Heading to the polls

On the day of the US election Rhodri ab Owen reports on the final days of the campaign.

As millions of Americans today head to the polls, this terribly ugly election cycle has left the country bitterly divided. In Trump and Clinton, the US is effectively left to choose between two polarizing candidates, with record breaking unfavourable ratings. You’ll find little common ground between the supporters of both candidates, other than the fact they can’t wait for the election cycle to be over, moaning that this soap opera has dominated their lives for the past eighteen months.

So who will win today? At the end of October, Hillary Clinton was riding high in the polls and her lifelong ambition was firmly within her grasp. Swing state polls showed her ahead, while polls in deep red states such as Texas and Alaska saw her within striking distance. Hillary was due to win and win big.

Then came the October surprise in the form of a letter from FBI Director, James Comey which reopened the investigation into the former Secretary of State’s use of a private server. The impact of this letter was instantaneous with battleground polls tightening across the country and for the first time since the Democratic National Convention in the summer, Trump overtook Clinton in the national polls. Democrats started to panic and the nervousness is obvious to see amongst rank and file supporters, with many pointing towards Brexit, starting to wonder if the unthinkable might just happen here.

Does this all mean that Trump will be moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January? Of course it is possible for Trump to win today but his path to the White House by gaining those all-important 270 electoral college votes is far narrower than Hillary Clinton’s route. Based on the states leaning or solidly in Clinton’s camp, Donald Trump has to win all of the swing states up for grabs today, whilst Hillary could still become the first female president, even if she lost key states such as Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire to Trump. Going into polling day, Clinton is still the clear front runner and state-wide polling shows her clearly topping 270, even though the nationwide polls and media pundits are indicating something different. She’s starting today looking to pick up 20 electoral college votes to top 270, whilst Trump on the other hand will be looking for 150.

When it comes to the nationwide polls, which has caused so much concern for Democrats over the past week, it is worth noting that in 2012 on the eve of the election, US-wide polls had Mitt Romney ahead or tied to the President, but Obama went on to win a decisive victory. Why? Because the Democrats had worked hard on targeting wavering and undecided voters in key battleground states and ensured that their supporters got out and voted.

Whilst visiting the two battleground states of Virginia and Pennsylvania this past week, it was obvious to see that Clinton has two big advantageous over Trump – money and resource. To begin with, the ground operation Clinton has is impressive and will be vitally important in ensuring people cast their ballots today, whilst Trump has been reluctant to hire staff and open offices. Building on Obama’s success in 2012, the Democrats and the Clinton camp have spent money on sophisticated software which focusses on undecided voters in a dozen or so swing states in a targeted manner. Trump on the other hand has said he’s not interested in data and has not made the same investment. Hillary has clearly also outmanoeuvred Trump when it comes to fundraising, raising a $1billion this election cycle, whilst Trump didn’t even start fundraising until May.

All this gives Hillary Clinton a serious advantage today. The media might like to portray this election as close and tight, but given Clinton already has around 256 electoral college vote chalked up in her column, it is difficult not to see a Clinton back in the White House in January.  

The release of the second Comey statement has also certainly boosted the former Secretary of State’s campaign in the final 48 hours. At the eve of the poll rally in Philadelphia last night, Clinton supporters were fired up by Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, before the Clintons and Obamas came on stage. As Democrats watched the two power couples of the party together, they were confident that both presidents number 42 and 44 were on stage, but also 45th US President.

Rhodri ab Owen is Head of Monitoring for Positif. He is currently on the campaign trail in Washington DC.

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