UCL Minds


Transcript: Episode 25

Could COVID-19 trump Trump?



election, trump, pandemic, biden, democrats, julie, ucl, question, states, day, votes, people, counted, florida, diagnosis, point, win, polls, republican, usa 


Nick Witham, Julie Norman, Vivienne Parry 


Vivienne Parry  00:02 

Hello and welcome to Coronavirus, the whole story UCS award winning podcast about every aspect of the pandemic as seen through the multifaceted lenses of UCLA, extraordinary researchers. My name is Vivienne Parry, I'm a writer broadcaster and UCL alumna and the one with the all areas pass to every virtual corner of the UCL research world. Now COVID has had a medical impact, an economic impact, a societal impact. And we've discussed all of these in past episodes, but it's undoubtedly had a political impact. We've seen it in the UK, but today with the American presidential elections just days away, we're turning the whole stories gaze towards the US. I don't know about you. I'm completely hooked on US politics. I've become addicted to the Twitter feed and the reality show that is presidential politics, although I must admit, I watched it like I once watched Doctor Who was a child from behind the sofa through my fingers. Coronavirus, has already had a close encounter with the president with the Donald emerging the victor, but could Coronavirus still trump Trump through its impact on voter decisions. Joining us today to discuss this are historian from the UCL Institute of the Americas and a political scientist from the Centre on US Politics. My first guest this week is Dr. Julie Norman, a teaching fellow in politics and international relations in the Department of Political Science. Julie researches human rights, security and political activism in conflicts and is an expert on politics in the US and Middle East. She is a political commentator, and has made many contributions right across the media. Most recently, she has been discussing the impact of Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis on the election campaigns. So perfect. I'm also joined by Dr. Nick Witham. Nick is an associate professor in the US history and co editor of the Journal of American Studies. He's an award winning author, and has written about his research into post World War two American political history. Julie, let's start with you. How big a role has the pandemic played in this year's US elections? 


Julie Norman  02:14 

Well within Thank you so much, and the pandemic certainly has featured prominently in this year's elections really from the start. We've Of course seen it really surged back into the forefront of the campaigns in recent days and weeks since Trump's diagnosis. But the pandemic has been in the forefront really throughout this whole year. You in starting really back in March with Trump's response to the coronavirus. It became a very partisan and very polarising issue pretty quickly in the United States. It's one that Trump has consistently pulled fairly poorly on from the beginning. So it's one issue that his campaign throughout this whole election season has tried to pivot away from as much as possible. But of course with his own diagnosis, with cases exceeding 220,000. You know, cases exceeding 60,000 a day right now in the US, it's really not surprising that the pandemic which has been the crucial issue all year is back at the forefront of the race. 


Vivienne Parry  03:17 

So the diagnosis of Trump himself is really interesting because it could have swung it both ways. Because we saw in the UK when Boris Johnson went into intensive care, there was a you know, there's a there was a lot of sympathy. But there doesn't seem to have been that kind of response in the in the US to his diagnosis. 


Julie Norman  03:38 

That's very true. And indeed, often when a leader You're such as Johnson or such as Trump comes down with something like this, we see more of a rally around the leader kind of effect, you know, some sense of unity kind of coming together. And of course, there were expressions of sympathy and well wishes for Trump when he was first diagnosed. But again, the level of polarisation around the pandemic in the United States ended up being more exacerbated rather than ameliorated after Trump's diagnosis. That was partly with the way Trump himself chose to deal with it with doing, you know, photo ops drive bys kind of a victory lap if you will, upon his his coming home from hospital. And it was really this sense of Trump framing himself as this warrior coming through the Coronavirus, beating it and still minimising its threaten impact on American life and society at the same time. So, you know, we really saw a lot of Trump's base and his supporters really rallying around that message as they had from from the start, while democrats really becoming more entrenched and seeing you're seeing the diagnosis is just underscoring Trump's mishandling of the virus and needing to have a leader in the White House who takes it more seriously. 


Vivienne Parry  04:58 

Why has this been so So politically, polarising. 


