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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Biden Holds Strong Lead Over Trump In The Final Stretch; The Future Of American Politics; The Road To 270 Votes. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 25, 2020 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA: We'll focus much of today's show on the presidential election. It is just nine days away and it will have great impact across the globe. How does the world think about what's going on here?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were treated very unfairly.

ZAKARIA: How will the people who swayed the 2016 election vote this time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Repeat after me.

ZAKARIA: And how much foreign interference is there really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia.

ZAKARIA: I'll talk about all this with the former British finance minister George Osborne, "TIME" correspondent Charlotte Alter and Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer.

Also, it's unprecedented. More than 50 million Americans have already voted. But how many citizens who want to vote will be turned away, threatened, or dropped from the rolls? I'll talk about voter suppression with ProPublica's Jessica Huseman.

And finally, what is Joe Biden's path to victory? Which states does he have to win? And what about Donald Trump? I will get the latest from Nate Cohn of "The New York Times."


ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. In 2016, I was one of those people who didn't think Donald Trump could win the presidency. Like many, I studied the polls and believed they showed a comfortable margin voting against him. I thought people would see through him. He was just too weird, too vulgar, utterly ignorant about most policy issues and pathologically incapable of telling the truth, even about trivial things. For example, during the 2016 campaign, he claimed that he had met Vladimir Putin. Something that was easy to disprove.

But I think what convinced me most that Trump would lose was that I believed in a different America. Trump had catapulted himself on to the political stage with birtherism, a shameless effort to exploit white prejudice against the first black president Barack Obama. He announced his campaign for the White House by making slurs against Mexicans. He proposed a total and complete shutdown of the nation's borders to all Muslims from anywhere in the world.

Throughout the campaign, his rhetoric towards foreigners and minorities was insulting. I didn't believe Americans would go for this. You see, I arrived in America in 1982 in the midst of a deep recession as a brown-skinned student on a scholarship with a strange name, no money, and no contacts. I found a country that welcomed me with open arms. I still remember being stunned at how friendly and genuinely warm people were to me.

I had been more aware of being Muslim in India than in America. Perhaps I lived a sheltered life in New England college towns in New York City, but I saw very little of Trump's brand of naked racism. I knew it existed, of course. I've read about it in books and newspapers, seen it on television and in movies, but I didn't truly understand the magnitude of the phenomenon. So I guess I placed less weight on the evidence for Trump's victory than I should have.

I simply couldn't believe someone with his racially-charged world view could win over the nation. And here's the thing, I still don't.

First, many Americans voted for Donald Trump despite his race baiting, not because of it. But more important, a majority of Americans disapprove of Trump and have for almost his entire term. His average approval rating throughout his presidency is the lowest of any president since we started counting.

As "The New York Times's" Nate Cohn has said, Donald Trump's luck was that he ran against the second most unpopular presidential candidate in modern American history. Second only to himself. Because of the electoral college and small margins in three Midwestern states, he was able to capture the White House.

There are parts of Trump's coalition who are anxious about the country's future, and their own place in it, and are susceptible to the snake oil being pedaled by a clever salesman. But America is changing. Consider a recent "New York Times" analysis. You will see that the core of Trump support, whites without a college degree, is shrinking as a share of voters.


The core of Joe Biden's support, whites with a college degree and minorities, is growing in even greater measure. For example, in Florida the core Trump voting bloc of non-college educated whites has fallen by 359,000 people since 2016. The Biden coalition has grown by more than 1.5 million during the same period. In Pennsylvania, Trump's base shrunk by 431,000 since 2016 while Biden's grew by 449,000 people.

Now, if he wins, Joe Biden's challenge will be to make all Americans understand that the country has always been a grand experiment, an attempt to create the first universal nation. Today living up to that idea means embracing all kinds of people, black and white, native born and immigrant, gay and straight, and many more. It's a messy process, and it can seem disruptive and disorderly.

