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Cindy Kyle | MSU IPPSR

Question raised in latest State of the State Podcast

While the polls show former Vice President Joe Biden ahead in in the race for president, the margin may not be enough to win the White House, a Michigan State University economist cautioned in the latest State of the State Podcast.

While the nation goes to the polls to elect a president on Nov. 3, the Electoral College determines the country’s next leader, said Economics Professor Charles Ballard said in the monthly Institute for Public Policy and Social Research broadcast.

September’s Podcast covered fresh pandemic observations on the nature of work and guest appearances from Michigan Political Leadership Program Co-Directors Susy Avery and Steve Tobocman.

The U.S. Constitution provides for each presidential candidate to be awarded Electoral College votes based upon the popular balloting in each state. Electoral College votes are based on each state’s congressional representation.

The podcast is a monthly production of MSU Institute for Public Policy, a center for public policy, political leadership and survey research and WKAR Radio. It broadcasts over WKAR this Sunday and popular podcast channels SoundCloud and Apple ITunes.

Michigan, for example, has 16 Electoral College votes. Michigan, like most states, requires its Electoral College members to cast votes for the winner of the state’s popular vote.

Historically, the popular vote has carried the Electoral College. However, in a few cases, President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 included, a candidate has won the Electoral College but not the popular vote

“This is the only election in the world where the person who gets the most votes is not guaranteed to be the winner,” Ballard said.

A small number of key states – Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona -- may determine the nation’s next president, Ballard forecast.

“Most of the polls show Biden's somewhat ahead. But not necessarily far enough ahead to win the election,” he said.

The presidential campaigns, meanwhile, battle over the pandemic coronavirus and its effects on the economy through the spring and fall, Ballard noted. “The economy has gone from disastrous in April to I would still say quite troubled now.”

August’s U.S. unemployment rate was pegged at 8.7 percent. The nation may not return to more normal operation, Ballard said, until next year at least.

“We won't fully get back to normal until enough people have been vaccinated that people feel real, relatively safe about substantial gatherings in person. We can't get all the way back to normal until that happens.”

As for condition “new normal,” the nature of work will likely be disrupted too, Ballard observed, university instruction included. He now records lectures from an office-studio in his basement and offers “open” office hours – via Zoom -- to his students.

That’s a drastic change from the introductory microeconomics classes he typically teaches in a Wells Hall auditorium with capacity of some 600 students.

“I was glad yesterday when four students came to my Zoom office hours because I got to see them in person. And that's one thing that I missed this semester is not being able to ‘see’ my students.”

Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP) Fellows are tackling online networking and remote learning too, said Avery and Tobocman. MPLP is recruiting online as well, actively seeking 24 aspiring leaders ready to take advantage of the certificate program’s personal leadership, policy analysis and good government mission.Z

“MPLP is a pipeline for elected officials on both sides of the aisle,” Avery said during the podcast taping.

Avery and Tobocman are political leaders in their own right. Avery is a former Republican Party chair and executive in Gov. John Engler’s administration. Tobocman is a former Majority Floor Leader in the state House of Representatives and now leads economic development and immigrant initiatives from southeast Michigan.

The bipartisan program brings together 12 men and 12 women from every region of the state, helping them to build networks that have lasted far longer than MPLP’s 10 months of formal training, Tobocman said.

“They really get to know each other, get to know each other's families, know each other's jobs, aspirations, and become lifelong friends, and build friendships that can help them be effective at governing when they get to the Michigan Legislature or in their local community,” he said.

Applications are due Friday, Oct. 2.

Even this year’s annual MPLP fundraising dinner, coming up on Thursday, Oct. 1, has moved online, they noted. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, headlines the event with WKAR’s “Off the Record” star Tim Skubick. Tickets are available.

The award-winning Sabato is a nationally known speaker, political analyst and forecaster, who founded “Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” a political newsletter and website.

MSU Today airs every Sunday morning at 9:00 on 105.1 FM, AM 870, and however you stream at home. Follow and subscribe at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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