The 59th presidential election will take place on November 3, 2020. 67 days from today.

Joe Biden has chosen Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

The selection process began with a list of 20 potential running mates. The list was then reduced to 11 potential running mates, then to six and then to four – Warren, Whitmer, Rice and Harris. Harris’s selection was announced on August 11th. [Note, the numbers above are based on press reports so may be unrelated to reality.]

Harris is currently the junior U.S. Senator from California having taken office on January 2017. From 2011-2017 she served as Attorney General of California following her service as District Attorney of San Francisco from 2004-2011. She is 55 years of age and married to Douglas Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer.

Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, the first presidential candidate to select a woman as his running mate said, “Harris is a good choice. This is good news for the Democratic campaign.”

Peter Hart, Washington Watch’s favorite pollster, said the following when the selection was announced.

“The 2020 Democratic ticket represents the positive, sunny, smiling face that has been missing the last four years. Kamala is warm, happy and has one of the best smiles in American politics. Both Biden & Harris are happy warriors. In hard times, Americans want candidates that radiate confidence in America and show confidence that ‘the sun will come up tomorrow’.”

In 2016, Trump ran on the slogan “Make America Great Again.” It was code for returning America to the times of Archie Bunker.

In a recent report, Charlie Cook wrote, “Americans vote for president. They don’t vote for vice president.” Will this be the year when it does make a difference? [WW]

NBCnews.come/planyourvote, is a good source for voter/voting information in the coming election.

In addition to the Presidential, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives elections there are 11 gubernatorial, 9 lieutenant-gubernatorial, 10 state-attorney-general, 7 secretary-of-senate and 5,876 state legislative seats on the ballot this year.

Ranked Choice Voting

Is Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) the future of voting in state and federal elections?

16 states in the United States have acted on or are considering some form of Ranked Choice Voting or other changes to their state election systems. Those states are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Utah.

34 states do not appear to be considering any changes to their systems or if so, it is not obvious.

What is Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)?

  1. Voters rank the candidates for a given office by preference on their ballots.
  2. If a candidate wins an outright majority of first-preference votes (i.e.50% + 1) he or she will be declared the winner.
  3. If, on the other hand, no candidates win an outright majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated.
  4. All first preference votes for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots.
  5. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won an outright majority of the adjusted voters.
  6. The process is repeated until a candidate wins a majority of the votes cast.

The following is an example of how Ranked Choice Voting works.

Assume there are four candidates for mayor in a hypothetical city. The table below presents the first-preference vote totals for each candidate.

Candidates Raw first-preference vote tallies  
Candidate A 475 46.34%
Candidate B 300 29.27%
Candidate C 175 17.07%
Candidate D 75 7.32%

Candidate D with the smallest number of first preference, is eliminated.

The ballots listing candidate D as the first preference are adjusted, raising their second preference candidates. Assume that, of the 75 first preference votes for Candidate D, listed candidate A as their second preference and 25 listed Candidate B. The adjusted vote totals would be as follows:

Candidate A 525 51.22% Wins
Candidate B 325 31.71%
Candidate C 175 15.07%

[Ballotpedia – source of information above]

In 6 of the last 15 presidential elections—1960, 1968, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2016—the winner did not earn a majority of the votes cast.

Maine will be the first state to ever use RCV for a presidential election, that is unless pending legal actions are successful. Republicans have filed a veto resolution to be on the ballot known as a “people’s veto”. If it makes it to the ballot than the presidential election will not be on the ballot in the RCV form.

Massachusetts will decide in this November’s election whether to adopt ranked-choice voting (RCV) for state executive officials, state legislators, federal congressional and senate seats. One city, Cambridge, has adopted RCV and two other cities have adopted it but have not implemented it.

On the ballot this November in Alaska, voters will have an opportunity to adopt “Top Four Primaries”. Top Four Primaries means that primaries are open to both parties and any others as well. The top four then make it to the general election ballot regardless of party. These would be used for state executive, state legislative, and congressional elections.

They will also have the opportunity to adopt “Ranked Choice Voting” for general elections.

[Eliot Cutler, a former candidate for governor of Maine, credits Kyle Bailey, Dick Woodbury, and Cara Brown McCormick for leading the campaign for the adoption of RCV in Maine. WW gives thanks to Cara — now of “Voter Choice for Massachusetts” and “Yes on 2 Campaign” — for helping with the development of this section of the WW.]

The Conventions

The party conventions this year were certainly different than anything we have seen or imagined.

The media coverage of the two hour per night conventions began with CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and C-SPAN covering the first hour. The four major broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox joined in for the second hour. A large amount of the coverage now comes from non-tv stories e.g. streaming services. These numbers are not collected with the regular TV coverage.

The Democratic convention was scheduled for Milwaukee. What ended up actually being in Milwaukee was the media control room for a convention that had participants appearing from all over the country. The roll call vote for the nomination of Joe Biden featured appearances of folks in every state and territory casting their delegation votes. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris gave their acceptance speeches from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware.