It sometimes gets bogged down in squabbles over terminology and political correctness, but it is all part of a noble effort to ensure that everyone in this country finally feels that they are included in the American dream. Really included.

Ever since the nation's birth, it has gradually expanded the idea of liberty and democracy, making America great by surging forward into the future rather than lapsing back into nostalgia for the past.

Meanwhile, I will take my chances and once again predict that Donald Trump will lose this election. Humble as I am after these four years, I would still rather bet on and believe in the best in America.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

Let's get right to today's panel. Charlotte Alter is a correspondent for "TIME" magazine which had a terrific cover this week. The first ever instance where 'TIME" replaced its own logo with vote. And vote you should if you are an American. George Osborne was Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, a grand name for finance minister. He is now the editor-in-chief of "The Evening Standard." And Ian Bremmer is the president and founder of the Eurasia Group, a global risk consultancy.

Ian, let me ask you, big picture, most presidential incumbents win their second term. Donald Trump was presiding over an economy that seemed in pretty good shape. At the most fundamental level, what has happened?

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Yes, in very good shape, Fareed. I mean, Trump has been ahead of Biden in the polls on who better handles the economy. He's also had some significant foreign policies with allies around China tech, trade deals in the Middle East, other places. But let's be clear. Coronavirus is by far the biggest crisis of our lifetime and it's happening right now, right before the election, on President Trump's watch.

I mean, heck, you just wrote a book about the 10 lessons on it, right? He's handled it badly. And, you know, the second wave is happening right now. We have record case numbers literally right now a week before the elections. Hospitalizations are way up. Even deaths are coming up again. So the timing just couldn't be worse for the president.

So I agree with you, Fareed. Usually incumbents win. Trump has never had great numbers in the polls through his four years as president. This was always going to be a challenge, but this is way, way different than in 2016.

ZAKARIA: Miss Charlotte, so if COVID is the big kind of the background condition that Trump -- you know, Trump has been trying to talk about other things. What else -- when you look at the race, what seems stable about the -- you know, the Biden-Trump matchup and what are you looking at as possibly an unpredictable aspect?

CHARLOTTE ALTER, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, TIME: There are a couple of things that seem pretty stable. I mean, Biden has a very solid lead that stayed steady for months now. He is leading with women, he's leading with suburban voters, he's leading with seniors. He is narrowing some of Trump's lead with white non-college voters and rural voters. So the numbers seem pretty good for the Biden camp.

I think a couple of things that are unpredictable are things that may not be showing up in the numbers right now. I think that, you know, for some nervous Democrats, this data is cold comfort compared to the sort of misinformation and conspiracy theories that are swirling in the electorate that create this unpredictable strain because people don't necessarily always behave the way the polls say they should.


I also think that, you know, the way people are voting this year creates some uncertainty because there are real, you know, voter fraud is not a thing, but there are real questions about whether every vote will be counted, whether the mail-in ballots, you know, will arrive in time and be counted in time. And also, there are questions about whether Donald Trump is going to accept the results of this election because he has suggested and hinted that he might not.

So, I think that, you know, the numbers look very good for Biden, but there are a lot of elements of this race that don't show up in the numbers.

ZAKARIA: George, when you look at this from across the ocean, what do you think this tells us about populism? Because you have in Great Britain a quasi-populist at the helm as well.

GEORGE OSBORNE, FORMER U.K. CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER: Well, you know, the first thing I'd say, Fareed, is a global health crisis and an act of nature could be a moment where people rally around an incumbent. It wouldn't necessarily mean that someone is ejected from office and there are government that have become more popular because of their handling of coronavirus. But not so much the populist starting with Donald Trump. And he is very much part of a global movement.

It includes the Brexit referendum and the people who led Brexit who now lead the British government here in the U.K. It includes people like the president of Brazil. And although they're nationalist movements, which sort of by definition aren't international, they nevertheless drew links with each other and drew inspiration from each other, and Donald Trump himself called, said, I'm Mr. Brexit, when he was just a candidate.