Julie Norman  05:03 

That's it's an interesting question, because the pandemic, of course, has affected countries all over the world. You know, countries like the UK are also struggling to balance the public health imperatives with also the need to have a functioning economy with having things moving forward. So we've seen this kind of tension and struggle to balance across the world. But with Trump, however, again, very dismissive of the viruses threat and severity from very early on, and really doubling down on a narrative that he really thought would resonate with his base and did of being rather dismissive of public health of science recommendations of so called experts and elites, and at the same time, really doubling down on messages of economic recovery, but more through a personal liberty or civil liberty kind of lens, which which resonates quite strongly. So it was a lot through Trump's own actions and rhetoric that made the pandemic so divisive in the United States, rather than being seen, as you know, really what it was a crisis that was affecting all people, regardless of their political ideology or background. 


Vivienne Parry  06:10 

Nick, I want to bring you in here because there must have been instances in American history when the President was was sick. What does history tell us about this? 


Nick Witham  06:22 

Yeah, I think that's a really good question. For Vienna, the idea of elections taking place in moments of crisis in American history is is not a new one elections took place during the American Civil War, in the middle of the 19th century, midterm elections took place in 1918, at the height of the flu pandemic that took place in that year that went around the globe. Elections took place during the Second World War, as well. And so the the American political system is not unfamiliar to moments of crisis punctuating elections. And so I think, in that sense, we have good examples from American history of the American democratic system, being fairly resilient to these types of crises, and these types of moments of crisis. But there are a whole range of ways in which this particular pandemic mixed with this particular president impacts the kind of mechanics of the election, which is really, really significant. 


Vivienne Parry  07:16 

And that's a really interesting point, because the pandemic has impacted Republicans and Democrats, but in different ways. So for example, the Democrats, you know, the whole idea of mailing voting, or what we would call postal votes has become a major issue with Trump trying to persuade everybody without any evidence at all, that there's a gigantic fraud going on, you know, Democrats not able to get out on the doorstep in the same way that they have done in the past. Just tell me about that. Julie, who's it affecting? And in what ways? 


Julie Norman  07:52 

Well, indeed, the pandemic, of course, is changing the very nature of the election process. And as you noted, that goes for both parties, just as voters are concerned about, you know, going to the polls on on election day. And being among those crowds and queues. What we've seen so far is really unprecedented levels of mail in ballots being cast. Right now, those those ballots are being cast more by Democrats than Republicans. And that's largely because of again, the messaging that Trump has really seized upon of the mail in ballots being a source of potential fraud, even though of course, those claims are quite unsubstantiated. What we are more concerned about, I would say, is the question of voter error, we know that during the primaries, about half a million ballots for were thrown out, are not able to be counted because of you because of them not being marked properly or not being signed or not having a witness. So there is a real potential challenge coming up with the sense of people feeling confident that their votes were indeed counted, especially if the election comes down to very close margins in some of the swing states. So this is really the pandemic has just pushed the electoral process to really an unprecedented point with this. And again, a lot of legal battles, I think about 300 different kinds of lawsuits in different states around trying to work out this process already. I'm not doing 


Vivienne Parry  09:21 

want to diss your electoral system, but it is quite complicated. 


Julie Norman  09:25 

It certainly is. I think most Americans would agree with that. You know, again, a lot of the polls that we have heard in the news headlines have focused on national numbers, the fact that Biden has pretty consistently maintained almost a 10 point lead over Trump and most of the national polls, but as we know, and saw very clearly in 2016, the national polls aren't actually what ended up deciding the election or the the popular vote as we would say, it really comes down to how each state and the number of electoral votes within each states end up playing out so we can have your specific states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, and Michigan states where if they don't vote a certain way it can tip the whole election for the whole country, depending on how this electoral votes pan out, Nick. 


