings rose to their highest since the very early days of his presidency. His ratings have since fallen by two to three net points since then, perhaps owing to the conflict with Iran.

In the most recent national head-to-head election polls, Biden led Trump by 4.5% in the RealClearPolitics average, Sanders led Trump by 2.6%, Trump led Warren by 0.2% and Trump led Buttigieg by 1.2%.

These polls were taken in early to mid-December, when Trump’s ratings were at their peak.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Trump could win again despite losing popular vote, as Biden retakes lead in Democratic polls



Despite poor polling and an impeachment inquiry, Donald Trump has a reasonable chance of being elected again.
AAP/EPA/Mark Lyons

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

A year away from the November 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump has a 41.4% approval, 54.6% disapproval rating with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate. His net approval is -13.2%, down 0.8% since my October 10 article.




Read more:
Trump’s ratings slightly down after Ukraine scandal as Warren surges to tie Biden in Democratic polls


With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s approval is 42.4% and his disapproval 54.6%, for a net approval of -12.2%, down 0.7% since October 10.

In the FiveThirtyEight tracker, 47.5% support actually removing Trump from office by impeachment and 45.7% are opposed (47.4-44.7 support four weeks ago).

On October 31, the Democrat-controlled House officially voted to begin an impeachment inquiry by 232-196. As I said previously, while the house will very probably impeach Trump, the Senate is very unlikely to reach the two-thirds majority required to remove him.

In national general election polling against the three leading Democrats, Trump trails Joe Biden by 10.2% in the RealClearPolitics average (7.4% on October 10). He trails Elizabeth Warren by 7.3% (4.5% previously) and Bernie Sanders by 7.9% (5.2%).

How the Electoral College could save Trump again

To win the presidency, a candidate needs at least 270 Electoral College votes. The 538 total Electoral Votes (EVs) are apportioned winner-takes-all by state with two minor exceptions. Each state’s EVs is the sum of its house seats (population-based) and senators (always two).

While Trump’s national ratings and general election match-ups are poor, a poll of the six closest 2016 Trump states gives him a real chance. In this Siena College poll for The New York Times of the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina, Trump trails Biden by two points overall, is tied with Sanders and leads Warren by two.

In 2016, Trump won these six states collectively by two points. Despite losing the national popular vote by 2.1%, Trump exceeded the magic 270 Electoral Votes when he won Wisconsin by 0.8%, so the difference between the national vote and the “tipping-point” state was 2.9%.




Read more:
US 2016 election final results: how Trump won


Trump’s 2016 win was a result of strong backing from non-college educated whites, who make up a large share of the population in the mid-west. This poll suggests Trump’s support is holding up with non-college whites. The Democratic vote could be more inefficiently distributed than in 2016.

I do not believe there will be an eight-point difference between the national vote and battleground states, which this poll suggests when compared with current national polls. The Siena poll was taken October 13-25, a better time for Trump nationally. It may also be Republican-leaning.

US economy still good

In the September quarter, US GDP grew at a 1.9% annualised pace. The US reports its quarterly GDP rates as if that quarter’s GDP was the rate for the whole year. To convert to Australian-style GDP rates, divide by four, which means US GDP grew almost 0.5% in the September quarter. This growth rate is moderate. In the June quarter, GDP was up 2.0% annualised.

In the October US jobs report, 128,000 jobs were created and the unemployment rate was 3.6% (up 0.1% since September, but still very low historically). The participation rate increased 0.1% to 63.3% and the employment population ratio was steady at 61.0% – matching September’s highest since December 2008.

In the year to October, hourly wages grew 3.0%, while inflation increased 1.7% in the year to September, so real wages increased 1.3%.

These two economic reports are good news for Trump. If the economy was all-important, Trump would be a clear favourite for re-election. But Trump’s general behaviour has angered many who might otherwise have voted for him based on economic factors.

Trump will need the economy to stay strong until November 2020 to have a realistic chance. It is likely a weak economy is the only thing that would shake Trump’s support with non-college whites.

