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.




Read more:
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.




Read more:
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.




Read more:
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.

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.

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.

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


Brendon O’Connor, University of Sydney and Dan Dixon, University of Sydney

An unprecedented 24 Democrats are currently running to be their party’s 2020 presidential nominee. Why are so many well-qualified, ambitious and smart people in the race?

The answer is Trump. The triumphant Democrat will face a president who was elected in 2016 with a historically high unfavourability rating, and the party is hoping this could mean an easy path to victory. In fact, many potential Democratic candidates are already significantly outpolling Trump.

In addition, those running view Trump as an existential threat to America, which means their candidacy can be spun as a calling rather than a career move.

On top of Trump’s ignorance, misogyny and frequent lying, he is despised by Democrats for his cruel immigration policies, loosening of environmental regulations, tax cuts for the wealthy, appointment of conservative anti-abortion judges, and habitual praise for dictators.




Read more:
Math explains why the Democrats may have trouble picking a candidate


Yet despite his policies and character, the president could well be re-elected. As Hillary Clinton discovered, running against Trump has its challenges. His attack-based, fear-mongering style is more electorally effective than many would hope.

Pundits frequently write about the loyalty of Trump’s base – rusted-on Republicans and whites without college degrees. However, Harvard voting data suggests that, in key swing states, registered independents and self-described moderates switched parties or turned out to deliver Trump victory.

So many Democrats are running for the nomination, the field was split in two for the first debate.
Giorgio Viera/EPA

The leader: Biden

Last week, we saw the 2020 election season officially kick off, with two televised debates featuring ten Democratic candidates apiece. But while the stages were packed, only a few candidates seem to have a genuine chance of taking out Trump: former Vice President Joe Biden; senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris; and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Currently, Biden is well ahead in the polls. He also claims to be the most “electable” Democrat in the field. However, primary voting does not start until February, and early leads can evaporate between the first debate and the first vote.

And since May, Biden’s polling average has declined from around 41% to 31%, according to an average of eight major polls. Right now, he’s riding name recognition and the warm glow of association with still-popular former President Barack Obama.

Joe Biden suddenly finds himself in unfamiliar territory as the front runner.
Tannen Maury/EPA

We’re particularly cautious about Biden’s chances, because when he campaigned to be president in 1987-88 and 2007-08, he was unimpressive. The former vice president remains notoriously gaffe-prone and his speech-making abilities are middling. In 2006, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote:

The only thing standing between Joe Biden and the presidency is his mouth.

Biden’s policy record is also full of controversial positions that are already being challenged. He supported the 2003 Iraq War, has a long-standing record of opposition to the federal funding of abortion clinics, and has been notoriously tough on urban crime. He also has a history of being on the side of financial institutions, backing a bankruptcy bill that was supported by credit card companies.

But in the race, Biden will look to highlight some of his positive policy achievements, such as his advocacy for landmark 1994 Violence Against Women Act and his involvement in promoting global poverty alleviation goals through proposed bills such as the 2007 Global Poverty Act.

The progressives: Warren and Sanders

Biden’s career of centrism and bipartisanship contrasts starkly to those of Sanders and Warren, his two closest competitors. Warren has been steadily improving her position in national polls in recent months, as Sanders’ has slightly declined – Sanders now averages around 17% of Democratic primary voters and Warren 13%.

Both have staked out left-of-centre policies the like of which have not been prominent in American presidential campaigns since the beginning of the Cold War. They support a progressive tax code and higher minimum wage. Both want to significantly cut US defence spending and curtail America’s overseas military involvements. Addressing climate change is also a priority.




Read more:
Democrats should avoid pledges to overturn the Trump revolution – there hasn’t been one


They have shifted the tone. Conversations about decriminalising illegal immigration to the US, expanding Medicare to all Americans, and cancelling more than a trillion dollars in student debt – all unthinkable in mainstream American politics even three years ago – are suddenly being taken seriously.

