US Election: Mallard Forecast 03.10.2020

Trump Biden Other
Current Outcome Forecast

Everything just changed

I don’t think people have quite realised just yet what could happen as a result of the President testing positive to Covid-19. Last night it was announced that the President was taken to a Military Hospital. The President released a video on Twitter where it was visibly obvious he was unwell. The President is said to have a mild fever and a sore throat. This throws up a new potential outcome, which I am rather embarrassed that I didn’t foresee until now. That is that the US General Election does not take place on November 4th. Following a successful debate, passing the very low bar set, a Joe Biden victory on November 4th has become the most likely outcome at 46%. A second term for Trump is down to 41%. With no election/other at 13%.

Let’s take a look at what could happen.

Can the President postpone the Election?

The short answer to this question is no, President Trump cannot postpone the US Election. Pursuant to Article 2 of the US Constitution, the President does not have the power to postpone the US Election. Which by Federal Law takes place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, every four years. It is Congress which manages the Election process and whilst Federal Law states it must be held on the specified date, in 2004 the Congressional Research Service looked at possible scenarios for in which the US Election could postponed. As a result, an amendment was drafted in to give Congress the power to delegate the power to postpone the Election to the President, as long as the President could outline the plans for the new Election. The decision therefore lies with Congress.

Do I think this could happen? Yes, under the right circumstances.

Under what circumstances could this happen?

Whilst it is uncomfortable to talk about such things, there is a possibility the President could die. Whilst understanding this is insensitive, it is important to the forecast, so lets` have a look into the likelihood if this happening.

The BBC this morning reported that the death rate for 70-year-old males was around 4%. However, that includes 70-year-olds who have been tested at random, some with no symptoms. It also assumes that all 70-year-olds are homogenous. We know that the President has issues with high blood pressure and is, by a BMI reading, obese. These obviously raise that likelihood.  Factoring in that the President has the best health care available may counterbalance the increased health risks. The chance of the President dying would be between 4 – 8 %.

It should be caveated that this was always a possibility, and why I should have included an ‘other‘ option in the model from the start. The odds of a 70-year-old man dying from natural causes each month are around 0.5%. This then increases gradually with age, so there was over a 1% chance of either candidate dying each month.

The other would be if the President is taken into intensive care. In which he would still be in hospital close to or on the Election day. According to an article in the Telegraph, 30% of people who are hospitalised due to Covid-19 require intensive case. The Guardian reported in May that 70% of the 30% who require intensive care are male. The President is currently in hospital; however, it is unclear at this time whether it is just a precaution. If the President was taken to hospital because he needed to go, in the same way Joe Bloggs would require hospitalisation then there is a high chance the President could be in hospital for some time. The likelihood of the President going into intensive care is between 5 – 40%.

In the likelihood that Trump`s condition deteriorates and requires intensive care. Congress could refuse to delegate power and proceed with the Election. Congress is quite partisan, so there is a chance that they could refuse to postpone in this scenario. Though unlikely. Proceeding with the election would likely  be an unpopular move as it shows a lack of compassion. I think the Democrat top brass would lobby to congress to postpone in this instance.

Should the terrible happen and the President dies, what then?

The Vice President Mike Pence would become the interim President. The Republican National Committee states that in the event of the President dying the vacancy is filled in the same way that a Presidential Candidate is selected during the National Convention. With the 168 Members of the RNC casting their votes and the candidate would be elected by a majority vote. In this instance Congress would delegate powers to Interim President Mike Pence to delay the Election whilst the RNC elect a candidate. Of course, Congress could again block the delegation of power, but it is almost certain they would not.

When would the new Election take place?

Pursuant to the 20th Amendment of the US Constitution, Presidents and Vice Presidents terms must end on 20th January (if not re-elected). In this scenario it is the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who becomes acting President. It is unlikely that, should the worst happen to President Trump, a new Republican Leader would be announced, and the new Election take place before January 20th, , the new Republican Leader would have to set out policies and have time to mount a campaign.

President Nancy Pelosi?

Pelosi`s odds of becoming President are about the same as the odds that the President dies before the Election. As it is a near certainty an Election could not take place between a new candidate and Joe Biden before January 20th.  Mike Pence would be the interim President in the short term but would have to resign his Vice-Presidency and subsequently his interim Presidency when the term expires on January 20th.

Thoughts with the President

It goes without saying that our thoughts are with the President. We are wishing for the President to make a full and quick recovery, and for the Election to take place on November 4th.  The possibilities outlined above are merely hypothetical situations to show the readers how complicated the US Election has become. We are in unfamiliar territory. Nothing of this nature has happened before in American History. The most high-profile political postponements are the New York Primary which was rescheduled in 2001 due to the 9/11 terror attack, and the Dade County Primary which fell foul to Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The US Election has just become that bit harder to predict. With the yet another facet to consider. At this stage, we have Biden winning as the most likely outcome. It is worth mentioning that before the news broke on Thursday about the Presidents condition, Biden had increased his odds in the Mallard forecast to 53% after a successful debate in which he passed the low bar. This then reduced because of a a significant increase in the likelihood of ,’no election/other.  It remains to be seen how the Presidents condition will transcend into the polls. For now, advantage Biden.

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