US election 2020: The Presidential campaigns

Presidential election
This election is shaping up to be one of the most controversial and divisive. Source: Ted Eytan (via. Flickr)
The US election takes place on Tuesday, November 3, but how have the candidates run their Presidential campaigns and what have been their main themes?

By Hallum Cowell | Deputy Editor

The final sprint in the race for the White House is upon us. After months of one of the most divisive and unique electoral campaigns of this generation either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will become the next President of the United States of America.

This Presidential election could not have come at a more turbulent time, COVID-19 has spread across the US like wildfire, making it one of the most infected countries in the world, at 8.85 million cases and 227,000 deaths as of October 28. Like many places in the world, the nation is reeling from the economic and social impact of the pandemic.

At the same time the US is undergoing a period of huge social activism with groups like Black Lives Matter demanding broad systematic change in the country and the population heavily divided along political lines. The US is arguably at it’s most politically divided since the new millennium.  

Both candidates in this Presidential election have had their wins and their losses, with each Presidential hopeful employing their own unique strategies.

Incumbent President Donald Trump has been keen to rally his base, to appeal to his most loyal supporters. In many of the debates it was the Twitter Trump that we saw; loud and boastful, which many of his supporters will take as a sign that the President is as strong willed and confident as ever. But Trump can’t rely on his base to win him this Presidential election and while he may claim that the silent majority is on his side, the current polls just don’t corroborate that. As the election draws nearer Trump is just being Trump and while that will appeal to some voters –  it was clearly enough to win the White House four years ago –  swing voters may have been looking for a more mature or stately figure.

Biden on the other hand has run a campaign based on a key message: ‘I’m not Donald Trump.’ A good number of American voters dislike the incumbent President immensely and can’t think of anything worse than another term with Trump at the wheel. As such, Biden to many will be the lesser of two evils and at least a welcome change. But many have raised critique over his age; if Biden were to win this election, he would be the oldest man ever to begin his first term as President at the age of 77. Critiques will point to his past political career as a point of controversy, and his seemingly confused manor in recent public appearances have been seized upon by opponents as evidence that he is unfit for the highest office.  

Due to the advanced age of both candidates, extra scrutiny has been placed on the running mates –  Mike Pence for Donald Trump, and Kamala Harris for Joe Biden. It is entirely possible that whichever campaign wins this election could see two Presidents during the four years.

On the night, swing states like Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida could end up deciding this Presidential election, but we won’t know until the morning after.

Current polling overwhelmingly predicts a Biden victory on election night. However as we know all too well from the last American election, where a Clinton victory was forecast, and our own Brexit referendum, nothing is over until it’s over and if the Democrats become convinced that they will win this election, that could be just the thing that gives Trump his four more years.

The Trump Campaign

Donald Trump is aiming for his second term as President of the United States, and his campaign is following similar themes to that of his 2016 run, despite a number of key members of the campaign team being changed for this Presidential election.

A clear focus has been made on presenting Trump as the President of the average working American, for example on the front page of his website is a video showcasing his achievements for working class Americans, especially in the industrial sector.

And of course, the famous (or infamous) slogan “Make America Great Again” is front and centre and remains the cornerstone of the Trump campaign. The idea that previous Presidents have eroded American values and exported American jobs to other nations, and that only President Trump can bring economic prosperity back to the US, is a theme that clearly resonated with voters in 2016, but whether it will work again is yet to be seen.

Where it can, Trump’s campaign has steered clear of the issue of COVID-19,  and Trump has been keen to use it to draw further ire to China, calling the pandemic “the China-Virus”. In reference to the massive economic downfall resulting from the pandemic, he has argued that the US economy will undergo a “super V” of rapid recovery.

The incumbent president has also made comments on the fairness of the upcoming election. He questioned the trustworthiness of postal ballots, which have become key to the election during the pandemic. A refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power has raised red flags for pro-democracy groups but has potentially galvanised Trump’s supporters to make sure they vote in an effort to do their part to stop a system the President calls rigged.  

The Biden Campaign

The Biden campaign has focused on “the soul of America” and placing Joe Biden as a preferable alternative to Trump.

Biden’s strategy for this Presidential election seems to be targeting both African American voters and the more centrist bloc of the Democrat party. Because there are only two major political parties in the US, they often become what are called ‘broad churches’, with a wide spectrum of opinions and values. Within the Democrat party you have the free market capitalists on the right side of the party while also containing the left wing “progressive” bloc.

Biden seems to be banking on winning the support of more old-school Democrats, like himself, and any undecided swing voters with his policies and his actions while trusting that the more progressive branch of the Democrat Party will prefer him to Trump.

That’s not to say that Biden hasn’t adopted more progressive policies, such as the decimalisation of Marijuana and a universal healthcare option, and given support to LGBTQ+ issues but his past actions during his political career and a number of controversial statements in his recent and distant past may make his Presidency a hard pill to swallow for those on the left. 

To win on the night, Biden needs to convince swing voters, those voters that are as yet undecided, to back his Presidential bid. To this end he has been focused on putting himself across as an electoral candidate from a similar time perhaps, a time before Politicians argued on Twitter and before the term fake news.

Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.

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