US Election: Will protests and violence help Trump?

This article first appeared at on August 31st 2020

Later today, Joe Biden will resume in-person campaigning with an address in Pennsylvania, in which the Democrat nominee will doubtless emphasise his working-class roots in Scranton. It doesn’t require a crystal ball to predict his wider message.

Many had hoped that Biden would head straight to Wisconsin, where the town of Kenosha has suffered rioting following the shooting by police of Jacob Blake and two protesters subsequently shot dead by a 17-year-old vigilante. Instead, Trump gets first crack at delivering a presidential style address in the traumatised state. Again, we need not get the crystal ball out.

All this takes place amid deep uncertainty regarding the state of the race. Record sums continue to pour in for Trump, who has almost resumed favouritism on Betfair. According to this morning’s odds, Biden has a 51% chance of victory compared to 48% for Trump.

One of several plausible explanations for this monster gamble is the violence in Kenosha and Portland. Trump’s ever impressive online propaganda machine is bombarding social media with selective, edited or even fake footage. Setting the agenda, framing the narrative, as they did so frequently in 2016.

Plus another popular narrative is emerging, that the race is narrowing in a meaningful sense. Various polling experts seemed rather irritated about this last night.

The experts are right to urge caution. There has been a dearth of A-rated polls during the conventions and I’m waiting to see some before drawing firm conclusions about how they played out.

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