In-depth: The final countdown in the race to be least worst President

As millions of Americans head to the polls, many believe it’s a case of ‘make or break’ for their great country

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on October 31
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on October 31

If politics is all about making difficult choices, then the American public have a humdinger in front of them when it comes to choosing the next President.

In the hours ahead either Donald Trump will have been elected for a second term, or Joe Biden will be preparing to settle into the Oval Office hot seat having previously served as Barack Obama’s number two.

Republican Mr Trump is vowing to “keep America great”, while Mr Biden says he is going to be the “unifying force to restore our soul and save our country”.

Few in the US seem to believe either of them, with neither candidate particularly well liked by anyone outside of their own fervent fanbases.

As one political commentator put it: “Can’t we just not have a President for the next four years?”

Supporters of Democratic challenger Mr Biden want Mr Trump out at all costs, viewing him as a divisive character that renders irrelevant any flaws their own candidate may have.

And where Mr Biden is concerned, flaws they are aplenty.

The 77-year-old struggles to string a sentence together at times and often talks complete gibberish, leading some to question whether he has the mental capacity to run the country.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden struggles to string a sentence together at times

At a virtual rally last week he appeared to be under the impression that George W Bush was still President.

Then there was the excruciating televised debate where Mr Biden channelled his inner Gavin Williamson and told his opponent to “shut up”.

The fact that some Democrats see that moment as a high point in their man’s campaign tells its own sorry story. Indeed, within the party vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris appears to be more highly regarded.

As well as his frequent gaffes, Mr Biden has been forced to defend himself against allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women, including a well documented fascination with hair sniffing.

His record in politics is sketchy to say the least, and includes advocating cuts to welfare and backing the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which critics say wrecked US manufacturing.

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris is popular among her party's supporters

Under normal circumstances he would be an ideal adversary for Mr Trump, whose political playbook relies heavily on making his opponents the subject of ridicule.

But Mr Trump’s biggest problem is that he is not just running against Sleepy Joe, or Creepy Joe, as he likes to call him.

He is running against his record for the past four years, and the final quarter of that period has been catastrophic for the 74-year-old.

Mr Trump was in a strong position back in February, with the economy having gone through a period of sustained growth and the unemployment rate at a 50-year low.

He had survived impeachment.

Then Covid happened and everything fell apart.

The President went from denying its seriousness to blaming China and the World Health Organisation, before a complete detachment from reality took hold.

He started suggesting bizarre remedies, including injecting disinfectant, while he has done nothing to quash the bonkers QAnon conspiracy theory that Covid is a hoax designed to deflect attention from a child sex-trafficking ring run by leading Democrats.

To top it off, Mr Trump’s office last week put out a “list of achievements” during his time in the White House, the top one of which was “ending the pandemic”.

This on the same day that there were 73,240 new Covid cases and 985 deaths, taking the coronavirus death toll in the US to nearly 230,000.

Supporters of Donald Trump are hoping their man can defy the odds again to win a second term

Mr Trump did of course, get the virus himself, noting that it wasn’t that bad as he had 12 doctors to help him through it.

Following his recuperation he has continued to host huge political gatherings where little attention is paid to social distancing and mask wearing.

He has received a timely boost: the economy has started to recover, which could be a major factor when swaying undecided voters.

With all this going on, the other key issues – including law and order, the environment and fracking – have been very much secondary.

While many Americans see the result of the election as make or break for their country, it is sure to have a profound effect on the rest of the world, including the UK.

Boris Johnson will be particularly keen to see the “special relationship” with the US continue in the wake of Brexit, with the PM hoping to thrash out a trans-Atlantic trade deal in the New Year.

Donald Trump may be more of a natural ally to the UK than Joe Biden

Undoubtedly, he and Mr Trump share a mutual admiration, and Lord Darroch, former British ambassador to the US, has predicted the pair’s bond could grow even closer if Mr Trump wins a second term, saying: “Boris can be his best friend in Europe.”

The PM may have less of a natural ally in Mr Biden, who last year described Mr Johnson as “kind of a physical and emotional clone of the President”, who he clearly despises.

Mr Biden – who has Irish roots – has already expressed concern at the Government’s Brexit legislation with the UK Internal Market Bill, and he has insisted that any UK-US trade deal must respect the Good Friday Agreement.

There are growing concerns in Whitehall that Mr Biden could favour Berlin over London, particularly owing to Barack Obama’s closeness with German chancellor Angela Merkel during Mr Biden’s tenure as his vice-president.

Mr Trump, on the other hand, backs the UK’s departure from the bloc and has even referred to himself as “Mr Brexit”.

Last week he was joined on stage at a rally in Arizona by the original “Mr Brexit”, Nigel Farage, who said a second term for Mr Trump would be great for the UK.

However, although Mr Trump has spoken of securing a “phenomenal trade deal” with Britain, he is a notoriously tough negotiator and many have warned of a race to the bottom for UK food standards from a deal with the tycoon.

Former President Barack Obama is backing his old VP Joe Biden

For now, it is up to America to pick a winner, and whoever that is will have a series of huge challenges ahead of him.

Threats of more civil unrest ring out in a year that has already seen cities on fire after the death of George Floyd and opposition to police brutality. The virus continues to run rife.

There have been suggestions that Mr Trump may not accept the result over claims of voter fraud, prompting fears that his supporters may take to the streets in protest should he taste defeat.

According to the pollsters it is Mr Biden’s contest to lose, but they said the same about Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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