I’m not going to predict who will win tomorrow’s US election because honestly, it’s become impossible to predict anything involving Donald Trump.
In 2016, I confidently told people for months before polling day that Trump was going to pull off a shock win because I’d been filming a lot in middle America that year and witnessed at first hand a fervent passion for the renegade billionaire tycoon and a visceral hatred for his opponent Hillary Clinton.
But this election is far harder to read because nobody hates Joe Biden.
He’s a nice, decent guy and everyone knows about the terrible family tragedies that have blighted his life.
People may hate some of Biden’s policies – but they don’t hate HIM in the way they really personally detested Hillary.
Conversely, a lot of people despise Trump with a demented zeal that causes them to lie on the ground kicking and screaming on a regular basis.
He’s arguably the least popular president in history with large swathes of the American public, but also one of the most popular with those who support him.
There’s no middle ground with Trump.
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President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Richard B. Russell Airport, Sunday, in Rome, Georgia
Co-director of New Jersey Women For Trump, Priscilla Confrey is seen center with other supporters
When do you ever hear someone say: ‘I’m really not sure what to think of him?’
So, this election may well come down to whether enough voters now hate Trump to kick him out of office, not whether they believe in Biden who has conducted one of the quietest, least visible and most unexciting election campaigns ever seen.
As such, it’s more a referendum on Trump’s presidency than any vote for his opponent.
And right now, he seems to be losing that referendum: all major polls suggest a comfortable victory for Biden, but then – as Trump forcefully reminded me several times during our phone call last weekend – the same polls all predicted the same at this stage for Hillary Clinton.
This is why the pollsters have been less cock-sure this time, tempering their data with the words ‘Trump could still win’.
He definitely could.
I would say it’s very unlikely, but not impossible.
If he takes Florida and Pennsylvania, as he assured me that he will, it may be enough to get him over the line and send the world’s liberals into another anaphylactic shock.
Whether he deserves to win re-election is another matter.
I’ve made no secret that I’ve found his handling of the coronavirus crisis and the George Floyd killing and protests absolutely appalling.
But it doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what American voters think.
And if Trump does lose, then it won’t be down to the raging culture wars, or even race as many anticipated.
In fact, incredibly give how racially incendiary that some of his rhetoric has been, Trump is enjoying rising support from Hispanics and even a slight tick up from African-Americans.
No, the single most fascinating aspect to the polls right now is how varied Trump’s support is between men and women.
It’s become a battle of the sexes.
Biden’s average lead among women in recent interview polls reached 25 points a few days ago, a staggering statistic of historical proportions: no nominee of either party has EVER led by that much among women in the last stages of an election campaign.
With men, however, it’s a different story: Trump leads Biden by a significant margin.
Voters hold signs in support of Women For Trump outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections as people arrive to participate in early voting last month
The gender gap in voting preference in 2016 was 20pts but this time looks more like 28pts – strongly suggesting that
Trump’s swaggering, trash-talking machismo style resonates a lot better with men than women.
Jennifer Medina of the New York Times reported that the president’s constant braggadocio, especially in the way he’s recently responded to coronavirus and his own battle with it, plays especially well with Mexican-American men but very badly to women.
‘What has alienated so many older, female and suburban voters,’ she wrote, ‘is a key part of Mr. Trump’s appeal to these (Mexican-American) men. To them, the macho allure of Mr. Trump is undeniable. He is forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic. In a world where at any moment someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self-flagellation. They said they saw his defiance of widely accepted medical guidance in the face of his own illness not as a sign of poor leadership, but one of a man who does his own research to reach his own conclusion. They see his disdain for masks as an example of his toughness, his incessant interruptions during the debate with Mr. Biden as an effective use of his power.’
Women don’t agree.
In fact, it’s increasingly clear that many of the women who voted for Trump in 2016 have now turned their backs on him, repulsed by the bullish, flash, sneering arrogance that many men seem to like so much.
I think the reason is Trump’s empathy, or rather his lack of it.
This has been the hardest year that most Americans have ever endured, one in which a deadly virus has wrought havoc all over the country – killing over 220,000 people and sparking economic carnage that’s left tens of millions fearing for their livelihoods.
Women are fearful for their families; for their grandparents, their parents, their siblings, and especially their children.
And they want to see their president show that he understands their concern, and that he cares.
But Trump doesn’t seem to either understand or care.
All he’s done since the pandemic blew up is massively downplay the threat, blame everyone else but himself and his administration for America’s shocking death toll, publicly denigrate the country’s top scientific and medical experts like Dr Anthony Fauci, spew constant batsh*t crazy covid cure theories, flaunt all his own CDC recommendations on masks and social distancing, and proclaim the crisis is coming to an end when it’s raging more ferociously than ever with record case numbers being recorded almost every day in recent weeks.
In short, he’s been a disaster during the disaster.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a drive-in campaign rally at Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Park on Sunday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Just as he was a disaster in the wake of George Floyd’s appalling killing at the knee of a callous police officer which prompted the biggest race protests since the ’60s.
Trump’s job then was to calm the country and reach out to black Americans to tell them he heard them, understood their concerns, and wanted to work with them to find solutions to the shocking police brutality towards their community which has stained the US for so long.
Instead, he tweeted that ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’, pouring massively divisive and inflammatory fuel onto the raging fires.
And again, he showed zero empathy when it was needed.
When we spoke last week, I told him this was a major failing that he must correct.
‘American people are suffering,’ I said, ‘they need you to empathise with that suffering.’
He listened, but sadly, I’ve seen zero evidence of any pivot to a more empathetic president in the last week. If anything, he’s ramped up the swaggering corona-mocking tough-guy act to massive crowds of people mostly ignoring masks and social distancing.
And the more he swaggers, the more women voters he appears to be losing.
Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Opa-Locka Executive Airport in Florida Sunday
Kate Rabinovitch, who voted Republican in the swing state of Ohio in 2016, but will vote Democrat this time, told Britain’s Sky News: ‘The George Floyd thing happened pretty much in succession to the pandemic and that was my emotional breaking point, just realising how dangerous Trump being in office was, realising that our kids are not safe in the world we elected him to build. When Joe Biden wins this election, it’ll be because of suburban women.’
Her view was shared by Katie Paris, founder of the ‘Red, Wine and Blue’ female action group in Ohio, who told Sky’s US correspondent Greg Milam: ‘So many of us are moms and we’re just worried about the future. We see the country through the eyes of our children, in whom we’re trying to instil good values of respect for one another, kindness in how you treat people every day and we don’t see that reflected in the president of the United States. We cannot even have him on TV if the children are in the room.’
Trump knows he has this female voter problem which is why he’s been desperately begging ‘suburban women’ to ‘please like me.’
But it may be too late for such unedifying grovelling.
I’d never rule out his ability to confound all the polls and sceptics again. And it’s entirely possible that some of the women saying they won’t vote for him will turn out to be those mythical shy-Trump voters who lie to the pollsters.
But with record early voting, and female voters apparently streaming to the safe, calm, caring, corona-concerned and empathetic hands of Joe Biden, Trump is staring down the barrel of a humiliating one-term defeat.
And it will be truly ironic if the architects of his downfall are women having the last laugh on the man who so once crudely boasted of being able to ‘do whatever you want’ to them.