Writing in the Financial Times on September 1, Robin Wrigglesworth reported that markets are signaling unease about what may lie ahead in the first week of November. It is not so much the election that’s causing agita as the fear that Election Night might not resolve the result. Investors do not appreciate uncertainty, and if everything is still unresolved by, say, late the next day, the only certainty will be uncertainty.
On Bloomberg, Ryan Teague Beckwith has invited readers to “choose your own election adventure”:
So . . . how badly could this election go? In our choose-your-own-election game, see if you can avoid landing in a Supreme Court showdown or constitutional crisis and keep democracy safe (for now).
To be blunt, given the way that both the Trump and Biden camps (and parts of the media) are already throwing shade on the election process (not to speak of the sour aftermath of the 2016 election, or, for those with longer memories, the Diebold paranoia of yesteryear, or, for that matter the halcyon days when an election hung on hanging chads), the nervousness, if anything, may be underdone, especially as there are some signs that the race may be tightening, thereby reducing still further the chances of a clear-cut outcome not too long after polls close.
The president’s dark ruminations about the election — many of them centered on the iniquities of mail-in voting — are too well known to need repetition, as is the use he makes of conspiracy theories. But comments from the Biden camp also seem aimed at preparing a claim that they were robbed.
To take one example, CNN recently quoted Hillary Clinton as saying this:
“Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is. . . .”
Then there was Biden in June:
“My greatest concern, my single greatest concern [is that] this president is going to try to steal this election.”
And the Washington Post cannot be said to have been calming things down by printing a piece by Rosa Brooks describing how things might play out under various simulations prepared by the “Transition Integrity Project,” an exercise that might not have been entirely even-handed:
In each scenario, Team Trump — the players assigned to simulate the Trump campaign and its elected and appointed allies — was ruthless and unconstrained right out of the gate, and Team Biden struggled to get out of reaction mode. In one exercise, for instance, Team Trump’s repeated allegations of fraudulent mail-in ballots led National Guard troops to destroy thousands of ballots in Democratic-leaning ZIP codes, to applause on social media from Trump supporters. Over and over, Team Biden urged calm, national unity and a fair vote count, while Team Trump issued barely disguised calls for violence and intimidation against ballot-counting officials and Biden electors.
But don’t worry, counseled Brooks, steps (some of them certainly sensible) can be taken to defuse the atmosphere ahead of the vote. “The media also has an important role” to play.
In a rather more measured article for the New York Times, Trip Daniel put, so to speak, flesh on the specters, focusing first on the likelihood that many more Biden than Trump voters will vote by mail:
An NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll last month found that nearly half — 47 percent — of supporters of Mr. Biden planned to mail in their votes, compared with two-thirds of Trump supporters — 66 percent — who planned to vote in person on Election Day.
In some states, the discrepancy is even more stark. A recent Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin, another swing state, found that among voters planning to cast a mail ballot, Mr. Biden was favored by 67 percentage points. Among those who planned to vote on Election Day, Mr. Trump led by 41 points.
“We are sounding an alarm and saying that this is a very real possibility, that the data is going to show on election night an incredible victory for Donald Trump,” Josh Mendelsohn, the chief executive of the group, Hawkfish [a data-analysis company founded by Michael Bloomberg “to inform progressive initiatives”], told Axios on HBO. The company’s survey of registered voters concluded that twice as many planned to cast a ballot by mail as ever before, and that they were mostly Biden supporters.
A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, Thea McDonald, called Democrats’ concerns about the president prematurely declaring victory “an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory,” adding, “President Trump and his campaign are fighting for a free, fair, transparent election in which every valid ballot counts — once.”