The knife-edge election
The spectre of protracted legal battles and civil unrest hung over America this week as it sought to establish the result of an unexpectedly close presidential election. Democrats had hoped for a decisive win by Joe Biden, who enjoyed a solid poll lead during the campaign. But these hopes evaporated on election night when Donald […]

The spectre of protracted legal battles and civil unrest hung over America this week as it sought to establish the result of an unexpectedly close presidential election. Democrats had hoped for a decisive win by Joe Biden, who enjoyed a solid poll lead during the campaign. But these hopes evaporated on election night when Donald Trump, buoyed by support from Hispanic voters, won the key states of Florida, Ohio and Texas. The final result looked set to be decided by three Midwest swing states – Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – where votes were still being tallied as The Week went to press.

With millions of these votes still uncounted, President Trump claimed victory on Wednesday morning and accused opponents of trying to steal the election. He said he wanted to stop the counting of votes and put the outcome in the hands of the Supreme Court. More than 100 million voters had cast early ballots, either in person or by post. The total vote was expected to exceed 160 million, a record in absolute terms for the US, and its highest turnout percentage in more than a century.

Whether he succeeds in securing a second term or not, Donald Trump has pulled off another “huge political surprise”, said The Wall Street Journal. The pollsters had expected Biden to win easily. It seems their analyses failed to take proper account of the US economy’s strong performance before the pandemic, which lifted wages for many lowskilled workers. Trump’s late focus on this issue clearly reaped dividends.

The early election results were good for Trump, said The Washington Post. But the final result was always likely to hinge on the large number of postal votes used this year as a result of Covid. It’s outrageous that the president wants to exclude many of these ballots. He claims the counting of votes after election day is “corrupt”, but he’s just worried that most of these votes will be for Biden. Officials mustn’t be cowed by Trump’s “ignorant” assertion that late-counted votes are illegitimate, agreed the LA Times. While it’s not uncommon for media companies to call election results shortly after voting ends, based on exit polls and other data, certification of US elections has always come weeks later, after officials have ensured every ballot has been counted.