Biden retakes lead in Democratic polls

Three weeks after the October 15 Democratic debate, Biden leads with 29.7% in the RealClearPolitics average of national Democratic polls, followed by Warren at 20.8%, Sanders at 17.8% and Pete Buttigieg at 6.7%. Nobody else has more than 4%. In the past four weeks, Warren has lost votes to Sanders and Buttigieg, owing perhaps to her difficulties with the Medicare for All policy.

We are now three months away from the first Democratic contest: the February 3 Iowa caucus. In Iowa, Warren has 22.3%, Buttigieg has surged to 17.0%, Biden has 15.7% and Sanders 15.3%. In New Hampshire (February 11), the one poll conducted since the October debate gives Sanders 21%, Warren 18%, Biden 15% and Buttigieg 10%.

Two recent polls in Nevada (February 22) give Biden an eight or ten point lead over Warren. Biden still has a large lead in South Carolina (February 29).




Read more:
US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


The next Democratic debate will be held November 20 with qualifying criteria increased from October; nine candidates have qualified so far. The qualifying criteria will be increased again for the December 19 debate; five candidates have qualified for that debate.

UK general election: December 12

After failing to win parliamentary approval for his Brexit deal in time for the October 31 exit date, Prime Minister Boris Johnson won House of Commons backing for a December 12 election on October 29. The European Union had extended the Brexit deadline to January 31 at parliament’s request.

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on October 29 that Labour’s chances of winning will improve if they can make the election a referendum on Boris Johnson’s deal, which has plenty to attack from a left-wing perspective. Leave was helped by being undefined at the 2016 Brexit referendum, now it is defined.

Canada and other elections

I live-blogged the October 21 Canadian election for The Poll Bludger, in which the centre-left Liberals won a second term, but lost their majority. I also covered the Argentine and Polish elections for The Poll Bludger: a centre-left presidential candidate won in Argentina, and the Law and Justice party retained its lower house majority in Poland.

On my personal website, I wrote about the Greens’ surge at the October 20 Swiss election, where a unique system of executive government is used. Also covered: the left-wing Bolivian president was re-elected for a fourth successive term, the far-right dominated Hungarian local elections despite a setback in Budapest, and the far-right surged in German and Italian October 27 state elections.

Australian Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

In the latest Australian Newspoll, conducted October 17-20 from a sample of 1,634, the Coalition led by 51-49, unchanged since late September. Primary votes were also unchanged, with the Coalition on 42%, Labor 33%, Greens 13% and One Nation 6%.

Scott Morrison’s net approval was +2, down two points. Anthony Albanese’s net approval was -7, down six points. Morrison led Albanese by 47-32 (50-31 previously). Figures from The Poll Bludger.

This Newspoll was the fourth consecutive Newspoll with the Coalition ahead by 51-49. Newspoll’s lack of volatility probably contributed to the poll failure at the May federal election, but this does not appear to have changed.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Warren placed second after Biden, as Trump’s ratings rise. But could the impeachment scandal make a difference?


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Two weeks after the September 12 Democratic presidential debate, Joe Biden continues to lead with 29.0% in the RealClearPolitics Democratic national average, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 21.4%, Bernie Sanders at 17.3%, Pete Buttigieg at 5.8% and Kamala Harris at 5.0%.

No other Democrat candidates have more than 3% support. And the last three polls average to a tie between Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

Since the debate, there have been gains for Biden, Warren and Buttigieg, and a continued slump for Harris. After the first debate on June 26 to 27, Harris surged from about 7% to 15%. Now, she has lost all that support and can no longer be considered a top-tier candidate.




Read more:
US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


The contests that will select the Democratic presidential candidate will be held between February and June 2020, with four states permitted to hold contests in February.

Iowa (February 3) and New Hampshire (February 11) are the first two states, so doing well in one of them is important. To win any delegates, candidates need at least 15% in a particular state or congressional district.