Why has America arrived at a moment where progressive policies are popular and it is conceivable Sanders or Warren could become the next US president?

The short answer is that status quo politics and economics have failed many Americans and the nation seems open to new solutions. Those “solutions” might still look like Trump, but they might also take the form of leftist policies that have long been considered irrelevant or unrealistic.

In the past, the Democrats have offered younger voters a less moralistic and more inclusive form of capitalism. Sanders and Warren, in particular, are now promising a social democratic vision that is far easier to communicate to the electorate than the complicated social policies promoted by the Clintons.

Gaining ground: Harris and Buttigieg

Harris and Buttigieg both sit to the left of Biden, but to the right of Sanders and Warren. Harris performed especially well in the debate – she effectively attacked Biden’s political history, and used her own past as a prosecutor to push for a ban on assault weapons. After the debate, one poll showed her moving from 6%-12% among Democratic voters.

Harris’ own history as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general, however, could prove a weakness, particularly in an environment where candidates are being challenged on progressive terms. In January, a New York Times op-ed argued that, when in power, Harris failed to push criminal justice reform and worked to uphold wrongful convictions.

A debate clash with Biden helped raise Kamala Harris’ profile among voters.
Etienne Laurent/EPA

Buttigieg is attempting to stake out the ground of the “scholar politician,” echoing Obama’s Ivy League credentials. He’s a graduate of Harvard and Oxford, and reportedly speaks seven languages. He also served in the US military and would be the first openly gay presidential nominee.

Popular among progressives, Buttigieg has made electoral reform a central policy platform – supporting abolishing the electoral college and introducing automatic voter registration – and has called for restructuring the Supreme Court to enshrine political balance.




Read more:
Fighting words for a New Gilded Age – Democratic candidates are sounding a lot like Teddy Roosevelt


Among the challenges confronting Buttigieg is his response to the shooting of a black man by a police officer in his city, South Bend. At the Democratic debate, he was asked why he has been unable to improve African-American representation on the city’s police force. Buttigieg responded, “Because I couldn’t get it done”.

As the campaign wears on, we will likely see increasingly heated debate among the winnowing field, with any weakness that puts a candidate at risk of being defeated in the presidential race ruthlessly confronted and thoroughly interrogated.

As we approach February 2020, when the first votes are cast in the Iowa caucuses, the Democrats will continue to go through an existential struggle between those who believe the time has come for fundamental social reform, and those who believe such a platform would make a candidate un-electable, even against Trump.The Conversation

Brendon O’Connor, Associate Professor in American Politics at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney and Dan Dixon, Research Assistant at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney

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

The US midterms show the power of Trump’s divisive messages



File 20181107 74775 lmzbfz.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Ted Cruz held off a spirited challenge from Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke to help the Republicans hold onto the Senate in a big night for the GOP.
Michael Wyke/EPA

Timothy J. Lynch, University of Melbourne

The good news if you don’t like US President Donald Trump: he has less than 24 months remaining in his first term in office. The bad news: he now looks to have a better chance at staying in office until 2025.

This year’s midterm elections broke for Trump much more than expected. The Republicans maintained their control of the Senate, picking up key victories in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. And though the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives, as expected, this is not the counter-revolution they were hoping for.

It is not a Trump wave, but it has confirmed the president’s staying power. Love him or hate him, he remains a remarkable political phenomenon.




Read more:
Calculating the odds of a Trump impeachment: don’t bet the house on it


Some key takeaways from the midterm elections:

Scaring people worked: The Republicans not only held onto power in the Senate, they seem likely to have increased their slim majority in the chamber. Importantly, there will be more Trump Republicans in the Senate.

Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, such as his pledge to secure the border against an “invading caravan” of Central American migrants, worked as a get-out-the-base strategy. While Democrats enjoyed a surge in turn-out, Republican voters also did not stay home.

And several winning Republican candidates, like Mike Braun in Indiana, ran hard on Trump themes like immigration. Their victories show how much Trump’s control of the GOP has increased.

