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US Vice President candidates Mike Pence left) and Tim Kaine
Election analyst Shane Heneghan ponders the the next week and beyond in the US elections.
The vice presidential debate is traditionally somewhat of a wild card. This year, both Veep candidates are unmistakably less visible than their running mates.
Tim Kaine who gives off the vibe of a moderately embarrassing suburban dad will probably be seeking to portray himself as having a certain amount of mettle. It remains to be seen how Mike Pence would like to be seen as but he potentially would still like to be regarded as the brains of a potential Trump presidency.
That debate will be swiftly followed by a town hall debate between the main two candidates where questions will be posed by voters. Clinton has strong form in this format.
By contrast, when Trump gets a tough question he’s known to play the ball and not the man. He may get away with that with a Fox news anchor during the primaries but a member of the public during the general election just might prove to be a slightly different matter.
In terms of predictions, at this point I would give Clinton a narrow advantage but I would be nervous about saying that loudly.
Trump and Clinton are easily the two most unpopular candidates either of the two major parties have nominated in living memory. This could lead to many things. Most obviously, a dip in turnout and spike the vote of third party candidates.
The sheer unprecedented nature of the whole thing probably means any dip in turnout could hopefully be kept to a minimum and that the real story here is third party candidates.
The Libertarian ticket has two former Republican governors who are occasionally polling in double digits. Gary Johnson of New Mexico and has considerably more experience at being a Republican than Trump and the more exposure he gets the more of the GOP base he could take away from him.
Jill Stein of the US Green Party may have a similar effect on the Democratic ticket but given her relative obscurity on the national stage, her failure to get above the margin of error in most polls and the surprisingly strong efforts of Bernie Sanders to row in behind Clinton we can expect this to happen to a much smaller degree.
Another thing worth considering on a purely hypothetical basis for the time being is a candidate winning the electoral college without winning the popular vote. This has happened on four separate occasions already- most recently in 2000 when Al Gore garnered half a million more votes than his Republican rival but was denied victory.
Is it possible that if we don’t see the massive double digit margins in formerly solid blue and red states for either candidate, if we see third party candidates eating into base votes that we may have a scenario where the winner gets to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue despite being three million votes or more behind in the popular vote?
If Donald Trump were beaten in this fashion how would he react? More to the point, how would his more rumbustious trigger happy supporters react? It’s a recipe for trouble. If Clinton were beaten in a similar fashion she and the establishment that backs her would feel similarly aggrieved.
In theory, congress should take such a result as a signal to reform the electoral college. What we can be more sure of, however, is that they can use the result and the perceived lack of legitimacy in the short term to ignore the wishes of the President at will. Heck, they do it already to Obama- who is considerably more popular than either of these two.
Another thing that hasn’t been mentioned, and we get way ahead of ourselves when we say this but given the unpopularity of both candidates, it is surely highly unlikely that the winner in 2016 in will win in 2020 or that they will even be reselected to be their party’s candidate. No one has said this out loud that much but you can bet it’s a thought in the back of the heads of some operatives in both parties.
Follow Shane on Twitter: @shanehengehan