We now have a name for our worst-case election scenario. It’s called a “red mirage.”
The term describes an election outcome in which early results appear to favor President Trump, but then tip toward a decisive victory for Joe Biden as more mail-in ballots are counted.
It was coined (in this context, anyway) by Josh Mendelsohn, CEO of Hawkfish—the political data firm founded by Michael Bloomberg—who warns in a new interview with Axios on HBO that this nightmarish scenario is not only possible but likely according to some of the firm’s modeling. (As a reader pointed out, The Red Mirage is also the title of a novel by I. A. R. Wylie.)
In one modeling outcome, Trump could see a projected 408 electoral votes on election night, compared to 130 for Biden, but that’s with only 15% of the mail-in votes being counted, Axios reports. The tide could then turn to favor Biden as we count more votes—polling data shows Democrats are more likely to vote by mail.
If Hawkfish’s prediction comes to pass, Trump would likely declare victory as early as possible—because, of course, he would—leading to an election crisis after Biden emerged victorious a few days later.
Can you imagine Trump just accepting that the results had flipped? For that matter, what about his supporters in Congress? It’s frankly mind-boggling to think about the level of confusion and misinformation that would ensue.
Check out the full interview on Axios here.
This post has been updated.