Trump for president in 2020: Trump looks to be in a better position for re-election than many commentators had believed.

The Democrats did take back the House, but that is par for the course in midterm elections. What’s more telling is that they did not invade Trump territory – the deep-red parts of the South, Midwest and Rust Belt – in any substantial way. Winning control of the House could make life difficult for Trump, but the Democrats cannot remove him from office without a sizeable majority in the Senate – which seems a world away.

Also, the midterms should make it a near-certainty that no serious Republican will challenge Trump for the presidential nomination in 2020. He has proven once again that he is an impressive electoral campaigner with a crude but effective grasp of strategy.

Democrats celebrated retaking the House, but they failed to make huge in-roads in ‘Trump country’.
Erik S. Lesser/EPA

There was a Brett Kavanaugh effect: The highly contentious nomination battle over Trump’s Supreme Court pick seems to have energised his base more than the Democrats’. The Democrats in red states who voted against Kavanaugh lost their re-election bids – Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.

Meanwhile, the only Democrat to vote to confirm Kavanaugh – Senator Joe Manchin – won his race in predominantly Republican West Virginia.




Read more:
The US midterm elections are being billed as a referendum on Trump, but it’s not that simple


There is not a Democratic messiah in waiting: Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke looked like he might be this figure – a person to energise the party much the way then-Senator Barack Obama did in 2008 – but O’Rourke lost his race against incumbent Ted Cruz, despite a very tight contest. Democrats still need a platform that is about more than “Stop Trump.”

Beto O’Rourke would have been the first Democratic senator elected in Texas since 1988.
Larry W. Smith/EPA

It is a year of the woman – but not just progressive women: A record number of women (260) ran for Congress this year. Early results suggest that many white, female voters who backed Trump in 2016 went for Democratic candidates this time around, reflecting the salience of healthcare as a key election issue for Democrat voters.

But not all winning female candidates in the midterms were Democrats. Marsha Blackburn, a staunch Trump supporter and demoniser of the Central American migrant caravan, won the race for the open Senate seat in Tennessee.

Hispanics remain a key demographic: Trump was widely condemned for his anti-Hispanic immigrant stance in midterm campaigning. The paradox is that the more Republicans can appeal to Hispanics, the more likely they are to win next time.

According to exit polls, the Republicans look set to win less than 30% of Hispanic votes in the midterms, compared to nearly 45% captured by Republican George W. Bush in 2004. If they are able to increase this margin to between 35 to 40%, this might be enough to turn purple states like Florida and Nevada reliably red.




Read more:
Unlike in 2016, there was no spike in misinformation this election cycle


There is a lot of purple out there: Americans still rather like split-ticket voting, meaning they are fine voting for different parties on the same ballot. This makes the notion of exclusively red and exclusively blue states an exaggeration.

For example, Democratic candidates picked up governorships in traditionally Republican states, such as Laura Kelly’s win in Kansas over Kris Kobach, a hard-line, anti-immigrant Trump ally. And Republicans won several governor races in traditionally Democratic New England.

Laura Kelly’s gubernatorial win in Kansas was a bright spot for the Democrats.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Florida has retained its centrality to US electoral politics: The state remains essentially impossible to call. Polling trends were again defied on election day, with losses by Democrats Bill Nelson for Senate and Andrew Gillum for governor. As purple a state as they come, Florida could well determine the next several presidential elections.

The bottom line after the midterms is that Trump is here to stay. And though the Democrats now control the House, this has just offered him a foil – an institution to define himself against – as he moves toward re-election in two years time.The Conversation

Timothy J. Lynch, Associate Professor in American Politics, University of Melbourne

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

Democrats take House at US midterm elections, but Republicans keep Senate; Labor well ahead in Victoria



File 20181107 74754 100vysb.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Democrats celebrate as the US mid-term results come in.
AAP/EPA/Erik S. Lesser

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

US midterm elections were held today. All 435 House seats and 35 of the 100 Senators were up for election. Democrats were defending 26 Senators, including some states that Trump won by big margins in 2016, and Republicans just nine.

