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Six burning questions for election day

Image credit: Boston Harborfest (Flickr: Creative Commons)

As we are one day away the 58th US Presidential election on Tuesday 8 November, there are a number of critical and fascinating questions to be asked which could shape the outcome of the election and speak to the future of the American political system. This is the most consequential election in recent US history and these questions are bound to be vital come Tuesday.

1. What effect, if any, might the recently re-opened FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server have on the outcome of the election?

Since the FBI director James Comey has just announced that the FBI will not recommend charges being brought to Clinton, it is unlikely that this investigation will hand the election to Trump. However, the investigation has given Trump a significant bump in the polls and narrowed the race. Despite taking the lead in an ABC national poll after the investigation re-opened, Trump has not made significant gains in the majority of polls. Although some do show Clinton’s lead to be dwindling after the announcement, it has rattled the Democrats and the Clinton campaign regardless. It's most likely that the FBI’s announcement has come too late in the race to hand the election to Trump given how much of a lead Clinton had on him in the polls prior to the FBI’s announcement. Alternatively, the re-opened investigation could work against Trump’s favour. If enough non-voters or third party voters fear a Trump victory based on the narrowing effect the investigation has had, it may motivate them to vote for Clinton to ensure Trump does not become president.

​2. Could there be a change of majority rule in either of the Congressional races?

It is likely that the Republicans will hold onto the majority in the House of Representatives, but the race for the Senate will go down to the wire. Current national polls have the Democrats and Republicans sharing around 46 to 47 likely predicted seats, but there are currently around seven competitive races. These races include New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Missouri, with the majority leaning towards a Democratic victory. Pundits have predicted that the Democrats will regain control of the Senate in a tight race, attributed to the damage Trump has done to the reputation of the GOP.

​3. Could a third party candidate win a state?

Were it to happen, Evan McMullin is the most likely third party candidate to win a state in his home state of Utah. McMullin is a former CIA operative and devout Mormon. While largely aligned with conservative politics, he has decided to run as an independent due to his disillusionment with the rise of Trump in the GOP. Adding to his unique political stardom, McMullin’s faith is extremely appealing to the majority Mormon voting population of Utah. Although it is unlikely, McMullin could potentially cause a major upset in Utah by winning its six electorate votes, thus tipping the scales for Trump. Besides McMullin, Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson could potentially win New Mexico, the state of which he was formerly the governor. But it appears likely to go to Clinton at this stage.​

4. What are the most tightly contested swing state contests to keep an eye on?

Currently, the most tightly contested battleground states that have the power to swing the result of the election are Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. According to Politico’s poll tracker, these states are currently separated by under a two-point lead and are split as a tie between Trump and Clinton. The outcome of these races will more than likely prove pivotal to the overall outcome of the election.

​5. Could any states from the 2012 Presidential Election flip to the opposing party?

Yes, national polls such as Fivethirtyeight are currently favouring Trump to win Nevada, Iowa and Ohio, which was won by the Democrats in the 2012 presidential election. Despite predicting the GOP to win these states, Fivethirtyeight predicts that Clinton will still claim victory in the election by winning 291 electoral votes.

6. ​If Trump loses, will he accept the result?

A losing candidate refusing to accept the result of the election would break with all convention for a presidential election. But Trump is unlike any candidate ever. Trump is currently projected to lose the election and, in his downward spiral, has conveyed conspiratorial rhetoric which has lent itself to the idea that the election has been 'rigged'. Trump has had a tongue-in-cheek response to this question, stating that he will accept the result of the election if 'he wins'. A survey conducted in mid-October found that 49 percent of Republican voters would not accept the legitimacy of the result if Trump loses. This troubling response from Trump’s support base is not surprising given the conspiratorial tone of his campaign, as well as his constant undermining of the American political process. Legal experts have concluded that a vote of the electoral college is legally conclusive and whether or not Trump concedes defeat is merely a political formality.

Matthew Holding is the United States Fellow for Young Australians in International Affairs.

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