Joe Biden’s lead in crucial battleground states is narrower than Hillary Clinton’s was four years ago, despite a commanding national advantage over President Donald Trump. According to the RealClearPolitics average of presidential election polls, democratic nominee Mr Biden has a lead of 7.1 points — narrower than the 9.3 point lead of a month ago but still large enough for his party to be confident. At this stage in 2016 the same average of polls gave Mrs Clinton a lead of six points.
However, in pivotal swing states the margins for Mr Biden are slimmer.
According to a recent report by The Times, the “rust belt” states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — which turned red for the first time since, respectively, 1988, 1984 and 1988 — are closer at this stage than at the equivalent point in 2016.
These comparisons, circulated on Twitter by the Republican polling guru Frank Luntz, prompted a bout of reminders among Democrats not to get too confident, particularly because it is generally expected the election will be very close.
BBC Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall even floated the idea there could be a tie.
Attaching a picture of an evenly split electoral map, Mr Goodall recently wrote on Twitter: “Looking at some of the most recent polling and (assuming race will tighten further) can’t believe that this electoral map isn’t at least a half decent possibility.
“Cue political carnage.”
To win the presidency, a candidate must win 270 electoral votes, or a majority of the 538 electors at stake in the election.
However, it is possible that a presidential election could end up in an Electoral College tie, 269 to 269.
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This would mean that even if Mr Biden does not win, Mr Trump could be stopped from being re-elected President by his arch-rival, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.
In case of a tie, the presidential election is decided in the US House of Representatives in a “contingent election,” with each state delegation having one vote.
Only the top three candidates in terms of electoral votes are considered. Whichever candidate can win the majority of states, or 26, becomes the president.
As a member of the House, then, Congresswoman Pelosi could contribute to making sure Mr Trump does not get the keys to the Oval Office in the event of a tie.
Meanwhile, the US Senate elects the vice president but only the top two candidates are considered. Whichever candidate wins the majority of senators, or 51, becomes vice president.
Under this scenario, Mr Biden could become US President and Republican nominee Mike Pence could become his vice president.
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Alternatively, Mr Trump could be joined by Kamala Harris.
Contingent elections are extremely rare, having occurred only three times in American history, all in the early 1800s.
In 1800, Thomas Jefferson was pitted against his own vice-presidential nominee in a contingent election due to problems with the original electoral procedure.
In 1824, the presence of four candidates split the Electoral College, and Andrew Jackson lost the contingent election to John Quincy Adams despite winning a plurality of both the popular and electoral vote.
In 1836, faithless electors in Virginia refused to vote for Martin Van Buren’s vice-presidential nominee Richard Mentor Johnson, denying him a majority of the electoral vote and forcing the Senate to elect him in a contingent election.