Democrats won the House, regaining control of a chamber they lost at the 2010 midterms. They currently have a 218-192 seat lead over the Republicans, with 25 races uncalled, and have gained a net 26 seats. Democrats lead the House popular vote by 50.7-47.6, but this gap will widen as more Californian votes are counted over the coming weeks.

The New York Times House forecast currently gives Democrats a predicted final majority of 229-206 and a popular vote margin over the Republicans of 7.1%. Expectations were that Democrats needed to win the House popular vote by six to seven points to win control, owing to Republican gerrymandering and the concentration of Democratic votes in urban areas.

In the Senate, Republicans hold a 51-45 lead over Democrats, with four races uncalled. They gained Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota. Indiana and Missouri voted for Trump by 18-19 points in 2016, and North Dakota by 37 points. However, Republicans missed out in West Virginia, which voted for Trump by 42 points. West Virginia’s Senator, Joe Manchin, is a more conservative Democrat. The Democrats gained Nevada, somewhat compensating for losses.

The most disappointing Senate result for Democrats is likely to be Florida, which voted for Trump by just 1.2 points. But Republican Rick Scott, the current Florida governor, currently leads incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by 50.2-49.8, with few votes outstanding. Strong rural turnout for the Republicans, and lack of turnout from Democratic-favouring Hispanics, was probably responsible for this result.

A Senate byelection in Mississippi used a “jungle primary” format, where all candidates, regardless of party, run on the same ballot paper. If nobody wins a majority, the top two proceed to a runoff. The Republicans will almost certainly win this seat after the runoff on November 25.

In the Senate, Democrats paid the price for a very strong performance when these seats were last up for election in 2012. Republicans will be defending 22 seats in 2020, and Democrats just 12. As the whole House is up for election, it is a better gauge of popular opinion than the Senate.

Trump’s final pre-election ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate were 41.8% approve, 52.8% disapprove, for a net approval of -11.0. Trump’s approval slipped from 43.1% on October 23, a high he had last reached in March 2017.

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on Saturday that the vitriolic anti-immigrant rhetoric, with which Trump closed the campaign, was likely to be counterproductive in the House, where battleground districts had higher levels of educational attainment. However, the more rural battleground Senate states were easier to win. In my opinion, it would have been better for Trump to focus on the strong US economy in the final stretch.

These results will give Democrats a veto over any legislation proposed by Trump and the Republicans, and they will be able to set up House investigations into Trump. However, the Senate has the sole power to confirm presidential Cabinet-level and judicial appointments. The Supreme Court currently has a 5-4 conservative majority, so Democrats will hope that none of the left-wing judges dies in the next two years.

With four contests uncalled, Republicans led Democrats by 25-21 in state governors, a six seat gain for the Democrats. Governors and state legislatures are important as, in many states, politicians can draw federal boundaries.

Victorian Newspoll: 54-46 to Labor

The Victorian election will be held on November 24. A Newspoll conducted October 24-28 from a sample of 1,092 gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a three-point gain for Labor since April. Primary votes were 41% Labor (up three), 39% Coalition (down two) and 11% Greens (steady). One Nation will not contest the state election.

45% (up two) were satisfied with Premier Daniel Andrews, and 40% (down seven) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +5, up nine points. Opposition Leader Matthew Guy’s net approval was -15, down two points. Andrews led Guy by 45-29 as better Premier (41-34 in April).

Labor led the Liberals by 45-37 on managing Victoria’s economy, a bad result for the Liberals as economic management tends to favour conservatives. Labor also led by 43-32 on maintaining energy supply and keeping power prices lower (42-40 in April). On law and order, a Liberal lead of 46-37 shrunk to just 39-38. Labor led by 33-30 on having the best plan for population growth.

We have had a recent Galaxy poll for the bus association that gave Labor a 53-47 lead. This Newspoll adds to the impression that Labor is pulling away, and should win the election easily.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.