There have been three Iowa polls conducted since the debate, including one by the highly regarded Selzer poll. The RealClearPolitics average shows Warren surging into the Iowa lead with 23.0%, followed by Biden at 20.3%, Sanders 12.0%, Buttigieg 11.3% and Harris 5.3%. The one post-debate poll in New Hampshire also has Warren leading with 27%, followed by Biden at 25%, Sanders 12% and Buttigieg 10%.

Biden is disadvantaged in Iowa and New Hampshire because these states’ populations are almost all white. CNN analyst Harry Enten says Biden’s strongest support comes from black voters.




Read more:
In the Democrats’ bitter race to find a candidate to beat Trump, might Elizabeth Warren hold the key?


In South Carolina, where black voters made up 61% of the 2016 Democratic primary electorate according to exit polls, Biden leads by over 20 points, though none of those polls were taken since the debate. South Carolina votes on February 29.

The next Democratic debate will be on October 14, with the same rules for participation as in the September debate. At least two more candidates will qualify, and this will mean a two-night debate with the 12 candidates split over these nights. The participation threshold has been increased for November and further debates.

Trump’s ratings rise, likely due to the economy

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings are currently 42.9% approve, 52.8% disapprove (that equates to a net -9.9%) with all polls.




Read more:
Trump trails leading Democrats by record margins, plus Brexit latest and the LNP leads in Queensland


With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 43.8% approve, 52.1% disapprove (net -8.3%). Trump’s approval has not been higher since November 2018. But since my September 5 article on the polls, Trump’s net approval has risen about three points.

In August, there were prominent predictions of a recession, and the Dow Jones tanked. In September, there has been far less recession talk, and the Dow recovered its August losses. The economy likely explains the recovery in Trump’s ratings.

Will Trump’s ratings take damage from the impeachment controversy?

On September 24, Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry over allegations Trump attempted to get incriminating material on Biden from the Ukraine, including by threatening to withhold funds.

The next day, a White House memo of Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy showed Trump asked for “a favour”, and for Zelenskiy to “look into” Biden.

I do not believe this affair will do lasting or serious damage to Trump’s ratings: the better-educated voters already detest him, and the lower-educated will be far more concerned with the economy.

Removing a president from office requires a majority in the House and a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Democrats control the House, but Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority. So there is very little chance of Trump being removed before the November 2020 election.

In RealClearPolitics averages, Trump trails Biden by 7.7 points (9.9 points in my September 5 article). He trails Warren by 4.0 (4.1 previously) and Sanders by 4.8 (6.0).

Biden’s electability argument is enhanced by these figures. The pro-Trump Rasmussen polling company showed Trump leading Biden by four, but did not poll other match-ups. Without this Rasmussen poll, Biden would be placed 10.0 points ahead.

Why is Biden doing much better against Trump than other Democrats?

I think a key reason is he sometimes says things that are not politically correct, which the media construe as gaffes.

But those with a lower level of education are very dubious about the values of the “inner city elites”. Saying things the elite disagree with probably makes some Trump 2016 voters more comfortable supporting Biden than Warren.

There have been four major upsets in the US, UK and Australia in the last three years: the June 2016 Brexit referendum, Trump’s November 2016 victory, the UK Labour surge that produced the current hung parliament in June 2017, and the Australian Coalition’s triumph in May 2019.

My theory is the Remain campaign, Hillary Clinton and Australian Labor performed worse than expected because they were all seen as too close to the “inner city elites”.

In contrast, UK Labour adopted a pro-Brexit position before the 2017 election, and this assisted them as they were not seen as serving elite opinion.

To win elections, perhaps the left needs to break free of elite opinion in ways that do not compromise its core agenda.

UK Supreme Court rules prorogation unlawful

On September 24, the UK Supreme Court – the highest UK court – ruled the prorogation of parliament was illegal. The House of Commons resumed sitting the next day. Had parliament still been prorogued, the Commons would not have sat until October 14.

With both parliament and the courts hostile to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it is unlikely he can deliver Brexit by October 31 as he has promised.

