US election – all you need to know about Trump v Biden race and who is ahead

With less than a week to go before the US election, Joe Biden is the clear front runner.

But as Hillary Clinton learned four years ago, it’s never a good idea to bet against Donald Trump

The President is still drawing huge crowds at rallies across the United States, sometimes as many as three events a day, with very few people wearing masks or social distancing.

Covid-19 has become a major factor in the election – not only because of the candidates’ approach to tackling the virus.

US elections are notorious for long lines at oversubscribed polling stations – particularly in urban areas.

Joe Biden is leading in the polls

A week out from polling day, as many as 69 million Americans had voted either through early voting in person, or through postal ballots – something Donald Trump has repeatedly, and falsely, claimed is vulnerable to fraud.

Here’s what you need to know about the US Presidential election with one week to go.

When is the election?

Polls close on Tuesday November 3 – although, as noted above, many Americans have already voted through early voting or postal ballots.

The incumbent has been trailing for months

Who’s winning?

Joe Biden is ahead in almost all national polls – by a stonking 9.2 points as of October 26, according to FiveThirtyEight’s poll average.

But as Hillary Clinton will tell you, with just days to go, the national polls don’t tell the whole story.

She was 3.2 points ahead in final polls – and she ended up winning the popular vote by 2.1 points.

But because of the way the ‘electoral college’ system works, she ended up losing. Let’s take a look at how that happened.

Hilary Clinton lost despite leading in the polls

What is the electoral college?

The US founding fathers decided they wanted a “buffer” between the population and the selection of a President. 

Ironically, they feared a tyrant would be able to manipulate public opinion and seize power.

They also had to make a compromise with some of the small states, who felt they would lose influence because of their small population.

Each state gets a certain number of “electors” – essentially votes – which is roughly proportional to the size and population of the state.

Most states award their electoral votes on a “winner take all” basis.

A flock of starlings fly in a murmuration over the White House
The electoral college determines who heads to the White House

So if most people vote Democrat in Florida, the Democrats get their 29 electoral votes.

Maine and Nebraska dish their votes out proportionally.

In total there are 538 electoral votes spread across the states, and a candidate needs a majority of 270 of them to win.

So towards the end of the campaign we should be looking at state polls more than national ones?


So if you average out the state polls, you still currently get a Biden win.

Biden is on track to win far more electoral votes
Biden is on track to win far more electoral votes

Polling site 270toWin forecast Biden to win with 290 electoral votes, calling just 163 votes as likely to go to Trump – and with just 85 votes in the ‘toss up’ column, there’s not enough to get Trump over the line.

But – and it’s a big but – there are a couple of states that poll show in Biden’s column which are still pretty close in the polls.

What are the states to look out for on election night?

First of all, Florida is usually a good one to start with. It’s on the East Coast, so polls close there fairly early in the night.

And particularly since 2000, when their result was heavily contested and took weeks to be confirmed, they’ve gotten pretty quick at counting their votes.

They have 29 votes and are very much in the toss up column.

Trump has spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania recently
Trump has spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania recently

Then you’ve got Pennsylvania’s 20 votes.

Polls put the state in the Biden column – but his lead there is not as strong as he might like, just 5.3 points and Trump has spent a lot of time there in the last week. 

Finally, as the night draws on, it’s worth keeping an eye on Arizona.

It’s the biggest Biden-leading state on the West Coast, with 11 electoral college votes.

If Trump takes either Florida or Pennsylvania, he’ll need Arizona too to seal the deal. It’s currently leaning to Biden by 3 points.

Will we get a result on election night?

As noted above, there are a lot of postal votes being cast in this election.

And postal votes take longer to count.

It is unclear if there will be electoral daylight between the two candidates on November 3
It is unclear if there will be electoral daylight between the two candidates on November 3

In some states, ballots have to be received before election day – which means they can also be counted in a more timely manner.

But some 20 states will count ballots which are received after election day, as long as they are postmarked by election day.

So thousands of valid ballots may not even arrive for counting until days later.

Polls have shown that people who plan to vote by mail are predominantly likely to vote for Joe Biden.

That could mean on-the-night counting could suggest a better result for President Trump than the reality – which may change in the following days.

Donald Trump, who has consistently trailed in the polls against Joe Biden, has seized upon absentee voting as a method of creating uncertainty in the legitimacy of the election.

The President has frequently claimed the mail-in and absentee voting processes are vulnerable to fraud.

But there is no evidence that this is the case.

Numerous nationwide and state-level studies of in-person and mail-in voting have not revealed any evidence of widespread fraud.

But he’s totally going to try and claim victory on the night, right?

That’s what people are worried about. 

He’s repeatedly said the result should be announced on November 3 – and hinted he’ll declare any change in the predicted result after that to be fraudulent.


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