17:23 GMT23 November 2020
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    The US presidential election has turned into a nailbiter as incumbent President Donald Trump and Democrat contender Joe Biden are virtually neck and neck in key swing states. Counting continues with all eyes on Pennsylvania and Georgia, which offer 20 and 16 electoral college votes respectively.

    Trump beat Democrat rival Joe Biden in Florida, a key swing state which he also narrowly won in 2016 when he outpolled his challenger Hillary Clinton by just over 112,000 votes.

    Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, has shared his views on how important this year's election in the United States is, a potential legal battle for the Oval office, and a possible future of the Republican Party without Trump.

    Sputnik: Why do we see such huge support for Trump in Florida?

    Aubrey Jewett: Well yes, what we expected - it was going to be a very close race in Florida, the polls before the elections suggested that Biden had a small lead, but certainly Trump still could win because Biden was only up by 1 or 2 points. In the end, though, there was a big surge and turnout among Republican voters, but particularly in Miami Bay county in South Florida Trump got about 200,000 more votes from Hispanics than he got four years ago. And so, I think that really accounts for the large margin of victory in Florida.

    Trump would still have won but it would have been very, very close. So this adds 200,000 extra votes. It actually gave him a comfortable win in Florida of three percentage points.

    I think that Hispanic voters in Florida really responded to the message that President Trump repeated over and over again that a vote for Joe Biden was a vote for socialism and that Biden and Kamala Harris were socialists, they were very progressive, very liberal and that they would take the United States in a very socialist direction. And many of those Hispanics in South Florida have fled from countries that were either communist or socialist; for instance, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua.

    So they repeated that message over and over again and many of those Hispanics said "No, I didn't come to the United States, I didn't leave the country where I was born and come to the United States only to have to go through socialism again", and so I think that message was quite effective.

    Whether it was true or not is another story, because I don't think that Biden is really a socialist. He is certainly liberal compared to Trump, but it doesn't really matter. As you know in politics a lot of times it doesn't matter if something is actually a 100 per cent true or not, it's whether people believe the message. And in this case, a lot of Hispanics in South Florida really believed that message and they were worried if Joe Biden won. it would become a more socialist country they did not want to have.

    Sputnik: If Trump loses, do you expect him to concede or take the fight to the courts? We remember the Gore-Bush case in 2000 when votes were recounted in Florida and Bush won due to conservative justices in the Supreme Court.

    Aubrey Jewett: I was in Florida in the year 2000, I was a young professor back then, 20 years ago, but I was here, so I well remember the recounts and the legal battle. Well, I think that President Trump has already begun some legal challenges in several states. Obviously, he will not be doing a legal challenge in Florida because he won this state and so we’re sort of an afterthought in that regard. But he has already, I believe, brought some people challenges to vote-counting in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

    Activists wearing COUNT EVERY VOTE t-shirts coil electrical cord and dissemble the audio equipment after a street dance party across the street from where votes are being counted, two days after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 5, 2020
    © REUTERS / MARK MAKELA
    Activists wearing "COUNT EVERY VOTE" t-shirts coil electrical cord and dissemble the audio equipment after a street dance party across the street from where votes are being counted, two days after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 5, 2020

    So yes, there will be some legal battles in those states, there will probably be recounts in at least one or two of those states but in the end, we will see what happens. If Joe Biden's margin of victory is probably large enough in Wisconsin, in Michigan, that’s even after a recount, Biden will still be ahead. I suspect Trump will get lawyers involved and he already has, but in the end, it looks like Biden has enough votes to win those states. And so really it's down to those last few states that have not finished counting their ballots - Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania.

    Sputnik: What changes do you foresee for the Republican party in general in the event that Biden takes office?

    Aubrey Jewett: Right now I would say that Biden has a very high chance of winning the presidency. Just because he is ahead in many of these states that haven't finished counting. He really only needs to win one or two more states and he will have enough votes to become President. So assuming that Biden becomes President, yes, we will see some changes in the Republican party, because if we look over the past four years the Republican party has been the party of Donald Trump.

