Below please find key take-outs from our November 5th panel with Mark Thompson, former CEO of the New York Times and former Director General of the BBC; Sarah Baxter, former deputy editor of The Sunday Times; Orson Porter, former Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton and Teneo Senior Managing Director; Tony Sayegh, former Senior Adviser for Strategy to President Donald Trump and Teneo Senior Managing Director; and chaired by Principal of Teneo’s Situations and Politics practice and former Downing Street Director of Politics and Communications, Craig Oliver.
- Our panel agreed that Joe Biden has a clearer path to the White House, however one member of the panel was keen to emphasise that Trump still has a route to reelection if he sweeps Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona. The panel also reaffirmed the prevailing view that President Trump will pursue recounts and court action, if there is even the slightest reason to do so.
- Whilst the election result is still unclear, one thing we know for certain is that Tuesday was another bad night for the US polling industry. Going into election day, the consensus projection was that Biden enjoyed a circa 10pt lead. In the end Biden seems to be trending at about half that number and the pollsters failings were amplified by a key miss in Florida. The panel discussed why the polling industry seems increasingly disconnected from the views of voters, either owing to a metropolitan bias, a shy Trump phenomenon or the challenge of polling disparate states where there is a huge divide between rural and urban communities.
- Despite being on track to reach 270 electoral college votes, the panel described the result as underwhelming for the Democrats. Although Biden is set to break records for the popular vote, the panel noted that the Democrat’s had performed poorly in key House and Senate races. When looking ahead to the transition and beyond, it was the clear view of the panel that a Biden White House facing a Republican Senate would need to make compromises to avoid deadlock.
- We could have comfortably talked about the drama unfolding in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona for the full hour, however we asked the panel to look ahead and share their perspective on what a Biden presidency could mean for the UK. The general consensus was that Biden’s proud Irish heritage – combined with similarly strong views in Congress – could mean the Taoiseach would enjoy a key ally in future trade or Brexit discussions. The panel also noted Biden’s support for climate positive action, a welcome boost for the UK ahead of next year’s COP 26 conference.
- The discussion finished with an impassioned plea by one of the panelists for the US to rediscover its place in the world. If anything this election has further entrenched the deep divisions within the US. At the same time, politics is increasingly insular with foreign policy playing only a small role in the debates and the campaign. The inevitable beneficiary of this trend will be China, especially as they are best placed to come out of Covid-19, both politically and economically stronger. Put simply, the crisis in American leadership has consequences across the globe.