After weeks of early voting, the outcome of the United States presidential election has come down to this.
There are some 25 million voters in 10 contested states who have yet to vote and who are expected to cast ballots on Election Day amid projections of record-breaking turnout nationwide.
With so much at stake – control of the US government, the future direction of the country on the coronavirus pandemic, jobs, healthcare and climate change – they will be the difference makers.
Will they choose to re-elect President Donald Trump, or will they go with Democrat Joe Biden?
Using the tools of big data and micro-targeting, both the Biden and Trump campaigns know who they still need to get out to vote and both the Republican and Democratic parties have been focusing heavily on them.
“We know if you’ve voted. That’s how good the technology is these days,” said Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democrats. “We are able to zero in and micro target.”
As states report who has already voted, the campaigns and their data-crunching firms are able to match those records to their databases of voter profiles.
“Turnout is the name of the game right now,” said Rosy Gonzalez Speers, an organiser for the Democratic Party of Florida. “We know where our voters are. We just need to get them out to the polls.”
Nationwide, close to 100 million Americans will have already voted, according to the United States Elections Project. That leaves an unknown but smaller number of people to cast their votes on November 3. Some 136.5 million voted in the last presidential election in 2016.
“We will see more people voting in this election than have ever voted in an election before,” said Tom Bonier, chief executive of TargetSmart, a Democratic political data analytics firm.
“It’s clear the Democratic intensity and enthusiasm is sky-high. It’s higher than we’ve seen in any recent election,” Bonier told Al Jazeera.
Early data indicates that Biden has built a narrow lead in the early votes in key swing states that will determine the outcome of the presidential election. But Trump is expected to make up that deficit on Election Day as more of his supporters come out to vote in person.
#earlyvote morning update 11/1
— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) November 1, 2020
Over the final weekend of the campaign, both Trump and Biden pushed hard to bring out their supporters, barnstorming the Midwest and holding rallies in key locales.
“The challenge that the president faces is, even if his base is as engaged as Democrats … the Trump campaign has to close this gap in one day. And that is just tactically very challenging,” Bonier said.
How big is the gap? That’s a guessing game with turnout as high as it appears to be.
There were encouraging and troubling signs for both candidates.
For Trump, there were questions of whether fewer seniors are supporting him now, potentially a problem in Florida and Arizona, two swing states with large retirement communities.
Biden’s campaign was worried about weakness in his support among Latino and Black men that they hoped would be helped by appearances by former President Barack Obama in Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
In Florida, about 95,000 more Democrats than Republicans had voted early, a slight edge that could evaporate on Election Day if more come out for Trump.
“Democrats are not taking anything for granted,” Speers told Al Jazeera. “We are staying cautiously optimistic and working very hard.”
Over the weekend, the Biden campaign deployed Obama, vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris, and Senator Cory Booker to Florida. They are targeting voters who asked for mail ballots, but did not turn them in, and voters who cast ballots in 2016 but did not vote in midterm elections in 2018, Speers said.
North Carolina, which Trump won in 2016, is proving to be a closely fought battleground in this election where Biden leads in public polls and early voting.
More than four million North Carolinians have already voted, nearly equal to the total vote in 2016. Of those who voted early, 38 percent are Democrats, 31 percent Republicans and 30 percent independents.
“The Democrats have their wind at their backs … but we continue to reach out to voters who haven’t voted yet,” Goodwin told Al Jazeera.
In North Carolina, there are 2.75 million registered voters who have not cast ballots yet. Both parties are trying to get them to the polls on Election Day.
At this point “there are very few undecideds”, “a significant number” who intend to vote on Election Day and a “significant impact” from independent voters, Goodwin said.
North Carolina Democrats organised a massive volunteer phone bank effort to reach voters over the final weekend. Similar drives on both sides are in playing in other battleground states.
The turnout is likely to be very high. More people – 9.7 million – have already voted in Texas than all those who voted in the state in the 2016 presidential election. In Georgia, nearly four million have voted, almost equal to the total vote there in 2016. Arizona is seeing record turnout, too.
Other states in play include Pennsylvania, where both candidates are focusing their late campaign efforts, and Michigan and Wisconsin, which gave Trump the presidency last time. Ohio and Iowa will also be key.
“Like so much of 2020, this election is totally unprecedented. We are seeing unparalleled levels of voter enthusiasm,” said Alex Conant, a founding partner at Firehouse Strategies, a Republican public affairs firm.
“We are seeing record Democratic turnout but also extraordinary Republican turnout,” Conant told Al Jazeera.
“Everyone agrees that turnout this year is going to set an American record,” he said. “Both parties can argue why that’s potentially good for them.”