With four days left to go until Election Day, Joe Biden seems to be holding a steady lead over current President Donald Trump. The debates have passed, and no major scandals against the Democratic challenger have emerged.
So, are we safe to assume that Trump’s fate is sealed? Well, not exactly.
The main reason for this is that many more Democrats plan to vote by mail than Republicans; on Election night, due to the extra time it will take to count the record numbers of mail-in ballots, at the beginning of the process, Trump will be leading Biden. Many suspect that he may try and declare victory at this stage, attempting to move on before the majority-Biden postal votes can be counted.
But, if Biden does emerge the winner following a full count of all ballots cast, what is to happen next?
Trump is a man who has built his political career on complete certainty of victory. So, how could the man who always wins, ultimately lose? With the precedent of four years in the White House, one can expect that Trump won’t simply give up on election night, as losing candidates have done in the past; instead, if it comes to it, he will most certainly try to find a way to win.
In 2016, Trump defied expectations by winning the presidency, through surprising results in the Rustbelt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. This time around, Trump desperately needs to hold at least one of these states if he wishes to retain the Presidency. If Trump again outperforms the polls and walks away holding Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, he will need one of these Rustbelt states. As these three Rustbelt states have little experience dealing with mail-in ballots on such an unprecedented scale, results in these states may take days to be declared final.
So, how does this help Trump? You may have noticed that over the last few months, Trump has been attacking the system of mail-in voting, claiming (without any substantial evidence) that it will lead to widespread fraud and allow Biden to “cheat himself” to the presidency. Therefore, with so many Democrats (Trump having discouraged most Republicans) set to vote by mail, all Trump needs to do is invalidate this system of voting, which would give him a landslide win across the country.
On Monday, the Senate confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme court in a 52-48 vote giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority. This means that, if Trump were to challenge the validity of postal voting after the election, he may find a pretty friendly court to agree with him. In the 2000 election, the 5-4 conservative Supreme Court voted to stop the Florida recount, giving Bush the election and leaving Democratic candidate Al Gore feeling cheated – this sort of intervention could possibly happen again. It is hard to tell whether the Supreme Court would side with Trump, or indeed whether they would even agree to hear the case, but its strong conservative leaning creates a worrying possibility that millions of votes could be cast out as illegitimate.
And, if the past four years have taught us anything, even if Trump were to set himself up to lose this fight, he would likely still embark on it. Accepting defeat, as the man who always wins, would not be a viable option – on the other hand, playing the victim of a corrupt ‘swamp’ and a rigged the election would be more in character, both for his pride and his populism.
While it is still entirely conceivable that Trump will win the election, the chances seem to become increasingly unlikely. In the likely scenario that Biden wins, 2000-style court fights may last months, leaving the election undecided and effectively unfinished.
Whilst Biden looks set to win the election, it remains unclear whether he’ll be able to hold onto the Presidency.