The viewership was:

Monday night – 19.7 million viewers Monday night – 17.0 million viewers
Tuesday night – 18.6 million viewers Tuesday night – 18.0 million viewers
Wednesday night – 21.4 million viewers Wednesday night – 17.3 million viewers
Thursday night – 24.6 million viewers Thursday night – 20.0 million viewers

The Republican convention was originally planned for Charlotte, North Carolina. Plans changed and the first day of the convention, as well as the roll call for nomination of the president, was conducted in Charlotte. The only in-person participants were 6 delegates from each state, territory, and the District of Columbia – a total of 336 delegates. Rather than adopting a new platform the Republicans decided to continue to use the one adopted in 2016.

The balance of the convention was conducted at D.C.’s Mellon Auditorium, Fort McHenry, and the lawn of the White House where Melania’s speech and the acceptance speech of President Trump were held.

The General Election

Peter Hart makes the case that this has been a three-phase campaign and we need to be careful not to treat the results of current polling as if it was late October.

The first phase of the campaign was pre-March and involved the battle for the Democratic nomination and the polarization of Donald Trump.

The second phase was the coronavirus/economic collapse, the nomination of Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate for president, Trump’s collapse, and finally, the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate.

The third phase are the two conventions which ended on August 27th, followed by the general election campaign. The third phase has two parts, the first part ends with the first presidential debate on September 29th.

The polling results prior to the first presidential debate are nice to know and interesting, but after the initial debate the results take on true significance.

Current National Presidential Scorecard

Trump Biden
CNBC 8/23 43% 51%
CBS 8/22 42% 52%
Economist/YouGov 8/18 40% 50%
Hill/HarrisX 8/18 38% 46%
CNN 8/15 46% 50%
ABC/WP 8/15 44% 54%

The upcoming presidential election is not in reality a national election
But, as of August 25, the RCP average is Biden 49.9% – Trump 42.2%

WW is focused on a list of seven states most likely to be the ultimate battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Trump Biden  
Arizona 45.80% 48.00% 8/23 RCP Avg
Florida 45.30% 49.00% 8/23 RCP Avg
Michigan 42.30% 49.30% 8/23 RCP Avg
North Carolina 47% 46.50% 8/23 RCP Avg
Pennsylvania 44% 49.80% 8/23 RCP Avg
Wisconsin 44.50% 48.00% 8/23 RCP Avg
Minnesota 44.00% 49.30% 8/18 RCP Avg

2020 Presidential/Vice Presidential Debates

Tuesday, September 29, 2020
First Presidential Debate
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH

Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Vice Presidential Debate
The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Thursday, October 15, 2020
Second Presidential Debate
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami, FL

Thursday, October 22, 2020
Third Presidential Debate
Belmont University, Nashville, TN

About Joe Biden

Joe Biden has been on the national scene for 50 years. He is well known but “not known well.”

In the past eight NBC/WSJ surveys dating back to August 2019, Americans are shown to have more negative than positive feelings about him. In his final month as Vice President, 56% of Americans had positive feelings toward Biden and 22% had negative feelings. As he accepted the nomination, 33% have positive feelings and 45% feel negative.

When asked how confident they feel about a potential Biden presidency 41% are either optimistic and confident or satisfied. 59% have reservations, are uncertain and wondering or pessimistic and worried. [Peter Hart]

The following are a series of comparisons of Trump and Biden by Americans as they decide for whom they will vote.

Biden voters were asked whether they are voting for Biden (36%) or against Trump (58%).

Trump voters were asked whether they are voting for Trump (74%) or against Biden (20%).

If Trump is elected, 41% are “optimistic/confident/satisfied and hopeful” while 59% are “uncertain/wondering/pessimistic and worried”.

If Biden is elected, 46% are “optimistic/confident/satisfied and hopeful” while 52% are “uncertain/wondering/pessimistic and worried”.

Americans were asked whether Trump or Biden would be better on a series of issues. The issues are listed on the basis how important each issue is as folks are deciding how they will vote.

Trump Biden
Dealing with the economy 48% 38%
Bringing the country together 26.% 49%
Strong leadership qualities 39% 43%
Having mental/physical health 39% 37%
Health care 34% 60%
The coronavirus 33% 49%
Foreign Policy 39% 49%
Race Relations 29% 53%
Crime 43% 39%
Immigration 38% 49%

[NBC/WSJ 8/12/20]

At least 76% of American voters can cast ballots by mail in the fall. As of now, nearly 180 million Americans who are eligible to vote would be able to cast a ballot by mail. Of those, 22 million live in states that will either accept “fear of the coronavirus” as an excuse to vote absentee or have switched to become “no excuse” sates. [WP 7/23/2020]

What are the odds?

Here are the odds as of August 23, 2020 if you want to place a bet on the 2020 presidential election.

Joe Biden -130 (Better needs to bet $130 to win $100. If it is a winning bet the better ends up with $230.)
Donald Trump +100 (Better needs to bet $100 to win $100. A winning bet ends up with the better receiving $200.)


In 15 of the last 30 general elections, the House, Senate or White House changed parties. 8 of these 15 change years occurred in the last two decades. The years of those changes were 1960, 1968, 1976, 1980. 1986, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2016, and 2018. [Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman, Castagnetti, Rosen & Thomas [July 2020]