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Friday 3 July 2020

Who will be the next POTUS?

Washington, DC: Following an intense, exhilarating and then exhausting campaign of 18 months, the world awaits the answer to this question, which it will know in a matter of hours. The two candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald John Trump tried to catch up with as many destinations at the hustings as they could at the eleventh hour.

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama campaigned for Clinton while Trump rushed to 5 different States to bolster his chances of getting 270 electoral votes needed to reach the White House. Clinton chose 3 of her 4 stops based on racial demography; these are areas dominated by the Blacks — Michigan, Raleigh and Pennsylvania. Trump visited Raleigh, too, of course. He is expecting a zealous turnout of White voters who lack college degrees who have complained of unemployment caused by immigrants for long.

“The miners are going to come out. The steelworkers who lost their jobs are going to come out. The women are going to come out big,” Trump said Monday.

Obama, campaigning for Clinton, said, “We now have the chance to elect a 45th president who will build on our progress who will finish the job… who is smart, who is steady and who is tested. She will work, she will deliver. She won’t just tweet.”

“This election is on us. It is in our hands,” Michelle Obama said, adding, “If we get out and vote tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will win.”

Trump does not agree, predictably. “Hillary is the face of failure. She’s the face of failure,” Trump said as he rubbished Clinton’s record as the secretary of state and otherwise as a politician.

By the end of yesterday, 42 million Americans had exercised their franchise. Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine voted early in Richmond, Virginia, where the booth opened at 6 am after a midnight poll. As most opinion polls predict a win for the Democrats, owing to 3 – 6 percentage point advantage to Clinton, a local daily informed the people of an early lead taken by Hillary Clinton in the Dixville Notch village of New Hampshire. Trump and his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence reached the State Monday night for a rally in Manchester.

Readers in India, where no preliminary result is available until the counting day, may be surprised to know that it has been announced that the village above, after a midnight poll, has registered 4 votes for Clinton, 2 for Trump, 1 for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 1 person left a note on the ballot that his choice was 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney!

Meanwhile, Obama’s approval ratings soared high suddenly towards the fag end of his tenure to indicate which way the election was headed. There is another indicator. Trump has begun looking for excuses for defeat. The billionaire candidate said if he loses, he “will consider [his campaign] the single greatest waste of time, energy and money”. In North Carolina, he said his transformation of the Republican Party with proposals to restrict immigration and limit free trade would be of no use if he were to be defeated. “Go vote, because, believe me, if we don’t win, all of us, honestly, we’ve all wasted our time,”  Trump said. “They may say good things about us as a movement. It won’t mean a damn thing.”

There is yet another one. Clinton winning Florida, Ohio, North Carolina or Pennsylvania would stop Trump’s march to the presidency. On the other hand, Trump has to win almost all States to be the next President. He tries to sound upbeat at times, however, when he says he has reached here beating 16 rivals in the GOP during the primaries.

Clinton did get a last-minute shot in the arm in the form of a clean chit issued to her by FBI Director James Comey who said he had found nothing objectionable in the emails of an aide of the candidate. The controversy over alleged compromising of national security had led to a less boisterous campaign by the Democrats. Trump narrowed the distance by which Clinton was leading him as a result.

According to Trump, Comey was “obviously under tremendous pressure”. Curiously, the Clinton camp did not like Comey’s work either. Her campaign manager Robby Mook described Comey’s handling of the probe as “bizarre”. Mook said in ABC‘s programme Good Morning America, “I don’t understand why he couldn’t have just looked into the matter and resolved it and not created such a ruckus in the campaign, but we’re just glad in this last day Hillary can get back on the road.”

election-weather-rain4The poll calculations, however, are largely based on the assumption that everybody out of 130 million American voters would cast their respective ballots. The fact is that the voter turnout is often decided by how good the weather is. A survey conducted before Obama was elected for the first time had shown that, in the previous 14 elections, the turnout reduced almost by 1% for every extra inch of rainfall! This weather map published by Quartz marks places that are likely to witness rain during the voting process and, hence, a lower voting percentage.

A relatively warm Florida has witnessed a 35% increase in the turnout over the 2012 numbers, registering votes of about 6 million people. More than 3 million votes were cast in North Carolina.

These vagaries notwithstanding, the two camps are completing all last-minute polling customs. The CBS (during Kevin Can Wait) and NBC (during The Voice), for example, broadcast two-minute promotional videos each by Clinton and Trump, which is a tradition several presidential campaigners have followed in the past.

Released on 4 November, Trump’s video has already registered more than 6 million views. He is heard here pitching for true capitalism with an appeal to the Americans to shun cronyism, monopolies, cartels and other manipulated systems of the economy.

Clinton, who was late in releasing her promo, instead wants a future for America, as though telling the voters implicitly that the United States in the hands of Trump would be dangerous. “Sometimes, when I hear my opponent speak, I don’t recognize the country he’s talking about,” Clinton said at an outdoor rally at the University of Pittsburgh. Her video spoke a similar language.

Elsewhere, against the backdrop of the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Clinton reminded a crowd of tens of thousands what all obnoxious comments Trump had made about women, Latinos, African-Americans and Muslims. One may recall that Trump has clarified that he is sorry for hurting people’s sentiments through “banter” caught in videos released by the Democrats, which date back to a time more than a decade ago when he was not a public figure.

The video has got about half the number of views of Trump’s advertisement on YouTube. Yet, most media houses have reported Clinton’s video first in stories and articles that talk of both. The bias of the news medium is obvious even if one were to factor in the misleading nature of social media.

Despite the scare-mongering by the Clinton camp, the Blacks did not appear anxiously waiting in queues to vote in Florida and Nevada. Hispanics appeared more interested, and that is a morale booster for the Democrats.

A Campaign Finance Institute analysis of Federal Election Commission filings says Clinton has spent $450 million on her campaign, which is double of Trump’s expenditure.

“Hillary Clinton is being protected by a totally rigged system,” Trump told supporters on Monday in Sarasota of Florida. What is this “system” besides the advantage the Obama administration put in place for Clinton which makes it far easier for her than Trump to be the next POTUS?

Five hundred poll watchers from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are monitoring the elections in 67 jurisdictions in 28 States. The department’s lawyers are trying to enforce the federal franchise to ensure every eligible person can vote. This cannot be a rigged system that Trump is apprehensive of.

The experience of the campaign has drained out even the people at large. So much so, the American Psychological Association has advised the citizens to fight stress by following some of its regimes.

But the fatigued electorate shouldn’t take any chances. Their votes will decide not only the next President but also the control of the US Senate and the shape of the Supreme Court. In the term that is closing, the Senate and the House of Representatives are both with the Republicans.

Whoever wins, we will either have the first woman president of the United States or arguably the least experienced politician occupying the most powerful office in the world.

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