Nick Witham  10:18 

Yeah, I think Julie's points are really important and looked at historically, I think they're kind of the worrying nature of some of these developments comes into kind of industry perspective, because one of the things that we're that we're thinking about when we're thinking about the complexity of these voting systems, when we're thinking about early voting, and the likelihood that votes can be can be thrown out because of minor irregularities. We need to focus our attention on the idea of disenfranchisement, and on a kind of a partisan way of looking at the electorate that has developed over the course of the 20th century, where Republicans tend to view this problem as the smaller the electorate is, the more likely they all get our to win. Whereas the democrats view as the larger the electorate is, the more likely they are to win. And so this kind of focuses our attention on the fact that the disenfranchisement of voters is a kind of a long historical process. And it's in particular, it's a highly racialized one, too, we should recognise that there's a there's a great likelihood that considerable numbers of people who are who either have their ballots thrown out, if they've sent them in via post, or people who are turned away from polling places on Election Day, are much more likely statistically to be African American or other people of colour than they are to be white. And so we need to recognise the racialized dynamics at work here, which is part of the Trump administration, and the republican kind of ploy of calling the democratic process into question. 


Vivienne Parry  11:41 

Julie, there's an issue too, with fundraising isn't there because the republicans have been finding it much harder than you might have thought to raise funds, although on the other hand, there voters perhaps are more likely to turn out. And while the democrats have had much more money, I mean, extraordinary amounts of money, but really haven't had that on street presence, which sometimes is the is the key in very close fought states. 


Julie Norman  12:10 

That's very true. Vivian. And I think that's for a couple reasons. One is that I think there's sometimes a perception that once a candidate has money, then they had the momentum. But in fact, in reality, it's more of the reverse that the money tends to follow where the momentum is, and who is having that surge and having that, and having that support behind them already. So we've definitely seen that in terms of the Biden campaign, being able to out fundraise the the Trump campaign, you know, through the summer, and then then very strongly into the fall, where we've seen it even more is in some of the down ballot races and some of the Senate races where Democrats have been very mobilised in terms of fundraising efforts. And I think that's partly to do with what you just pointed out the fact that because this is such a different kind of campaign and a different kind of year, we don't see democrats really having you know, big rallies going to big stump speeches on even canvassing was not going door to door was was not happening until a few weeks ago. So a lot of the ways that people usually show their enthusiasm, get involved in a campaign were simply not options this year. And so we saw people taking another form of activism in terms of in terms of giving to certain candidates and campaigns where they felt that just having those dollars would make a difference. And certainly, again, that's just contributed to the momentum that Biden and some of these Senate races have been developing since the summer. 


Vivienne Parry  13:38 

Nick, I want to come to you to talk to about rather long term impact of Corona virus. Do you think I mean, you were already hinting at it, that the pandemic has actually changed the election process itself? And is that going to have longer term implications? I mean, forget the horse trading that's undoubtedly going to go on. How about for the long term? 


Nick Witham  14:00 

Yeah, I think I think that's an important thing for us to keep our eye on and keep our attention on. I think in, in a sense, a lot of that depends on the outcome of this election and the way in which whoever wins, it is given an opportunity to govern. I think that one of the one of the points that Judy's made really well about the polarisation of the American political system means that it is very, very challenging for different branches of government to work together when they are held by different political parties. And so what we see at the moment is a presidency held by a republican politician and the two bodies of Congress held by different parties, the House of Representatives by the democrats and the Senate, by the Republicans. And what this results in is a considerable amount of gridlock and the way in which this election has the potential to be transformative and I would argue that at least in part, that is because of the way that Coronavirus has completely upset the dynamic that the Trump administration was counting on to win re election. This has this has really significant potential. When we think about the the election of the presidential election, this sorry, the outcome of the presidential election. As Julie's mentioned, there's a there's a very good chance that Biden is going to Biden is going to win this. And as the momentum of his campaign is developing, been developing, the momentum of down ballot races has been developing as well. So we see a number of key Senate races that are potentially going to fall to the Democrats. And if if if Biden can come out of this with a with a governing governing majority, not only in the House of Representatives, but also in the Senate, then there is the chance that some significant progress can be made by him as President. So I think in that sense, in this era of polarisation, we need to be looking for these small moments where governance can actually take place, and that might be one in a longer term in the aftermath of this election. 