    And Republicans who didn't like Donald Trump have left the party. There was a whole movement in the United States about former Republicans that don't vote for Donald Trump. I do believe that there will be a battle in the Republican party to see who will lead the party and what direction the party will go in terms of policies. Will they try to go back to the policies that they had before Trump, for instance, more of free trade, as opposed to the fair trade deals, being engaged in NATO and other organisations, the UN. Or being more isolationist like President Trump was putting.

    I don't know which way they will go, but I do know that if Trump leaves there will be a vacuum in the Republican party. There will be a fight, an internal fight as to who will lead the party and what specific policies will change now that Trump is gone.

    I might add also that the other unknown factor is how much President Trump will like to stay involved in the Republican party. If he loses the presidency, it's still very close. The polls suggested that he might lose in a major way, that he might lose a lot of states, and that he might lose to Biden by 10 points or more, but clearly, that was not the case. I mean he is battling and he is actually quite close to winning. It just looks like Biden is going to win in a few states by a little bit and that would cause Biden to win.

    So, all that to say, that Trump does not leave in disgrace or anything like that. Instead, he lost this election but he was very close and he didn't lose by much and so he may continue to try to have impact within the Republican party. And in fact, it's possible, he'll be a little older, obviously, in four years, but it's possible he could try to run for president again. I don't think so, I think he’s probably at this point where he'd rather get back to his private life and his private business and making money. But it's possible, he could try to run again and it’s certainly possible he might try to continue to have influence in the party.

    Delivering Democracy a troupe of dancing ballot drop boxes perform in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 2, 2020
    © REUTERS / RACHEL WISNIEWSKI
    "Delivering Democracy" a troupe of dancing ballot drop boxes perform in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 2, 2020

    And he will probably have a lot of influence because there are so many Republicans today that he brought into the party, that really passionately love, politically speaking, Donald Trump. They just love him and they think he is a great politician and a great leader. So, if President Trump wants to have some involvement in the Republican party, he'll be able to do so.

    Sputnik: How do you assess the consequences of these elections for American society and politics, even at this stage where nothing is clear yet?

    Aubrey Jewett: Well, it just shows that sometimes we have close elections in the United States. I think it shows that the country is still very divided between the two parties. There are some broad points that all Americans still agree with but there are some very specific things that they disagree with. That's been the case for at least 10 years now going back to President Obama, maybe even before that, that we have a very evenly divided country. And that's what this election shows.

    And no matter who wins - again, I assume that Biden will probably win, just based on all evidence and where the vote count stands today - but regardless, even if Donald Trump is able to win it, it will still be a very evenly divided country. Whoever the next president is, and if it's Joe Biden, he will have his work cut out for him to try to bring the country together. The other thing I might add is that whoever the President is, and again let's assume it's Biden, it's not clear that he will be able to have a Democratic Congress.

    The House of Representatives does look like it will have a Democratic majority. But it will probably be a little smaller majority than it was before the election. And the US Senate - again the polls seem to have been wrong there. A lot of the polls said that the Senate will be firmly under Democratic control. Right now it is looking very possible like there might be 51 Republican senators and so the Republicans will still have control of the Senate.

    And so that means that if Joe Biden is president and there's still a Republican Senate, that we might have quite a bit of gridlock, that we might not pass a lot of different policies and laws - that's the things that Joe Biden as a Democrat and US House as Democrat-controlled group, the things that they would like to do, most of the Republicans in the Senate probably will not want to do. I suspect we will see quite a bit of gridlock if that happens.

    It's still possible Democrats could take control of the Senate; we have a couple of Senate races that haven't been decided, particularly in Georgia - there's at least one race there that's going to have to have a run-off election, and it's possible that once all the voting is finished, we might have two senate races in Georgia that have the run-off. So, it's still possible Democrats could take the majority in the Senate but right now if I had to guess, I would say that it looks like Republicans will have control of the Senate which means the divided government of the United States.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    president, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, US, US Election 2020
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