The US presidential election 2020 is almost over. By this time next week, and hopefully much sooner, we'll likely know who will occupy the Oval Office for the next four years.
The ghosts of 2016 are keeping Democrats on edge, but they are hopeful that voters will make President Donald Trump the first incumbent to lose reelection since George H.W. Bush in 1992. Democrat Joe Biden is running significantly ahead of where Hillary Clinton was in most polls the day before the election.
Some Republicans are pointing to a shift on the ground in Florida in particular that portends good news for Trump. The problem for Republicans is that Trump must win Florida — and several more battleground states — if he's going to have any chance to keep his job.
Can Trump pull an inside straight again? Anxious Democrats will be the first to tell you it's possible. But veteran Republican strategists will also tell you it isn't likely. There are fewer undecided voters this time, and no strong third-party candidates to siphon votes.
Democrats had an advantage in early voting, but Trump's vaunted ground game is well-positioned to turn out its voters en masse on Tuesday.
What makes this election different from those in the past are the swirling questions about voter intimidation, lawsuits and counting delays related to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has already indicated he may reject the result of the election if he loses.
Buckle up. This could get messy.
Will the loser of this election accept the result?
The stage is set for a chaotic finish no matter what the final numbers say.
Trump has sought to undermine the election results for several months by raising debunked conspiracy theories about election fraud. He has repeatedly refused to say whether he would agree to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.
Biden has promised to accept the results no matter what, but that doesn't mean that Democrats won't end up in an extended court battle in certain states if things don't go their way — particularly if there are any Election Day disruptions or court rulings that throw out a significant numbers of mail ballots.
Never before in modern U.S. history has there been such uncertainty looming over basic rules of democracy on the eve of an election.
What is the “red mirage” scenario?
Don't be fooled by the early numbers. Because of the way ballots will be counted by different states, the final vote tally could look dramatically different from the early returns — especially if Democrats look to be struggling.
The so-called red mirage scenario would show Trump having a good night based on the votes cast in person on Tuesday. But pivotal states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin aren't expected to count all their mail ballots, the preferred voting method by many Democrats, until after in-person votes are counted.
That raises the likelihood that Republicans will look to be having a strong showing earlier in the night than they will once all the votes are in.
Trump has falsely raised just this scenario as an example of voter fraud, but it's actually a completely legitimate function of the way different states process ballots.
And because of complications related to the pandemic, several states, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Minnesota, will accept mail ballots received several days after polls close.