Vivienne Parry  15:52 

Quick side question to Julie. Amy Coney Barrett, where are we going on that because this is the person who's going to has been nominated by Trump to go on to the Supreme Court to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the democrats have tried their damnedest to avoid her being appointed before the election. Are they going to succeed? 


Julie Norman  16:17 

Well, it certainly looks that way. So of course, the rushed process around a niccone Barrett's nomination and confirmation was very controversial, especially for Democrats in the sense that the Senate under mitch mcconnell had blocked President Obama's nominee nine months ahead of the election back in 2016, on the grounds that it was an election year. And yet here when it was just eight or nine weeks before the election, we saw the GOP really piling ahead quite strongly with that. I think Democrats knew pretty early on that it was going to be difficult for them to block or even delay that process in any kind of meaningful way. We've already seen that, even with Trump's diagnosis with some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee falling ill with Corona even with that the hearing still continued. We expect a vote from the committee probably by the end of this week, I believe even today, there was the vote was scheduled for today. And that day that we're recording by, you know, definitely by the election, she will most likely have been confirmed. Once you see the committee, that vote then goes to the full Senate. Republicans, of course have the majority there and are expected to vote pretty much along party lines to confirm 


Vivienne Parry  17:36 

because to Nick's point that really has a very long term effect on American politics, because the Supreme Court will be involved in a lot of the judicial decisions following contests about electing 


Julie Norman  17:50 

it certainly does. And this was one reason why this issue became so pivotal for Democrats, because supreme court justices can serve a life term, because any Kony Barrett is relatively young, she's not yet 50, it's assumed that she would be a presence on the court for decades to come. And also that her coming on to the court as kind of the sixth conservative leaning justice would really tip the court in a conservative way, again, for potentially decades to come. So that's something that again, was very worrying to Democrats, something that is galvanising some of their own policy discussions, in terms of you options, such as perhaps expanding the number of justices to try and balance out this current ratio, or what have you. So a lot of big questions coming up around this nomination and this confirmation, and what that will mean for kind of balancing the the different bodies of government moving forward. 


Vivienne Parry  18:47 

Do you think that the pandemic has changed voting priorities? So for instance, Obamacare, always hugely contested by the Republican Party, who, you know, isn't kind of act of faith that if you're a Republican, you must be against Obamacare. But the pandemic has really focused people's minds on health care, much more than perhaps in the past. Do you think that it's changed the conversation about state support or national support for health care? 


Nick Witham  19:21 

It's a very complicated question. I mean, you're you're absolutely right. It's a it's an important question. I mean, you're absolutely right. Health care is a highly politicised issue in the United States. Most Americans rely on complex and expensive health insurance from profit making providers and the reforms to that system known as Obamacare that came in in 2010 have been, have been hugely, hugely controversial. They extended health care to roughly 20 million Americans, but have been very, very, very unpopular amongst Republicans. I mean, I think you're you're absolutely right, the pandemic frames healthcare as a key issue of the politics of the United States and of the 2020 elections. It frames It frames access to adequate health care for all Americans. But it also it frames the racialized inequalities of the pandemic, the fact that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted black Americans who are also disproportionately impacted by poor access to affordable health care. But I think the reality is that, you know, without being without wanting to predict long term dynamics without being able to see them, the reality is speaking back to the point Julie made earlier, which is so important. The polarisation that we're witnessing in the United States means that I think it's very, very unlikely for a large scale, new form of of state funded health care to have enough popularity in the United States for it to be able to be pushed through and I think we saw this in the debate within the Democratic Party. It's interesting so far, we haven't talked about the Democratic Party, because the headlines of the pandemic and Trump but the debate that took place amongst the democrats in their, in their primary election revolved around questions of health care, could some of the state funded systems that exist in the United States that might be expanded to encompass all Americans rather than just the poorest and the and the oldest? And this is not something I think the Democratic Party has the appetite for. It's it's something that that some on the left of the Democratic Party have appetite for, but not the entire party. And so a drastic change in the politics of healthcare in the forthcoming years, I think, is quite unlikely. 


