Four years ago, PRWeek asked politically minded PR executives from around the industry -- left, right and center -- to pick the winner of that year’s presidential election. They overwhelmingly backed former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to win the White House. We all know how that turned out, as Donald Trump stunned pundits and predictors alike to become the 45th president of the United States.
This year, our electorate of PR pro pundits have again backed the Democratic candidate. Will their predictions fare better than four years ago? Scroll down to see their responses and check back tonight, or tomorrow morning (and hopefully not later this month) to see how they fared.
[Former Vice President Joe] Biden and [Sen.] Kamala [Harris (D-CA)] will win. The convergence of a pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and economic instability has provided the perfect recipe for high voter turnout among key voters. We’ve also seen brands, celebrities and social media platforms push voter participation like never before. From LeBron James’ advocacy efforts to Instagram’s voting information center, voter advocacy has taken on a new shape this election year. And while this all may seem like microactions to some, it has created a revitalized voting culture that is moving the needle among young, Black and traditionally disengaged voters.
Sequoia Baker, digital strategy supervisor, Accenture Interactive
Biden is highly favored to win the Electoral College based on his durable lead in key state polling, coupled with historically high expectations for voter turnout, which traditionally benefits Democratic candidates. Trump would need the equivalent of a straight flush: taking every Sun Belt battleground state and Pennsylvania to win a second term. Biden’s rising support among high-efficacy voters, including senior citizens and women, shows that Trump’s 2016 coalition has fractured in a way that will be difficult to overcome in states with large suburban populations.
Tim Brown, VP, Vox Global
The president has a remarkable talent for controlling the conversation. He decides what we talk about. His opponents, not to mention the media, have long been forced to play on his terms. Unfortunately for him, he’s rarely been able to use that superpower for anything beyond his own self-gratification, and it has been his undoing. Biden has shown you don’t have to play this game. The more Trump is talking, the better it is for Biden. Ultimately, politics is about addition. The president has endlessly alienated voter groups critical to the GOP coalition, in particular suburban women and seniors, without making any effort to expand beyond his base. His failings are many, but if he had any discipline at all, there could have been a compelling narrative for his reelection. Instead, the bleeding that started in the 2018 midterms continues, and it means Trump will be a one-term president.
Brendan Buck, partner, Seven Letter
Biden will win the election. In 2016, Trump garnered the support of a little more than 46% of Americans who voted, but he never sought to represent, govern or speak for a majority of this country. The nation is exhausted by his antics over the last four years. They’ll vote Tuesday for change, usher out an incumbent president and seek a new start.
Robert Gibbs, senior counsel, Bully Pulpit Interactive
On the surface, all signs point to Joe Biden taking the presidency in 2020. There is no meaningful third-party candidate; Biden is better liked than [former Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton. He has broader appeal to women, seniors and people of color, and thus a greater voter turnout; And, not insignificantly, his message of one America appears to have resounded.
This year, however, the Russian-GOP-Trump campaign troika of disinformation is much more widespread. The GOP’s multi-state efforts to suppress traditionally Democratic voters and votes have ratcheted up. And Facebook, where a good swath of Americans get their news, is itself putting its finger on the political scale in Trump’s favor vs. simply having its flawed platform exploited by the Trump campaign working with the Russians and Cambridge Analytica. The pollsters give Biden a better chance at prevailing than they gave Clinton, but the nefarious and nebulous efforts by this “president,” which includes having his stacked Supreme Court, ultimately decide, cannot and should not be taken lightly.
Peter Himler, founder, Flatiron Communications
Biden will win, because competence, decency, respect, civility, compassion, empathy, sanity, common sense and science matter.
Mike Huckman, global practice leader, executive communications, W2O
I’m cautiously optimistic that Biden will win the election on November 3 and become the 46th president of the United States. The last four years have been a complete shit show, a reality show in real time, in terms of a lack of leadership on a global stage, increased hostility among racial groups, disrespect to those who disagree with any position and policy, a Harvard case study debacle on a health pandemic crisis and, more importantly, the country needs to heal and repair damages that have caused pain and agony.
Kim Hunter, CEO, Lagrant Communications
I predict we'll see a moving truck parked in front of the White House in January. While the GOP base is wildly enthusiastic about keeping Trump in office another four years, his negatives have always been historically high. Too high, really, for a re-election campaign to overcome. With changing demographics favoring the Democrats and a widely criticized pandemic response that has reframed the debate from economy to leadership, Trump’s hope for re-election seems dim.
Pam Jenkins, president, Weber Shandwick global public affairs
Like most, I wrongly predicted the outcome four years ago. The difference this time is that the Democrats have a candidate that’s likeable and accessible, even if not their first or best choice. I am calling for Biden to comfortably win but not by a landslide. The Trump campaign will do all it can to question and contest the results and will ultimately fail. I also think this election will spawn a “blue wave,” where the Dems also take the Senate and local races around the country. Coronavirus may have not killed Trump, but it certainly will be his death knell for the promise of a second term. Bye Don!
