‘It’s not a popularity contest’: Ten ways to bluff your way through US Election night

Off to one of London’s US election night parties and want to sound informed? Impress your friends with this handy guide to sounding like you’re just one phone call away from a guest appearance on CNN.
1. It’s all about Florida

Florida is the battleground state with a massive 29 votes in the complicated electoral college system that decides an American presidential election.

Simply, if Hillary Clinton wins Florida, she wins the White House.

Remember, in America it’s possible to win the presidential election with a smaller share of national vote than your rival, it happened in 2000 when George W Bush won the White House from Al Gore.

Focus on the battleground states because 40 US States have voted the same way since 2000– alongside Florida the key swing states are: Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

If you don’t understand the electoral college (and most Americans admit they don’t) here’s handy guide.

2. ‘Clinton’s ground game made the difference’

Like any election the key to winning is getting out your vote and mobilising supporters, as we saw in the recent European Referendum.

Clinton’s Democrats are uber-organised but Trump’s candidacy has divided Republicans, whose volunteers are vastly outnumbered.

Interesting fact – he’s spent more on the Make America Great Again baseball hats than election signs.

3. This election is rigged

Expect to hear this a lot from Trump supporters if results don’t go their way.

It’s always nice to throw in ‘mainstream media conspiracy’ in there too.

Also, use the word ‘surrogates’ a lot – it’s a fancy term for his most high-profile backers.

When you see Newt Gingrich, mention he was a former US Speaker, while if New Jersey governor Chris Christie appears, throw in a comment about ‘Bridgegate’.

When you see Sarah Palin, play your friends the You Tube clip below. Favourite Palin quote? I love those hockey moms. You know what they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is? Lipstick.

4. Joe Biden’s touted for Secretary of State

The Vice President’s office was once described by John Nance Garner (remember this name, he served from 1933 to 1941) as ‘not worth a bucket of warm piss’.

However, Joe Biden has a close relationship with President Obama and has been a trusted counsellor throughout his eight years in office.

Reports have suggested Clinton may be considering him to serve as Secretary of State – her chief foreign diplomat.

5. Too Close to Call

It’s what the US television networks say when they don’t know what’s happening.

Translate this for your friends, as: ‘CNN are saying it’s a toss-up in New Hampshire’.

Perhaps adding: ‘It’s only got four votes in the electoral college but if Gore had won there in 2000, he would have beaten George W Bush’.

6. Bellwether state

Whoever wins Ohio tends wins the presidency – but point out to friends that a certain John F. Kennedy bucked that trend in 1960.

By the way, latest polls in Ohio show a slight advantage for Donald Trump. Just saying.

6. This night is now all about ‘down-ticket’ races

When you start getting excited about a result from the California 24th or Colorado 6th then it’s probably time to go to bed.

All 435 seats are up for election in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the US Congress, and a third (34 seats) of the upper house, the US Senate.

The ‘House’ has been Republican controlled for six years and the Democrats need to flip 30 seats to snatch it back.

If Clinton wins but the Democrats don’t take the House, start using terms like ‘legislative gridlock’ or perhaps say: ‘she’s got a mandate but she won’t control the agenda’.

7. October Surprise!

In American political jargon, an October surprise is a news event deliberately created or timed or sometimes occurring spontaneously to influence the outcome of an election.

Trump’s ‘grab ‘em by the p**sy’ moment will take some beating and certainly shifted momentum to Clinton.

When it comes up perhaps discuss previous ‘October surprises’. Here’s a couple:
– Do you remember when George W Bush’s 1976 drink driving arrest was revealed in 2000?
– Four days before the 2008 presidential election it was revealed that Barack Obama’s half-aunt was living as an illegal immigrant in Boston.

8. Why is turnout so pathetic?

Make a pithy comment about turnout.

In 2012 only 53.6% of the voting-age population cast a ballot, despite all those months and months of endless coverage.

Have some nice comparison stats to hand, the last UK general election was 66.4% while the EU Referendum earlier this year was 72.3%.

9. Why are Democrats donkeys and Republicans elephants?


Revise and memorise this: The origins of the Democratic donkey can be traced to the 1828 presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson.

During that race, opponents of Jackson called him a jackass.

Rather than being upset he embraced it and started putting a donkey on his campaign literature.

When he won, becoming the first Democrat president, it became the party symbol.

The Republican Party was formed in 1854 and six years later Abraham Lincoln became its first member elected to the White House.

Political cartoonist Thomas Nast started using the elephant to represent the party in cartoons.

If you want to sound extra smart, perhaps mention that he’s also credited with creating the modern image of Father Christmas.

10. Weeding out the votes. It’s not just politicians looking for support

Eight states, including California, will vote to legalise marijuana either for recreational or medical purposes in November.

The legalisation for recreational use will be on the ballot in California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine while exemption for medical use will also be on the ballot in Florida, Missouri and Arkansas on that same day.

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