By: Sid Salter
With the Republican National Convention wrapping up this week and the Democratic National Convention just behind us, the stretch run has essentially begun in the 2020 presidential campaign. There are just 10 weeks left in this election.
As one who covered national party conventions as a reporter, I found the pandemic-driven introduction of virtual conventions this year to be less enjoyable but perhaps more impactful in terms of the information conveyed. What was sacrificed was the color, the pageantry, and the decided lack of spontaneity in the “spontaneous” floor demonstrations and balloon drops.
For Mississippians, the most notable aspect of the 2020 Democratic National convention was that it was presided over and chaired by Mississippi Second District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton. That designation made him the first Mississippian in history to preside over a national Democratic Party convention.
Should Biden best Trump in November, Thompson’s influence on federal patronage will likely surpass that he enjoyed during former Democratic President Barack Obama’s two terms in office.
Clearly, Biden and the Democrats have momentum at this juncture. Biden has a lead in the national polls of as much as 10 percent. The initial Nate Silver 538 forecast picks Biden as the winner, Electoral College analyses favor Biden, and if anyone’s paying attention, Vegas oddsmakers are picking Biden to win as well.
Of course, just four years ago, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was leading in the national polls, got the nod to win from Nate Silver, was leading the pre-election Electoral College prognostications, and you guessed it, was favored to win by Vegas oddsmakers.
Presidential election odds are posted in Vegas for entertainment value, but it’s illegal for the gaming industry there to take bets on the actual elections. To bet on U.S. presidential elections, you must take your bets to Great Britain or other non-U.S. venues.
The lack of in-person national political conventions is another part of the toll exacted on tradition by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual presentation robbed our nation’s voters of the eccentricities and superstitions of the party faithful on both sides of the political aisle.
I never see national convention delegates in funny hats and partisan garb that I don’t think of walking into Greenville businessman Clarke Reed on the floor of the 2004 RNC in Madison Square Garden in New York. Normally a dapper guy, Reed was sporting an obviously well-worn sport coat. I tried gigging him about how tacky the coat was, but he was having none of it.
“Boy, this coat’s older than you are,” Reed laughed in his thick Delta drawl. “I’ve had it about 44 years now. My wife Judy bought it for me.”
Reed, a national level powerhouse in GOP politics, gained national attention later that week when distinguished New York Times political analyst R.W. “Johnny” Apple Jr. penned a feature story about that garishly distinctive Black Watch plaid sport coat adorned with gold elephants. Apple published the story with a photo of Reed wearing the same jacket at the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach.
The virtual conventions done, Americans will now focus on bedrock issues like abortion, gun control, religion, immigration, health care, and taxing and spending. They always do. The polling margins will likely tighten, as they did four years ago.
As it was in 2016, most people have already made up their minds between Trump and Biden. The remaining campaign time will be spent appealing to independents and the extremes of both parties. But in Mississippi, there is no reason to expect a significantly different outcome in 2020 that was seen in 2016 – when Trump won nearly 58 percent of the state’s total vote.