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Bob Mason
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The Latest Polls

As expected, there was plenty of movement in the FT’s poll tracker this week, with less than 40-days to go.

According to the latest FT’s interactive Calculator and polling data, Presidential hopeful Biden saw his lead narrow, following a marked widening in the week prior.

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The Challenger

In the last week, Biden saw his projected Electoral College vote count slide from 280 as at 17th September.  As at 23rd September, the FT poll tracker had Biden with 255 Electoral College votes. The downward trend had continued from 22nd September when the FT had Biden with 270 votes.

While Biden continues to hold a sizeable lead, the significance of the latest slide is that Biden now comes up short of the magic 270 votes.

It’s worth noting that the FT had Biden with 308 Electoral College votes back on 5th August.

Looking at the breakdown of the votes, it doesn’t get much better.

Biden currently has 203 solid votes and just 67 leaning votes. In fact, Biden has seen his solid vote count hold steady at 203 since a rise from 190 back forecasted back on 20th August.

It is the leaning votes that continue to deliver the movements in the total projections.

Back on 20th August, Biden had 108 leaning votes, falling to just 52 leaning votes as at 23rd September.

More alarmingly, Biden had 120 leaning votes in mid-July, when his total haul was projected to hit 308…

This downward trend suggests that there could be more swings to come and it could go in Trump’s favor.

Incumbent Trump

For the U.S President, the FT projects a haul of 143 Electoral College votes as at 23rd September. This was up from 131 Electoral College votes as at 17th September and up from 122 votes back on 10th September.

While optically these figures can be considered positive, the reality is that Trump has seen his solid vote projection hold steady at 77 recently. Back in mid-July, Trump’s solid vote count had stood at 115, however.

So, the upside has come as a result of a pickup in leaning votes, which stood at 66 as at 23rd September.

As at 17th September, Trump had 54 votes leaning in his favor. Back in mid-July, Trump had just 17 leaning votes.

So, as Election Day draws near, the U.S President is slowly drawing in voters, if the FT tracker is anything to go by. He does sit well short of Biden and the magic of 270, however, needed for a 2nd term.

The Toss-up States

With plenty of jostling going on, it’s worth taking a look at the “Toss-up States”. These are states where the difference in poll numbers between Biden and Trump is less than 5 percentage points.

At the time of writing, the FT projects 140 states sitting on the fence. This was up from 127 back on 17th September and more importantly up from just 98 back in mid-July.

As Trump draws greater interest, the Presidential Election could ultimately be decided by the fence-sitters.  Trump would need pretty much the entire haul, however, to win the election.

That is assuming of course, that he converts leaning votes on the big day.

For Biden, a Texas, Florida, or Pennsylvania win from the Toss-ups would give him the keys to the Oval Office. That is assuming a hold onto the 52 leaning votes on Election Day.

The odds, therefore, look stacked in favor of Biden for now. A Texas, Florida, or Pennsylvania swing to Trump’s favor in the coming weeks would make things interesting, however…

Looking more closely at the “Toss-up States”, there are 9 fence-sitters, which was up from 6 in the week prior.

Amongst the 9 states, there are a number of significant states that both sides will be targeting.

These include Texas (38 E.C votes), Florida (29 E.C votes), Pennsylvania (20 E.C votes), Georgia (16 E.C votes), N. Carolina (15 E.C votes), and Arizona (11 E.C votes).

Back on 17th September, swing state Ohio had sat on the fence. As at 23rd September, however, Ohio has leaned in favour of the U.S President.

Biden, by contrast, saw New Hampshire move to the center. Arizona had briefly veered towards Biden this week before moving back to the center.  The significance of this is that Arizona has largely remained on the fence since mid-July.

Key States

If we look at the key U.S states that tend to be election barometers:

Missouri continues to lean in favor of Trump and the Republicans, with Kansas also leaning in Trump’s favor. The U.S President has lost Iowa to the center, however.

For Biden, Illinois, New Mexico, and Oregon remain solid blues. New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, however, have moved to the center, which is certainly bad news.

So, as things stand, from the swing states that include Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, only Michigan leans in Biden’s favor. The rest are on the fence and up for grabs…

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The Road Ahead

For Biden, it remains an election to lose. For the U.S President, however, there is hope.

One does wonder whether it has been the talk of a COVID-19 vaccine by October that has driven support. It would be hard to imagine a Trump victory, without having COVID-19 under control.

It’s certainly grim reading when seeing the total number of deaths surpass the 200,000 mark. With 7,139,553 new cases at the time of writing, expectations are of new cases to pick up as winter approaches.

That does make the vaccine all the more important. Another need for a widespread lockdown would almost certainly seal Trump’s fate.

This week, we saw Trump attack China at the virtual UN General Assembly. The U.S President called for China to be held accountable for the pandemic. The narrative is unlikely to change ahead of Election Day. For the U.S President, however, the issue remains that he categorized the virus as nothing more than the flue.

It is certainly a tall order to convince the American people that it was entirely China’s fault.

Another key factor will be the economic environment and, more importantly, labor market conditions.

Trump may lay claim to the record highs seen across the U.S equity markets of late. He will not, however, be able to talk of economic prosperity.

Making America Great Again failed at the first time of asking. Ironically, it failed due to Trump’s unwillingness to shut down U.S borders. Protecting U.S interests in trade is one thing. Protecting the U.S from a killer virus is and remains a far more important task…

The U.S Dollar

At the time of writing, the U.S Dollar Spot Index was up by 0.09% to 94.43. With solid gains from the 1st half of the week, the Dollar was up by 1.62% for the current week.

Perhaps more importantly, however, was news this week of brokers preparing for choppy days ahead. Reports of brokers requesting clients to put up more margin reflects just how much volatility brokers are anticipating.

So, while the markets may look relatively benign for now, expect this to also change. Postal votes and Trump’s narrowing of the gap will just add to that choppiness.

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