As I wrote for The Poll Bludger in mid-September, parliament bears a large portion of responsibility for the Brexit shambles as it can only agree to procrastinate. It cannot agree to any method to resolve Brexit.

Israel, Austria, Portugal, Poland and Canada elections

I recently wrote for The Poll Bludger about the September 17 Israeli election results and said it is unlikely anyone can form a government. I also wrote about upcoming elections in Austria (September 29), Portugal (October 6), Poland (October 13) and Canada (October 21).
All these countries except Canada use proportional representation, while Canada uses first-past-the-post after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wimped on electoral reform after winning the October 2015 election.

Australian Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

In the last Newspoll, conducted September 5-8 from a sample of 1,660, the Coalition led by 51-49, unchanged since mid-August.

Primary votes were 43% Coalition (up one), 35% Labor (up one), 12% Greens (up one and their best in Newspoll since March 2016) and 5% One Nation (up one).

Scott Morrison’s net approval was +10, up four points, while Anthony Albanese slumped into negative net approval at -5, down 12 points. Morrison led as better PM by 48-28 (48-30 previously). Figures from The Poll Bludger.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

In the Democrats’ bitter race to find a candidate to beat Trump, might Elizabeth Warren hold the key?



She’s sitting third on the list of Democratic nomination contenders, but might Elizabeth Warren ultimately be the person to beat Donald Trump?
EPA/AAP/Craig Lassig

Dennis Altman, La Trobe University

Conservative former congressman Joe Walsh recently announced he would challenge Donald Trump for the Republican Party’s 2020 Presidential nomination.

Challenging an incumbent president is not new: both Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter faced very significant challenges when they sought a further term. But Trump’s hold on Republicans suggests that no challenge is likely to succeed.

For the Democrats, however, the race to oppose Trump is now wide open and bitter.

The American political system allows participation through primary elections in ways unknown in our tightly controlled party system.




Read more:
Two dozen candidates, one big target: in a crowded Democratic field, who can beat Trump?


Millions of voters take part in choosing the candidate of their party. This can have strange consequences; some of Bernie Sanders’ supporters were so disaffected by the nomination of Hillary Clinton that perhaps 10% of them voted for Trump.

Candidates must damage their opponents without providing ammunition that can be used against their party in the November elections.

Presidential primaries stretch across the first half of 2020. These include several key contests determined by caucuses, which involve actual attendance for several hours to register one’s choice. Because Iowa traditionally leads off, huge attention is paid to the results there.

Iowa is a state with a population of just over 3 million, and is far whiter than the United States. Its caucuses are followed by three other small states: New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which between them start to look like the country as a whole.

Every Democratic candidate is spending time and resources in the early states, with teams of volunteers criss-crossing the small towns of Iowa and New Hampshire and wooing minority communities in Nevada (Hispanic) and South Carolina (African-American).

By the end of February, expect the field to have shrunk from the current dozen or so serious contenders to about half that number. On March 3 comes a slew of votes across 16 states, including California and Texas. The results that day will either produce a clear front runner or a dogged three-way fight lasting three more months.

One of the oddities of the Democratic race so far is that the two leading candidates and the incumbent president are all white men in their seventies, well past the accepted American retirement age.

The two best known Democratic contenders are Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, who cover the ideological spectrum of the Democratic Party: Sanders on the left and Biden on the right. Both entered the race with considerable money and name recognition, and both have started slipping in the polls as younger candidates have gained attention.

Some current polls now place Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as equalling their support. Warren shares some of Sanders’ radical positions on health care and taxation, but she is careful to not define herself as a socialist, and she has the same grasp of policy as did Hillary Clinton.

Trump would undoubtedly campaign against Warren as another effete east coast liberal, invoking the failure of two previous candidates from Boston, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.

Democrat voters looking for someone younger and different may swing behind Senator Kamala Harris from California, a former Attorney-General who is positioning herself as someone who transcends both racial and gender prejudices.

