The election to determine whether or not Donald Trump will serve a second time period as president has already begun, with voters in North Carolina filling out absentee ballots, Minnesotans making ready to start out early in-person voting on Friday and different states revving up their election equipment.

However for many People, as we speak marks 50 days till election day, three November, when voters will take various levels of well being dangers – and face hurdles to voting of various heights – to solid their ballots in particular person for Trump or his potential Democratic successor, Joe Biden.

It’s troublesome to attract the lens sufficiently far again in US historical past to evaluate the excessive stakes of the 2020 election. Former president Barack Obama not too long ago joined the ranks of public figures advising People to “vote like your life is dependent upon it – as a result of it does”.

Obama was speaking concerning the wildfire apocalypse within the western US, and local weather change. However he may additionally have been speaking about different stakes: the coronavirus pandemic, the destiny of the democracy, international threats, home fury.

It’s an election wherein all sides appears to view a victory by the opposite as an existential risk, stated Brad Bannon, a Washington-based Democratic strategist.

“It appears to me that the stakes are about as excessive as you will get,” Bannon stated. “We have now a president who has proved incapable of preventing the pandemic, which has killed virtually 200,000 People now, and will trigger irreparable harm to the economic system. We face a local weather change disaster, we’ve got a racial disaster.

“And I believe the principle query is, which of the 2 males do you need to have, to cope with the foremost issues in america?”

To imagine the polling, a majority of the nation, together with a successful proportion of swing-state voters, are able to reply that query by casting ballots for Joe Biden. The nationwide polls have been remarkably steady all through the election, monitoring a constant and seemingly steady lead for the Democrat that now hangs between seven and eight factors.

However after the polls missed Trump’s 2016 traction with undecided voters and white folks with no faculty diploma, Biden’s obvious lead has given Democrats treasured little consolation, particularly due to headwinds that Biden faces within the electoral faculty.

A current evaluation by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight indicated that Biden might win the nationwide common vote by three factors – as many as 5m votes – and nonetheless have a lower than 50-50 likelihood of successful the electoral faculty.

“I’m not going to be assured about Joe Biden’s successful this election till he’s inaugurated on January 20,” Bannon stated.

Joe Biden holds backyard conversation with union members during campaigning in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Joe Biden holds yard dialog with union members throughout campaigning in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. {Photograph}: Adam Schultz/Biden/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Fifty days just isn’t a number of time, nevertheless it leaves loads of house for the race, and the polls, to alter. Whereas sure key markers within the 2020 race have come and gone – the number of a vice-presidential candidate; the nationwide conventions – different main occasions are but to come back, together with three face-to-face debates, the primary of which is scheduled for 29 September.

Within the background is the grim tally of coronavirus deaths in america, which have climbed to about 200,000 and will speed up by the autumn as colleges open and shut, mitigation measures are relaxed and the flu season unfolds.

The Trump marketing campaign is betting on a robust efficiency within the debates to assist flip the race round. If that doesn’t work, Trump has been whispering out loud a few potential “October shock” within the type of an announcement that america has a coronavirus vaccine.

However a vaccine announcement may not be the political ace that Trump seems to assume it’s. Public well being officers and pharmaceutical corporations have been warning that they’d not go together with the untimely rollout of any vaccine, and a untimely announcement by Trump might backfire.

The coronavirus has different implications for the election. An unprecedented variety of voters are anticipated to solid absentee ballots this yr, main some analysts to warn that election outcomes will probably be unusually delayed, as states work by unaccustomed piles of paper.

However predictions of election outcomes delayed by days, weeks or longer may not essentially be borne out. Sarcastically, the state of Florida, the place a recount in 2000 saved the nation ready for a month for the election end result, might ship a decisive, early end result within the 2020 race – if Biden wins the state.

“Until we get into an Al Gore-George W Bush state of affairs, we’re virtually definitely going to know who gained Florida by about 10 or 11 o’clock at evening,” the previous Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs stated not too long ago on his podcast. That’s as a result of Florida is used to counting giant numbers of absentee ballots, and the state counts them as quickly as they arrive in, versus ready till election evening to start counting.

If Biden can win in Florida, most analysts imagine, an electoral faculty victory might be his. However the added uncertainty of mail-in voting creates an additional alternative for Trump to sow chaos, his critics imagine, envisioning eventualities wherein Trump declares untimely victory or denies the election end result outright.

The Biden marketing campaign introduced in July that it had employed a military of 600 legal professionals to combat any election evening “chicanery” by Republicans.

The Trump marketing campaign has struggled to reply, partially as a result of it’s working low on cash. Final week it was revealed that after elevating almost $1bn, the marketing campaign had spent most of it, apparently dumping lots of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} final spring into on-line searches for potential future donors. In a number of swing states, the Biden marketing campaign is outspending the Trump aspect by hundreds of thousands on influential TV advert spots.

Many red hats were on display at Donald Trump’s rally in Freeland, Michigan, last week but few face masks.
Many crimson hats had been on show at Donald Trump’s rally in Freeland, Michigan, final week however few face masks. {Photograph}: Dominick Sokotoff/Rex/Shutterstock

A stream of dangerous headlines for Trump might additionally outline the house stretch as a lot as every other issue. For instance, he not too long ago informed a journalist that he understood the coronavirus was harmful at the same time as he informed People it was not, and the Division of Homeland Safety ordered officers to cease producing studies about Russian election interference, in accordance with a whistleblower.

To start to hit again in opposition to Biden, analysts say, Trump wants to flee the sequence of blows which have saved him on the defensive. He has tried to take action utilizing his favourite tactic: internet hosting large marketing campaign rallies, as he did in Michigan on Thursday evening.

The assembled crowd wore a number of crimson hats – however not many face masks. When CNN’s Jim Acosta requested one rally-goer why he was not carrying a masks, the reply captured the divided American actuality as election day approaches.

“As a result of there’s no Covid,” the Trump supporter stated. “It’s a faux pandemic. Created to destroy america of America.”