Disjointed, and ambiguous. That was the story of the night and is this morning what threatens the stability of American Democracy. Joe Biden leads by 13 electoral college votes, with both sides having clear paths to victory with nine states left to declare.
The evening was one of mirages. With Biden taking an early lead in Ohio, only to fall significantly behind Trump once ballots cast on the day had been counted. In Wisconsin and Michigan, Trump leads, but only 81% and 67% of the vote has been counted, and as yet this does not include many of the early postal ballots that will favour Biden.
America’s nightmare of an inconclusive result, with either side being provided with enough support not to concede, has arrived. Donald Trump this morning embarked on the path many feared. One that will challenge the value of democracy before the world, and lead to days of disputed claims of voting fraud, in state and federal courts. An hour ago he said ‘millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people. We won’t stand for it. We want all voting to stop, we will be going to the Supreme Court. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve already won this’.
That is not true. It was always expected that in those states which count postal votes after those cast on the day, Trump would be disproportionately stronger, due to many Republicans distrusting mail-in ballots. Also, there are still enough outstanding votes to flip the lead the President currently has in Pennsylvania and Georgia. Without these two states, he cannot win the election.
Yet such a nightmare scenario has been enabled by an underwhelming performance from Joe Biden. From early on in the evening, it was clear that a blue landslide was not coming. Florida, Texas, and North Carolina all moving towards the Republican column. This was down to a lack of support from mainly Hispanic voters in these two states, with Clinton scoring better numbers in Florida’s urban and Hispanic counties four years ago.
Underlining the disjointedness of the result though, this Hispanic support for the President stopped short of Arizona. Where Biden looks set to score a significant victory, in a largely safe Republican state. The results so far declared, are Trump scoring victories without which he would have no chance of remaining in the White House. They have narrowed Biden’s path to the crucial 270 electoral college votes but have not denied the Democrat the Presidency. This could be Biden moving from landslide territory to a close win.
He can still rely on strong support from the upper Midwestern states. All now rests on whether the outstanding ballots in Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, will be enough to overcome an early Trump lead. This most likely will leave a court case in Pennsylvania, determining the result of the election.
In a country highly divided, after a campaign where the integrity of the election has been challenged, this inconclusive result is a nightmare scenario. That has the potential to inflame tensions, and produce a legal battle like no other, surpassing that which decided the 2000 election between Al Gore and Bush.
But where there is ambiguity across the electoral map, it reveals another Democrat misstep. Biden did not do as well as the polls, his party or the media had expected. Democrats have been caught out again by Donald Trump, and now rely on the postal ballots of mainly white men in the upper Midwest and rust belt states of America. Compared to 2016 Trump has gained support amongst every demographic group except for White Men (Black Men/Women +4, Latino Men/Women +3, White Women +2).
The group so commonly seen as the drivers of Trump’s 2016 victory, are now being relied upon to unseat him from office. In the Primaries, Joe Biden was championed as the candidate most able to win their support. This time though, Democrats are also likely to need the power of the court, to ensure these votes are counted.