Kamala Harris is another Democratic runner polling well.
AAP/EPA/Elijah Nouvelage

Polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show Harris and Pete Buttigieg as the only other candidates who consistently poll over 10%. Buttigieg is the unexpected dark horse: gay, young, ex-military and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, which is smaller than Geelong. He far outpolls more experienced candidates – one of them, Kirsten Gillibrand, has already withdrawn.




Read more:
US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


The candidates are united in their dislike of Donald Trump, but this is a battle of egos and ideologies. Do the Democrats seek to win over Trump supporters in key states by appealing to a mythical “centre”? Do they try to win over Republicans, particularly educated women who made up some of the base for their victories in last year’s House of Representatives election? Or do they concentrate on their potential supporters among the young and minority communities who are less likely to vote?

In a country where fewer than 60% of those eligible bother to vote, the last option would seem the most viable, but that requires candidates who can speak to the disinterested and the disenfranchised.

Both racism and sexism played a role in Trump’s victory, and Biden’s current lead in the polls suggests many Democrats feel an older white man is their safest choice. But if the Democrats are to galvanise young and minority voters to turn out they need a candidate who is clearly very different to Trump.

The electoral college system means that winning the popular vote, as Clinton did, does not guarantee victory. In key mid-western industrial states the vote may well be determined by the consequences of Trump’s current economic policies.

Much can change before Democratic supporters start declaring their choice in six months. Several of the also-rans may surprise us; maybe one of the front-runners will drop out.

Were Bernie Sanders to withdraw and throw his support to Elizabeth Warren, she would become the front-runner; it’s less clear where Biden’s supporters would go, but if he polls poorly in February, he is likely to fade away.

At this point in 2015, pundits were predicting a presidential race between Clinton and Jeb Bush, with Clinton favoured to win. Nothing in politics is predictable.The Conversation

Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Biden still leads US Democratic primaries, Trump’s ratings fall slightly after gun massacres, plus Australian preference flows



Joe Biden remains the favourite to win the Democratic nomination.
AAP/EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

After the first Democratic presidential debate on June 25-26, Joe Biden fell in Democratic national presidential polls, and Kamala Harris surged. In the lead-up to the July 30-31 debate, Biden recovered lost support while Harris lost some of her gains.




Read more:
US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


Since the debate, the biggest movement is clear gains for Elizabeth Warren, while Harris has continued to fall. In the RealClearPolitics national Democratic poll average, Biden currently leads with 30.8%, followed by Warren at 18.0%, Bernie Sanders at 16.8%, Harris at 8.3% and Pete Buttigieg at 6.3%. All other candidates are at 2% or less.

As I wrote previously, four states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – hold their primaries or caucuses in February 2020, while all other states need to wait until at least March 2020. So early state polls are important.

In the only poll conducted since the second Democratic debate in Iowa, Biden led with 28%, followed by Warren at 19%, Harris at 11%, Sanders at 9% and Buttigieg at 8%. In New Hampshire, there have been two polls since the debate. One has Biden at 21%, Sanders 17%, Warren 14%, Harris 8% and Buttigieg 6%. The other gives Sanders a lead with 21%, followed by Biden at 15%, Warren 12%, Buttigieg 8% and Harris 7%.

In general election polling, Biden has a high single-digit lead over Donald Trump, Sanders a mid single-digit lead, and both Warren and Harris have low single-digit leads. Biden’s perceived electability is crucial in explaining his continued strong polling, as this tweet from analyst Nate Silver says.

For the next Democratic presidential debate, on September 12, the threshold for participation has been increased. As a result there are likely to be far fewer candidates than the 20 in each of the first two debates.

Trump’s ratings slightly down after gun massacres

On August 3-4, 31 people were murdered in two separate gun massacres in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump’s ratings are slightly down since these massacres. With all polls, Trump’s ratings are 41.9% approve, 53.6% disapprove, for a net approval of -11.7%. With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 42.6% approve, 53.3% disapprove, for a net approval of -10.7%.

Perhaps due to his anti-immigrant rhetoric, Trump’s net ratings have fallen about 1.5 points since my previous article a month ago, and this trend has continued after the massacres.

