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US elections 2020: Trump enlarges his base, despite likely loss

President Donald Trump has already won four million more votes than he did in 2016, shattering pre-election predictions
Donald Trump
Trump declared victory and sought Supreme Court intervention to stop votes being counted on 4 November (AFP/File photo)

As Americans wait for nail-biting final results of the US presidential election, with the outcome of several key battleground states still too close to call, one thing is clear: the analysts got it wrong - President Donald Trump's base has expanded. 

Four years ago, Trump clinched the US election through the electoral college, despite losing the popular vote. This year, as numbers continue to trickle in, Trump has already surpassed his 2016 levels of support by about four million ballots. 

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Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads in the popular vote, which on Wednesday morning stood at 69.5 million for Biden, compared with Trump's 67.1 million.

Biden's total vote count has also surpassed former President Barack Obama's 2008 numbers, breaking the record for the most ballots ever received by a US presidential candidate.

Still, Trump's gains show that his base expanded during his first term, despite most mainstream coverage ahead of election night predicting a decline.

Part of Biden's strategy to appeal to Republican voters seemingly unhappy with the president's performance, such as those aligned with the Lincoln Project, seems to have failed as Trump gained more Republican support. 

"Turns out there were no 'Biden Republicans.' The whole drift to the right strategy was a 100% failure," tweeted Alex Vitale, a political analyst and author.

Watching the results come in, political scientist Yousef Munayyer warned that regardless of who won, a message has been sent to the Republican party that Trump's "alt-right" platform has taken root. 

"Whatever the final count, it is clear now that the idea that Trumpism isn't a viable ideology for GOP political power is false," he tweeted on Wednesday morning.

"This isn't the trouncing that would lead to GOP soul search but a nail biter that will give Trumpists hope and reason to double and triple down." 

Democrats normally benefit from high voter turnout, which is up across the country, as some states - including Arizona and Texas - reported that early voting alone had surpassed 2016's total numbers. 

Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who specialises in American elections, has projected that the rate at which voters came out this year was the highest it has been in more than a century. 

Trump gains among people of colour

While Biden is well in the lead nationally among Hispanic voters and other minorities, according to exit polls, Trump made big gains with the Latino vote in Georgia and Florida - both swing states. 

It is all but certain that Trump has taken Florida, the largest of the swing states, which holds crucial electoral power and was a big focus of both campaigns.

In Miami - a population centre for Cuban Americans - Trump increased his support from 334,000 votes in 2016 to about 500,000 this year, according to projections.

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Edison exit polls showed that Trump was estimated to have gained 12 points among Latino voters in Florida.

Rasha Mubarak, a Florida Young Democrats national committee member, told Middle East Eye that the loss was a direct result of the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) "failing to reach out to the Black, Indigenous and people of color (Bipoc) communities" as opposed to an issue of values, pointing to the fact that Floridians voted in favour of several progressive amendments, including a $15 minimum wage. 

"[As Democrats] we haven't included Bipoc communities in the leadership, in the structure, in the resources and in the funding. We continue to lose because of the misplaced direction of resources and funding and leadership at FDP," said Mubarak, who is also founder of Unbought Power, a grassroots community advocacy group.

"I think just understanding how close the race is, nationally, shows that this electoral process shouldn't be about voting something out, rather than people wanting to gain something.

"This whole election cycle has been driven on fear, on trying to get fascism out of the White House, versus having a candidate's administration that seeks to uplift the values and issues of so many communities."

'Muslims were frustrated with the choices'

Regarding the Muslim vote, Hassan Shibly, chief executive director at Florida's Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), estimates that Trump might have carried 20 percent of the community.

"There wasn't a consensus within the Muslim community about who the better candidate is," Shibly told MEE. 

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"I think people were very frustrated with the choices." 

Still, Shibly said, in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, Muslims likely made a big difference in the vote for Biden.

Trump also increased his support nationally among Black men from 13 percent to 16 percent, and among Black women from four percent to eight percent, according to Edison polling. 

The same poll showed that support for Trump among white men had decreased by about five percent.

Matt Goodwin, a political analyst and professor at the University of Kent, said the results shattered the notion that Trump only enjoyed stable support among a shrinking white base, which had been predicted just weeks previously. 

"The exit poll data sits rather uncomfortably with the 'populism = angry white men' thesis. Whoever wins, Trump's base has broadened and diversified relative to 2016. And that, I suspect, will give 'Trumpism' staying power in the Republican Party," Goodwin tweeted. 

'A failure within the Democratic Party'

Still, Trump's main base does remain among less-educated white voters - about a third of the electorate - 64 percent of which voted for the president, compared with Biden's 35 percent, according to exit polls.

Howard Bryant, longtime sports journalist and author of Full Dissidence, a book that shares his take on racism in American life on and off the field, said the president's expanding numbers shows that racism is not the turnoff some thought it would be. 

"Earlier this summer I was told I 'underestimated the level of white revulsion' to Trump," Bryant tweeted. "After four years of this, of actually watching him on the job, he's got 66 million votes, three million more than 2016. So spare me about 'the base,' 'the fringe,' 'the cult'."

Mubarak, of the Florida Young Democrats, said that even in the case of a Biden win, the closeness of the race proved the Democratic Party had a lot of work to do in terms of outreach to minority communities. 

"The results so far show that there is a failure within the Democratic Party," she said. "The race should not be that close to vote out a fascist."