US presidential election: Biden vs Trump

With Biden certain to be the Democratic nominee, will coronavirus damage Trump’s re-election prospects? Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

1:30pm Thursday Biden now leads Sanders by 1,199 to 902 in The Green Papers’ delegate count.

2:30pm The delegate count at The Green Papers has Biden leading Sanders by 1,178 to 884.  Biden is well on his way to the magic 1,990 delegates required, but several primaries have been postponed until June, so he’ll have to wait longer.  Overall popular votes are currently 40.7% Biden, 30.6% Sanders.

2:13pm Arizona casts most of its votes by post.  With most counties reporting their early postal votes, Biden leads by 42.8-30.0, and it has been CALLED for him.

1:42pm In late counting updates, Biden has won Washington State by 1.4% with few votes left.  This should have been a strong state for Sanders.  In California, Sanders leads Biden by 35.2-28.0, with still over 700,000 votes left.  Sanders’ lead has lifted from 6.6% a week ago.

1:30pm Some good news for left-wing Democrats!  With 72% reporting, progressive challenger Marie Newman leads conservative Democrat incumbent Dan Lipinski by a 47-44 margin in the Democratic primary for Illinois’ third Congressional District.   Dave Wasserman has CALLED it for Newman.

12:40pm With 38% reporting in Illinois, Biden is winning by 59-37.

11:30am Biden wins the Illinois primary, where he leads by 65-29 with 2% reporting.

11:12am Wednesday Biden has won the Florida primary, where he currently leads Sanders by 61-23 with 73% reporting.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

This is an updated version of an article I had published at The Conversation on Monday.

Four states were scheduled to hold Democratic primaries on Wednesday in Australia: Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Arizona. These states will award 14.5% of all pledged delegates, taking us to 61.5% of total delegates. However, Ohio dramatically postponed its primary owing to coronavirus concerns. Polls close between 10am and 1pm AEDT.

Given Joe Biden’s crushing victories over Bernie Sanders last Tuesday, the Democratic contest is effectively over, and Biden will be the nominee. So the question now is how Biden will fare against Donald Trump in the general election this November.

Trump has alienated many highly educated voters with his general behaviour; these voters assisted Biden against Sanders in suburban counties. But most lower-educated voters did not care about Trump’s behaviour so long as the US economy was going well. And until recently the economy was going very well.

According to the official February jobs report, there were 273,000 jobs created that month, and an unemployment rate of just 3.5%. Inflation-adjusted weekly wages were up 0.5% in February, lifting the annual rate from zero to 0.7%. The Dow Jones index was above 29,000 points on February 20.

The coronavirus outbreak has heavily impacted global stock markets, with the Dow now just over 20,000. It has not yet affected the US jobs situation, with weekly jobless claims at 211,000 on March 7, about where they have been for most of the last year. The US Labor Department releases these reports every Thursday.

However, the health and economic impact of coronavirus will almost certainly worsen. There are now almost 3,500 officially confirmed US coronavirus cases, and this is likely to be a major undercount owing to lack of testing. Measures attempting to halt the spread of the virus, such as by closing restaurants, schools, sport and tourist attractions, will have an economic impact.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health System Tracker, the US health care system is worse than in comparable countries. About 49% of Americans have private health insurance paid for by their employer; if they lose their jobs in an economic downturn, they also lose their health insurance.

In 2010, Barack Obama and Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to assist the uninsured. In 2017, Trump and the then-Republican controlled Congress came close to repealing Obamacare. If there is a coronavirus-driven recession and health crisis, Democrats will use the 2017 votes to attack Republicans.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Trump’s ratings with all polls are currently 42.7% approve, 53.1% disapprove (net -10.4%). With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 43.9% approve, 52.4% disapprove (net -8.5%). His ratings have slid since their mid-February peak.

In general, the beginning of a major crisis helps incumbent governments. FiveThirtyEight has charts of previous presidents’ ratings, and George W. Bush’s ratings surged over 30 points to 83% approval immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

At this stage, there is not yet a recession or a health crisis in the US. But Trump is vulnerable if either occurs. The economy has been Trump’s great asset. In my opinion, it’s the only reason he has a realistic chance of re-election. On health care, Trump’s ratings were close to their record lows near the July 2017 attempt to repeal Obamacare. Coronavirus poses a clear danger to Trump’s re-election.

In the RealClearPolitics average of national Democratic polls, Biden leads Sanders by a 55-34 margin, showing the contest is over. In general election polls, Biden leads Trump by 6.4%. Furthermore, in the four polls taken after March 3 Super Tuesday, when Biden took a strong grip on the Democratic nomination, he led Trump by an average 8.5%.

Israel: Gantz to attempt to form government

At the March 2 Israeli election, PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc won 58 of the 120 Knesset seats, to 55 combined for Blue & White (B&W), the Joint Arab List and Labor. Yisrael Beiteinu, which was once part of the right bloc, won seven seats. On Sunday, B&W leader Benny Gantz won the support of 61 Knesset members. He now has six weeks to form a majority government, which would require both the Joint List and Yisrael Beiteinu.

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