WASHINGTON - With 15 days remaining before the U.S. presidential election, Democratic challenger Joe Biden continues to lead in national polling against Republican President Donald Trump and millions of Americans are casting early ballots.
Poll aggregators show Biden, the former vice president and a fixture on the U.S. political scene for nearly a half century, with a 9- or 10-percentage point lead nationally and perhaps half that lead in key battleground states that will determine the outcome.
Trump is still confident he will be reelected.
Already, there has been unprecedented early voting in the U.S., with nearly 28 million people having cast ballots, either in person or by mail. The figure equals about 20% of the total vote count when Trump edged Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and another 30% could vote by the official Election Day.
Some of the voters have told interviewers they voted early to avoid coming face-to-face with other people at polling stations on Nov. 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.
Meanwhile, some Democrats have said their early voting motivation was to be among the first to vote to oust Trump, while pollsters say a majority of Republicans have declared their intention to vote in person on Election Day, as is traditional in the U.S.
Based on the polling, some news organizations are already predicting that Biden will become the country’s 46th president on the Jan. 20 inauguration day and its oldest at 78. An election loss would make Trump, a real estate entrepreneur and reality show host turned politician, the third incumbent U.S. president in the last four decades to lose his reelection contest for a second four-year term.
Trump also trailed in the polls heading into the last election, but then scored an upset following intense campaigning in key battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The polling website FiveThirtyEight.com says its 40,000 computerized simulations of the election show Biden winning 88 times in 100 possible scenarios considering prospective voter turnout, historical trends and recent election performance in the country’s 50 states.
Other news sites are already suggesting that Biden is ahead in enough key battleground states to amass more than the majority 270 of the 538 electoral votes needed to win the presidency in the Electoral College, the U.S. system of indirect democracy.
The U.S. national popular vote does not determine the winner, but rather the outcome in each of the states, where the vote winner in all but two of the least populous states amasses all its electoral votes.
Trump and Biden have campaigned extensively in battleground states in recent days ahead of Thursday’s second and last debate between the two in Nashville, Tennessee. Trump headed Monday to two campaign stops in the southwestern state of Arizona, which he won in 2016 but now narrowly trails Biden in polling there.
Biden took time off from the campaign trail Monday to prepare for the debate.
Trump’s running mate, Vice President Mike Pence, campaigned in the northeastern states of Maine and Pennsylvania. Biden’s vice-presidential running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, campaigned in another key battleground, the vote-heavy southeastern state of Florida, Trump’s adopted home state.
Four years ago, Trump lost the national popular vote to Clinton by about 2%, nearly 3 million votes, while winning the election because he narrowly won the vote in three northern states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — that traditionally had been carried by Democrats. In the Electoral College, Trump collected all the electoral votes in those three states — and the presidency.
Current state-by-state polling is not predicting any Trump wins in states carried by Clinton in 2016, while Biden has small polling advantages in several states Trump won, including the three that carried him to the White House, along with others where the outcome is in doubt.
Trump, 74, continues to predict himself as the winner. But last week, at a campaign stop in the southern state of Georgia, he pondered the possibility of losing to Biden.
“Could you imagine if I lose?” he said. “I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t know.” In other states, he has told voters he won’t return to see them again if they don’t carry the vote for him.
On Sunday night in Nevada, Trump contended that his large rallies of thousands of supporters in contested states will carry him to victory, in contrast to the modest turnouts at Biden events, where social distancing by mask-wearing supporters is practiced.
Before leaving for Arizona on Monday, Trump, who recently spent four days hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus, assailed government health experts, including the country’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for their role in handling the pandemic and their urging for Americans to wear face masks and socially distance themselves from others.
"People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," Trump declared in a call with campaign staff.
Biden has often attacked Trump’s handling of the virus, observing at a Sunday rally in North Carolina that Trump had said that the U.S. had turned the corner on the pandemic.
"As my grandfather would say, this guy's gone around the bend if he thinks we've turned the corner. Turning the corner? Things are getting worse," Biden said.
In recent days, the U.S. is recording more than 50,000 new infections daily. In all, according to Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has recorded world-leading totals of more than 219,000 deaths and 8.1 million infections.