In the latest US jobs report, the unemployment rate remained at just 3.7% as 164,000 jobs were added in July. These jobs reports have been good news for Trump. I wrote an old but still relevant article on my personal website last year about how the low US participation rate holds down the unemployment rate compared to Australia.

The question that should be asked about Trump is why, given the strong US economic performance, his net approval is well below zero. FiveThirtyEight has historical data from 12 presidents going back to Harry Truman, and Trump’s net approval is only ahead of Jimmy Carter at this point in their presidencies. If there is an economic downturn before the November 2020 general election, Trump is likely to be far more vulnerable.

An economic downturn could occur due to Trump’s trade war with China, or due to a “no-deal” Brexit in the UK. I wrote for The Poll Bludger on August 2 that the UK parliament is running out of options to prevent no-deal, which PM Boris Johnson’s hard “Leave” cabinet suggests he will pursue. In my previous Poll Bludger article on July 23, I talked about Johnson’s crushing victory (66.4-33.6) in a Conservative members’ ballot.

Trump can still win the 2020 election, despite his low approval ratings, if he is able to either demonise his eventual Democratic opponent, or win the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote, as occurred in 2016. However, recent state by state polling has Trump’s net approval below zero in ten states he carried in 2016, and in some of those states his ratings are well below zero.




Read more:
US 2016 election final results: how Trump won


If all the states where Trump’s net approval is currently negative were to go to the Democrat, the Democrat would win the presidency by an emphatic 419-119 votes in the Electoral College.

Australian election preference flows and the first Newspoll

On August 2, the Electoral Commission released data on how every minor party’s preferences flowed between the major parties at the May federal election. The Greens, who won 10.4% of the primary vote, flowed heavily to Labor (82.2%), but Clive Palmer’s UAP (3.4% of the vote) flowed at 65.1% to Coalition, and One Nation (3.1% of the vote) was almost identical in its flow (65.2%). Excluding the Greens, UAP and One Nation, Others preferences were 50.7% to Labor.

Analyst Kevin Bonham says there was barely any increase in the Greens preference flow to Labor since 2016. The Greens flow increased in four states, fell slightly in Queensland, and was weaker in SA as more moderate voters returned to the Greens after the collapse of Centre Alliance.

In 2016, One Nation preferences were just 50.4% to the Coalition, so the Coalition’s flow from One Nation increased almost 15%. In 2013, Palmer’s party preferences were 53.7% to the Coalition, so the UAP’s flow to the Coalition improved 11.4%.

Preference shifts advantaged the Coalition by 0.8% on the national two party vote compared to if no preference shifts had occurred. The Coalition’s overall share of minor party preferences (40.4%) was its best since 2001, when the Greens only had 5%.




Read more:
Difficult for Labor to win in 2022 using new pendulum, plus Senate and House preference flows


In the first Newspoll since the election, the Coalition led by 53-47, from primary votes of 44% Coalition, 33% Labor, 11% Greens and 3% One Nation. Scott Morrison’s ratings were 51% satisfied, 36% dissatisfied, for a net approval of +15, a big improvement from +1 in the final pre-election Newspoll that was biased against the Coalition. Anthony Albanese’s initial ratings were 39% satisfied, 36% dissatisfied. Morrison led by 48-31 as better PM.

This poll was conducted July 25-28 from a sample of 1,600. Bonham says there is no indication in The Australian’s report that anything has changed at Newspoll since the election’s poll failure. As I wrote after the election, there was, and still is, a lack of adequate documentation of Newspoll’s methods.




Read more:
Newspoll probably wrong since Morrison became PM; polling has been less accurate at recent elections


Spain’s Socialists fail to form government

The Spanish Socialists won the April 28 election, but as I wrote on my personal website on August 1, a lack of cooperation between the Socialists and far-left Podemos could mean another election. Also covered: a landslide for former comedian Zelensky’s party in the Ukraine, and the conservatives easily retain their hold over Japan’s upper house.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.