Vivienne Parry  21:19 

I'm wondering also what this election would have looked like without Coronavirus. I mean, Trump might have had the buoyant stock market that and buoyant economy that he assumed would propel him to a second term. But I suspect that he might still have had the voter suppression the Black Lives Matter, protests. So how does that all play in together? 


Nick Witham  21:45 

I think that's I think that's a that's an important question. And and I think one of the answers to that is that it focuses our attention on Trump's right wing populism. You know, since he has since he emerged as a serious political figure in 2015. He's, he's played many of the cards of a right wing populist, you know, he's made claims to speak for the silent majority of Americans, whilst in fact implementing policies and arguing for policies that benefit large corporations and the richest Americans. He's repeatedly used racist and sexist language to denigrate his opponents. He's consistently called into question and broken democratic norms. And I think in a sense, the, the undercurrent of that right wing populism that he's espouse, would have been there, regardless of whether the pandemic was there is his stock in trade. And he simply applies it to the the moment that he's facing and you can, you know, you can see that in in a whole range of different ways. But you're absolutely right. The Black Lives Matter protests coming through at this moment this summer, I think demonstrate some of the continuities in American politics as well as the ruptures that have been caused by the coronavirus pandemic 


Vivienne Parry  22:51 

fascinating. You're listening to Coronavirus the whole story a podcast brought to you by UCL Minds and if there's a question about Coronavirus, you'd like our researchers to answer email us at minds@ucl.ac.uk or tweet at UCL. So, we've looked at the impact of Coronavirus on the elections. The impact of the elections on Coronavirus and, Julie have the elections have affected international coordination in terms of combating Coronavirus? 


Julie Norman  23:29 

Well, of course, there is a lot of focus from the international community on the US elections as there always is but certainly around the pandemic on Trump, of course, you withdrew from the World Health Organisation and has been quite critical of the w h o for quite a while there is no hope that if Biden is victorious in the election, that he would reengage with the who as well as with other international organisations to have a bit more of a cooperative kind of global response to this moving forward. And as well in terms of thinking about how a potential vaccine would be distributed. Again, many international many in the international community are a bit concerned about Trump's America first approach to dealing with all kinds of issues but especially with the pandemic, and again, are really looking to a potential Biden Biden administration for having a more, you know, thoughtful way of going about any kind of vaccine administration in the future. 


Vivienne Parry  24:32 

Because Nick, I was going to ask you, how would a Biden win affect how Coronavirus is managed in the new year? 


Nick Witham  24:40 

Well, I think that there is it's a challenging question to answer because we don't know exactly what the political climate in which he would be operating in would be. But if we if he gets to a point where he has a strong kind of position in from which he can govern, then I think that there is a likelihood that we will see a range of responses but the the kind of most immediate It will revolve around an attempt to deepen the stimulus investment by the American government in the American economy, and also an attempt kind of in a in a victorious moment to try and reform and extend health care, to some extent. But to go back to my earlier answer, I think it's really important for us to recognise that the binding response on the question of healthcare will not be as expansive as some on the left of his party would would want it to be. And therefore, if he were to win the presidency, and were to be in that position, we can begin to see some kind of intra party conflicts emerging very quickly within the democrat within the Democratic Party, precisely because even if he is a victorious presidential candidate, Biden does not necessarily have the backing of of one at all, within the Democratic Party. 


Vivienne Parry  25:46 

Julie, can you answer just to kind of point of order here? What happens to the positions in things like, you know, the NIH or you know, all those kind of political appointments that Trump has made with people that really don't know anything about health? Or, you know, the the post office, for instance, that's got a republican who's trying his hardest to stop the male rather than encourage the male? Do those appointments just all kind of fall apart? And the new President appoints new people? 


