NO one really knows where the US presidential election is headed.
Huge numbers of Americans are voting early, or by post.
⚠️ Read our US election live blog for the very latest on the 2020 race to the White HouseRich Americans can afford to vote Biden and if you're poor, it'll be TrumpCredit: AFP - Getty
Democrats have raised and spent vastly more money than Republicans, who in turn have registered many more new voters in the crucial battle-ground states.
So any one of these scenarios is realistic: Biden wins a landslide; Biden wins narrowly; Trump wins narrowly; there’s a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College (which means state delegations in the House of Representatives choose the next president, favouring Trump).
Or perhaps worst of all, the results are close enough in either candidate’s must-win states that we will endure days, weeks, or even months of contentious legal challenges before a winner is declared.
What we can say for sure is that this election is coming down to a choice between style and substance.
Joe Biden’s pitch is simple: Trump is a chaotic maniac who has exhausted everyone with his divisiveness, his contempt for “democratic norms”, his tweets, everything.
It is time, as Biden puts it, for “a return to normalcy”.
Trump, by contrast, is making an argument based on substance. On the pandemic, he stresses his early decision — opposed by Biden as “xenophobic” — to close down travel from China.
Dr Anthony Fauci, seen by many as America’s most trusted medical expert, told a Senate committee that this saved thousands of lives.
Trump also touts his early action on vaccines and treatments as the best way to shorten the life of the pandemic.
LOW DEATH TOLL
In early February he brought together the drug companies, the federal government and the US military in Operation Warp Speed to fast-track a vaccine — and the results have been spectacular.
Most significantly, the experimental monoclonal antibody treatment, which the president took himself (with obvious benefits), will soon be widely available, further reducing the already tiny risk of serious illness from coronavirus.
Even the New York Times’ pandemic editor — no fan of President Trump — recently wrote: “Experts are saying, with genuine confidence, that the pandemic in the United States will be over far sooner than they expected.”
To critics who point to America’s high death toll, the President’s supporters reply: Yes, but where was the death toll highest? In states like New York and New Jersey, run by Democrats.
America’s federal system puts the power over lockdowns, school closures and mask mandates in the hands of state governors.
Florida, run by Republican Trump ally Ron DeSantis, had a much less stringent shutdown than New York and a much lower death toll, despite a much larger and more elderly population.
In the end, the choice on the virus is clear. Trump is firmly on the side of those who think lockdowns have gone on long enough and that, “the cure is worse than the disease”.
Biden’s message is safety first, admitting to an interviewer that he would be prepared to shut down the economy again.
And it is the economy that gives Trump his greatest chance of being re-elected.
In a recent Gallup poll, 56 per cent of Americans said they were better off than four years ago — an astonishing finding considering the devastation of the past eight months.Democrats have raised and spent vastly more money than RepublicansCredit: EPA
Beyond that, the President can legitimately claim that he delivered on his central promise in 2016: Helping those left behind by establishment economics.
More people were in work than at any time in US history, pulling many of the long-term unemployed into the workforce. Average Americans’ household income rose five times more in three years with Trump than under eight years of Obama.
And for the first time in decades, the earnings of the lowest-paid rose faster than those of the rich.
Inequality rose under Obama; with Trump it fell.
It was all the result of the new conservative populism that Trump pioneered: Pro-business on tax and regulation; pro-worker on trade and immigration.
And at a time when we are rightly focused on racial injustice, Trump can point to a string of accomplishments for black and Latin Americans.
Not just the lowest unemployment, lowest poverty and highest home ownership on record, but landmark criminal justice reform, reversing the damaging social effects of the 1994 Crime Bill (led by then Senator Joe Biden, incidentally), which put millions of black men in jail, often for minor offences.
In fact, Trump’s economic and social policy agenda is remarkably similar to the one I argued for when I worked for David Cameron.
Add to all that Trump’s foreign policy successes — peace deals in the Middle East, defusing the North Korea nuclear crisis he inherited and, most importantly, turning around the establishment consensus on China — and Trump has as solid a record going into re-election as any president since at least Ronald Reagan.
The question is: Will these substantive accomplishments, and the promise of more to come, outweigh the importance of Trump’s style in voters’ minds?
One clue may lie in a recent analysis of where Biden’s financial support comes from — the richest postcodes in America.Trump is doing better against Biden than he was against Hillary Clinton in 2016Credit: EPA Biden’s message is safety first, admitting that he would be prepared to shut down the economy againCredit: EPA
Seems that if you already live a comfortable life, you can afford to vote on the basis of style.
But if you are struggling or dream of climbing the ladder of opportunity, it is substance that matters more.
We’ll see which wins out in a week’s time.Steve Hilton is a former adviser to David Cameron and host of The Next Revolution on Fox News.
Trump says Biden has ‘waved a white flag on life’ and is only at 50% mental capacity
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