Aaron Kwittken, CEO, KWT Global and Prophet
Joe Biden will win the election because, as any skilled PR pro knows, it comes down to messaging and positioning. For the past four years, the American public has been pummeled with a barrage of negativity, insults and lies. The onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic has been fraught with mixed messages, leaving voters desperate for true leadership, guidance and, above all, honesty. Biden presents a hopeful vision of America’s future that is open, accepting and caring for everyone, not just those who share his political ideology. This is the vision of America.
Matt Longman, director of communications, Medisafe
An incumbent president always has an advantage over his opponent, and since neither party has done a sufficient job of communicating substantively, I am predicting a win for Trump. In my opinion, the Biden-Harris campaigns messaging wasn't strong enough; it was so focused on pointing out the negative of the Trump administration that it missed the opportunity to set itself apart in a meaningful way.
Jared Meade, founder and principal, Rayne Strategy Group
I believe Biden will pull it out. Our country has never been more divided, and I think this president’s response to the pandemic and the social justice movement has energized voters, particularly first-time voters, in ways we haven’t seen before. No matter what happens though, trust in institutions has eroded and divisions will remain, so companies and brands will have to find ways to bridge the divide, particularly among their own employees.
Kristen Morgante, partner and COO, Purple Strategies
Too many pundits and pros got it too wrong in 2016 for any of us to have anything but humility heading into election day this year. So I'm focused on what we know almost for sure. We are probably going to reach levels of participation not achieved since 1908. Let's just celebrate that for a moment.
If Biden wins, and I believe he will, two competing theories will strive to explain the outcome. First, the pandemic and the president's tragically inept decision to downplay and under-respond. Second, the discipline of the Biden campaign. From the beginning, through the convention, to the final closing argument, the campaign has rested its case on character. A decent, empathetic, caring man is running against someone who doesn’t give a damn. It is what it is. Both theories are valid. The Democrats will take the Senate and increase their margin in the House. Why? Trump. He poisoned the Republican brand with college-educated suburban voters and senior citizens who can't visit their grandchildren. That hurt, and hurts.
Alex Navarro-McKay, MD, BerlinRosen
Biden will win due to the one thing no one thought this gaffe-prone candidate could do: stay on message. The Biden campaign has been consistently on message while the Trump campaign has been a PR equivalent of whack-a-mole.
Curtis Sparrer, principal, Bospar
Short of a major disruption from a malicious player or foreign power, Biden will win a solid victory. Indications of a Biden win will come earlier in the evening than expected, with surprising wins in the Eastern Time Zone. Some states will be bogged down due to mail-in ballot counting, but the paths to re-election will be all but gone for Trump by late night. He will protest that fact, but the math will be clear. He won by a razor-thin margin in 2016 and since then he has not gained meaningful margins with any key voting bloc. In fact, he has eroded his support with older voters, suburban women and members of the military, not to mention sparked major mobilization of the progressive base. Given his small margins of victory in a handful of swing counties four years ago, this is not a recipe for re-election.
Bryan Specht, group president, W2O
Based on not just recent polling but also a gut feeling, I’m confident that Biden will win the 2020 presidential election and, contrary to popular belief, I think we’ll know by Wednesday morning. However, when it comes to control of the Senate, while I think Democrats will eventually take it, it could be some time before we know the final results.
Regardless of the election outcome, the need for strategic communications and public affairs help and consulting will be at an all-time high. Between the COVID-19 pandemic not slowing down anytime soon and the possibility of either a presidential transition or a potentially gutted Trump administration, clients in and outside of the DC area will need help navigating the new landscape. The messages that will appeal to each group are vastly different, and that’s what we’ll be here to help with.
Shelby Wagenseller, VP, Signal Group
Biden will win and, by all indications, will take the Senate along with him. Obviously, the entire country is still a little shell-shocked from 2016, when Clinton was expected to prevail. This year, however, is much different. Biden has consistently led in the national polls for months. Also, his lead in a handful of states like Arizona and Pennsylvania is well outside the margin of error. Trump’s approval rating has hovered around 43%, while Biden is above 50. It’s very difficult, but not impossible, for an incumbent to win reelection with those numbers.
Ross Wallenstein, VP of public affairs, J Strategies
I'm predicting that Biden and Harris will win this election. Enough people in our country have had enough of worrying about [Trump] ruining the future of American democracy, not just for our generation but more so those after us. On top of that, families are still losing loved ones left and right from his negligence in handling this pandemic. I believe that is what will ultimately help Biden and Harris take the win. Also, a sense of unity is something I think the American people need and haven't received with our current administration.
D’Eric Watson, brand comms coordinator, The Martin Agency
Our nation needs healing in so many ways—the pandemic, income inequality, racial injustice. In his four years as president, Trump has not been a unifier. He has divided us further.
I believe Biden will convincingly win many of the battleground states that Clinton lost in 2016, and within a few days, if not sooner, he will have won the presidency. Our country needs a healer-in-chief, and I know Biden will be a president for every one of us.
Scott Widmeyer, founding managing partner, Finn Partners
Biden wins. From a scientific perspective, Trump has alienated important parts of the GOP coalition, including suburban women, seniors and college educated men. From a human perspective, I believe our country is ready for a return to decency, integrity and basic norms of social behavior.
Jim Wilkinson, chairman and CEO, TrailRunner International