Julie Norman  26:21 

Well, thanks so much for that question, Vivian, because I think a lot of the focus, especially with the Trump administration is so much on Trump as a personality and kind of his kind of character and, and rhetoric and whatnot. But a lot of the criticism for the Trump administration from people in Washington is actually more in those submerge levels that are out of the public eye that are really seen as quite banal by many people, these like bureaucratic appointments. And yet, as you pointed out, we've seen so many individuals who are put in those positions, especially in among some of the the agencies that deal with the environment, that deal with climate that deal with house the deal with science, who are really either not qualified to be there or who are very politicised in their approach to those topics and subjects. So indeed, when there is a new administration, there is a lot of leeway for the president or for the new administration to put new individuals into those posts. That is what we would expect a Biden administration to do. But again, there has been there would have to be a lot of unwinding of policies that have been put in place under this current administration. And that's going to take a little while 


Vivienne Parry  27:34 

kind of make a prediction, which is I think that Dr. Fauci will find himself serving, I think his his seventh President if Biden wins, and I suspect he will be returned to glory than than denigrated. But I want you to to make a prediction. Julie, Nick, I want you to call it Trump or Biden. Nick, let's go with you first. 


Nick Witham  28:00 

Well, the election forecasting website that I'm very fond of 538, run by Nate Silver, suggests that Joe Biden has an 88% chance of winning the election. And I'm very, very confident in that. So I will, I will give you that prediction. But again, I'll go back to my broader point, I think the key thing is what happens below the ticket with Biden, and there, everything is much more of a toss up, and we should be looking at Senate races in places like Arizona, places like Georgia, places like Florida, where there can be significant changes made. 


Vivienne Parry  28:37 

Julie, what about the shy trumpers? The I didn't know how you can be a shy trumper I think that's I think that's a tautology. I think all the Trump has that I better, right. Absolutely out there. But there is this thought that, you know, of course, the trends 60 in the polls were dramatically wrong. Have the polls got it, right. I mean, Nate Silver, we think is a God. But what do you think? 


Julie Norman  29:00 

Right. So there's a couple of things to think about here. First, in 2016, there was a much higher percentage of undecideds going into the last week of the campaign's in the elections. In this election, it's estimated at most 10% are in that undecided block. And that was the block that ended up swinging hard towards Trump and some of those key states. So essentially, there's less numbers there to work with, to change the polls or to change the outcome at the last minute. With that said, however, the one thing where Trump voters have been pulling higher, so to speak than democrats is in terms of their enthusiasm. They're much more enthusiastic about voting for Trump, and are much more reliable voters in that regard as well. So a lot will again depend on this question of voter turnout. And as we noted before, again, whose votes actually end up being counted. So I do think it will be Closer indeed, than the current polls are showing. And again, I think after 2016, we just know that it's not over till it's over. 


Vivienne Parry  30:08 

So can we go into that nightmare territory now, is that because as far as I can see, Trump has the view that either I've won, or the election has been stolen from me. So there is a concern isn't there that actually the the in person votes, which are more likely to be Republican, are going to be counted first, and there's a danger, I guess, that he announces that he is victorious. And then two or three days later, the postal votes then counted? And it kind of turns it around? And then Trump uses it to? And he's, you know, already it's we've since we've talked about cast a lot of doubt on mailing voting as being completely Riven by fraud. So what's going to happen? What scenarios Do you imagine? I mean, I can imagine legal challenge of every possible sort, Nick, with you? What's gonna happen? 


Nick Witham  31:09 

Yeah, I mean, this focuses our attention on the fact that there is not one presidential election right, but individual elections taking place in all the different states. And I think the reality is, on the one level, this will in part depends on what the kind of broad national polls suggest, if this is a landslide, for Biden, then we then we may know that we may know that earlier. But what we can what we can absolutely guarantee is based on precisely what you've said, Vivian, that there will be legal challenges left, right and centre. But I think what we what we need to remember, we can cast our minds back to the 2000 election. Remember that George W. Bush won that in significant part because of the intervention of the Supreme Court on his behalf to stop the counting of votes in Florida? 


Vivienne Parry  31:50 

Was this the hanging chads? 


Nick Witham  31:52 

Precisely? Yes. And, and what we I think we need to remember is, is that that was a that was an incredibly unlikely set of events that coalesce to mean that the Supreme Court had such decisive power. I'm not saying it's impossible in this election, but it wouldn't, there will be multiple hundreds of legal challenges, and on various levels against various different parts of the election from both parties, I should add, not just from the Republicans, but the likelihood of any of those individually being decisive is incredibly small. And so in a sense, we shouldn't be overly afraid of the kind of, of the masses of litigation that may will take place in the days and weeks after the election, as long as it doesn't come down to a specific state around which the entire election is hinged. 


Vivienne Parry  32:35 

Julie, how long do you think it will be before we know the result of the election? 


Julie Norman  32:40 

Well, they've been I think, as Nick said, If Biden is victorious, and if he wins big rather than just wins, then we will know relatively quickly. So if the polls that day, are able to give a pretty clear answer, then we'll know fairly quickly. If however, the election is close, and if it's close in some of those key states, it could be days before we we actually have an answer. Some states that are taking in the nail and ballots, several states are not allowed to start counting them until the election day. And so while some states are kind of getting a head start, others will just be really deluged by this number of ballots and having to count them on that that day. And some states such as Pennsylvania, are accepting ballots that are postmarked on election day and might not even be received until several days after. So if some of these swing states really go down to razor thin margins that need all those mail ballots counted. It could be it could be a number of days before we have a final count. 


Vivienne Parry  33:44 

So I'm taking it as read that both of you are going to be Apple night, back to the election. And I wonder what are the key states that you'll be looking for Florida? Is is obviously one, Arizona is another Wisconsin might be another? What will you be looking for, Nick? 


Nick Witham  34:04 

Yep, you've mentioned some of the most important states there, I think it will be very interesting to see what happens in Texas, as I understand it, because of quite significant restrictions on access to early voting in Texas, the likelihood is that that state will be called fairly early. And whilst it's fairly advanced, it's very unlikely that Joe Biden will win that state, it's closer than then than it ever has been, it's still unlikely that Biden will win. If it's close, then that will maybe that may well be an indicator to US of A kind of broader trend across the course of across the course of evening, 


Vivienne Parry  34:38 

just as one of the constituencies in the northeast was with Brexit. That was the sudden moment when people thought, Oh, this is not going the way that people have assumed it's gonna go. And the so Texas is a bellwether in that sense, and it's a republican state, of course, isn't it at the moment, 


Nick Witham  34:56 

it is yes. And again, like I say, is likely remain a republican state, although the demographic trends and the polling suggests that it is that it is close and, you know, in a in a in a Biden landslide world as a state that could tend towards him. So it's a useful bellwether, not because Biden needs to win it to win the election, but that if it's closer than we expect it to be, then that could be bad news for Trump. 


Vivienne Parry  35:21 

Julie, what state will you be keeping an eye on? 


Julie Norman  35:24 

Well, then I'll be watching two key states, Pennsylvania and Florida. Clinton lost Pennsylvania as a rather a surprise in 2016. Biden's been really working hard to try and reach out to voters. They are not only in the cities, but in some of the more rural counties that that ended up tipping things back in 2016. The other state there that I'll be following closely is Florida. It tends to be a rather pivotal state and US elections, as we remember back to the hanging Chad days. But Florida, biting is still leading Trump there, but it's much tighter much closer. There is also a lot of movement right now among Latino voters in Florida, and that may have not been fully captured in the polls, and a lot of increasing voter registration for republican tickets there as well. So I think Florida is going to be close. It's 29 electoral votes. It's a big prize for whoever gets it. And to me, it kind of sets the tone for how we might see the rest of the election play out. 


Vivienne Parry  36:23 

Well. It's been a riveting conversation. Ladies and gentlemen, You have been listening to a fascinating I say so myself edition of Coronavirus the whole story. The episode was presented by myself Vivienne Parry produced by UCL with support from the UCL Health of the Public and UCL Grand Challenges and edited by the splendid Cerys Bradley, our guest today with Dr. Julie Norman and Dr. Nick Witham. If you'd like to hear more of these podcasts from UCL Minds, of course, you would subscribe wherever you download your podcasts or visit ucl.ac.uk forward slash Coronavirus. This podcast is brought to you by UCL Minds, bringing together UCL knowledge, insights and expertise through events, digital content, and activities open to everyone. I hope to be with you again soon, by which time we may or may not know who's won the American presidential election.