Joe Biden’s task seems obvious enough. He must win back a decent number of the long-term Democrats who backed Donald Trump four years ago. If he does that, he will become President. If he doesn’t, he will lose.
In fact, that’s not quite right. It is perfectly possible for Trump to retain all the support he secured in 2016 and Joe Biden to win. Indeed, Trump could add win one million — and conceivably two million — more votes than last time and still lose. As for Biden, it would obviously help to persuade last-time Trump supporters to switch sides; but it’s not necessary.
As we approach Labour Day and the unofficial start of the final, hectic race to election day, let’s crunch the numbers. For the contest is not as straightforward as it looks.
In 2016, Clinton won 48 per cent of the national vote, while Trump won 46 per cent. Six per cent voted for other candidates. This “other” block was well above the recent norm. In each of the three previous presidential elections, “other” candidates won less than two per cent of the vote between them. The latest polling evidence suggests that this year’s election will see the “other” total fall back again.
What does this mean for the Trump-Biden contest? Here are two assumptions: