National polls collated on www.realclearpolitics.com and www.fivethirtyeight.com suggest that Mr Biden’s lead over President Trump narrowed after the Presidential debate last Thursday. FiveThirtyEight’s collated polling shows Mr Biden’s lead narrowed at a national level to 9.2% this week. RealClearPolitics has Mr Biden’s lead narrowing slightly to 8.1%. Despite narrowing, with more likely to come as the election draws ever closer, the national polls still represent a commanding lead for President Trump to overcome.
The swing states, of course, hold the key. In Texas, Trump’s lead has shrunk to 0.50% as of October 21st according to FiveThirtyEight. Notably, over 6.8 million votes have already been cast early, the highest in the country, just ahead of California. In Florida, another treasure-trove of electoral college votes, the election remains too close to call, with the latest poll suggesting Biden leads Trump by 2.4%. Notably, President Trump voted early on Saturday in Florida. Ironic given his avowed distaste for the alleged perils of mail-in and early voting.
FiveThirtyEight suggests that Biden leads by 2.6% in North Carolina, with Trump ahead by 1.0% in Ohio, and Biden ahead by just 0.3% in Georgia and 3.0% in Arizona. In Pennsylvania, the scene of much heavyweight campaigning, Biden’s oil slipup appears to have not upset his lead, which holds steady at 5.1%.
Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Ohio remain within the margins of error for polling, and in 2016, the polls turned out to be wrong. Realistically President Trump must win all of these states to win 270 electoral college votes, and overcome material leads by Biden in Pennsylvania and Arizona in particular.
One factor that may yet play its part is early voting, which was touched on above. According to the US Elections Project, over 56 million people have already voted in the US election. By my reckoning that’s over 30% of the total electorate. Given these levels, it may be much harder for the candidates on either side to move the needle on polling even with eight days still to go. One can assume that the 56 million votes will also increase over this week.
The biggest risk factor in this election is a disputed one. There are literally hundreds of court cases pending at a state level by both sides on how early votes will be treated, with some judgements already decided at a Supreme Court level. The unholy rush to inaugurate Amy Coney Barrett to her Supreme Court Chair has as much to do with this, as does Republican largesse. It does suggest that an aggressive rear-guard battle will be fought on this front by Republicans if the votes in the swing states lead to a contested election. That is likely to cause much market uncertainty, particularly if the matter drags on into mid-November, and is unlikely to be positive for equity markets.