The 2020 US election promises to be a political spectacle with far-reaching implications for the country's domestic politics and the outlook for Indian and world foreign policy, according to The Observer Research Foundation.
In its report 'US Election 2020: The Battleground States', the ORF, a think-tank, said that the 'battleground states' in the US might ultimately decide the outcome of the November polls. Though the elections are around the corner, the ORF said these states have "no clear allegiances nor evident leanings" towards Democrats or Republican.
These states are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin--nine states with a combined 173 electoral votes between them.
There are a total of 538 electoral college votes in a presidential election, of which a candidate requires 270 to win.
These swing states, therefore, constitute a huge electoral haul and both the Republican and Democratic parties are invested massively in campaigning in those areas, said the ORF.
"The 2020 US election promises to be a political spectacle unlike anything the world has seen before, with far-reaching implications for the country's domestic politics and the outlook for Indian and world foreign policy," the ORF said.
According to the ORF, the report aims to make two key contributions towards current analyses on the 2020 US elections. It outlines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the battleground states and their economies and captures the political dynamics and contestations around the pandemic in the states.
The think tank also tries to capture the influence of the Indian-American community as an electoral constituency in these states, saying their population has become a formidable political force in many parts of the US, due to their growing numbers and outsized impact.
"They are particularly high-skilled and most prosperous, even as they constitute a small two per cent of the US electorate. The community has now become a microcosm--a battleground itself as Indian-Americans, once a staunchly Democratic lot on the whole, are now believed to be swerving towards the Republican Party," it added.
The nine battleground states are home to roughly 1.4 million Indian-American voters, the ORF said.
In one of them, Wisconsin, the Republicans won in the 2016 election with a narrow margin of 21,000 votes; the state has 37,000 Indian-Americans.
Meanwhile, in Florida, also in 2016, Indian-American voters constituted two-thirds of the margin garnered by the winner. The sheer mathematical significance of the Indian-American electorate, coupled with their apparently shifting attitudes, have caused both parties to woo the community assiduously.
The pandemic has added considerable uncertainty to the American elections this year.
"The Wisconsin primaries in April served a taste of the chaos that can visit the November election, if it is not managed properly. Analysts are anticipating long queues at polling places and potentially late results, and there has been an unusual amount of litigation with at least 200 cases pending in 43 states across the country regarding changes to voting rules due to the pandemic," the think tank noted.
The president has not helped by casting doubt on the reliability of mail-in ballots--the safest way to vote, the ORF said.
The report finds that a number of battleground states have been hit particularly hard by the virus, ranking in the top 10 states across the country with the highest death toll as of 30 September--Texas (16,132 deaths); Florida (14,317); Pennsylvania (8,224); Michigan (7,083); and Georgia (7,021). The report also gauges the impact of the pandemic on key industries in the battleground states.
"At present, only 38 per cent of citizens approve of Trump's handling of the pandemic, a sharp slide from the March numbers. The government response to COVID-19, and the political contestation around it is poised to become a key factor defining election outcomes this year," the think tank added.