And I think by contrast, Joe Biden is Mr. Mainstream. You know, he's extremely well-known to the rest of the world. Normally Democrat presidents, if they win, are unknown governors or junior senators. Joe Biden has been around for decades. He knows the different governments of the world.

And I think this could be a very big moment not just for what happens on the economy or foreign relations, which we could talk about, or indeed even climate, but also a big global sense that we are turning back to the mainstream, that divisive politics is not popular anymore, that rejection of science and expertise is not what people want me more.

And ultimately, I made this point, you know, populists are only populists while they stay popular. But if you cannot address the concerns, some of which were legitimate about neglected communities or middle-income people who haven't seen their earnings rise, if you can't address these things, and you actually end up making their situations worse off, then you're no longer a populist because you're no longer popular and you're probably out of office.

ZAKARIA: George, tell me for a moment what you think about your populist. What happens to Boris Johnson with Brexit and with the new administration were there to be one?

OSBORNE: Well, you know, Boris Johnson, first of all, is not a Donald Trump. He has also been around a lot of British politics. And, you know, some would argue sort of played up the populist side of his character. But there is no doubt that the Brexit government here will face a challenge with a Biden administration. Of course the U.S.-U.K. alliance is long, enduring, it exists on many levels, and there's no doubt the British prime minister will always be welcome in Washington.

But Joe Biden, who I dealt with when I was in office, you know, he knows the Brexiteers associated themselves with Trump. You know, he knows they're not his fellow travelers and they will find it hard to pivot, I think, towards a Biden administration and there will be some very specific things like whether the U.K. does a trade deal with the U.S. where Joe Biden has already indicated and people like Nancy Pelosi have indicated that it's going to be hard work for a British government.

So there is a lot of frantic repositioning going on at the moment here in London by this administration in Britain. But I don't think Joe Biden, you know, will find a bill particularly warm towards this British government and they're going to have to work very hard to change that.

ZAKARIA: Stay with us, everyone. When we come back we're going to discuss what happens to the Republican Party if Donald Trump loses and what happens to the country if he wins.


[10:18:52] ZAKARIA: And we are back with "TIME" magazine's Charlotte Alter, George Osborne of "The Evening Standard" and the Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer.

Charlotte, you spent a lot of time reporting on, talking to and listening to Trump voters, and what is the thing that most surprised you when talking to them when you would ask them about, you know, what was happening with COVID or what was happening with the way Trump was handling the economy? What is the thing that surprised you?

ALTER: So, yes, I spent about three weeks going through Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which, as you mentioned before, are the states that tipped the election to Trump in 2016. And when I would talk to voters who said that they had voted for Trump last time and plan to vote for them again, I would often bring up questions about COVID. You know, do you think the president could have done a better job? You know, do you think that fewer people would be dead if he had responded faster?

And, you know, one of the things that I kept noticing was that people kept repeating things that were false, like, for example, QAnon conspiracy theories or the idea that COVID is a hoax and they kept dismissing things that were true.


And I sort of began to think of this mentality as a sort of unlogic. It was a world view that was rooted in conspiracy and misinformation and falsehood, and in drawing conclusions and assumptions based on ideas that were not true. And that was one of the things that was most alarming, is that whenever I would bring up, for example, you know, more than 200,000 dead Americans or, you know, the president being caught on tape intentionally downplaying the virus, the voters that I spoke to either didn't believe me or didn't care.

ZAKARIA: Ian, this sort of raises a larger issue that a number of people have written about, and you talk about it in your newsletter that I get, which is the power of a kind of minority rule in America right now, which is that the Republican Party has found a way to win power without winning majorities. You know, so, I mean, the Republicans, the presidential candidate over the last 20 years has only one time gotten a plurality of the popular vote, 2004 with George Bush.

More people vote for Democrats in the Senate, yet Republicans hold a comfortable majority and so on. What does this mean for American political culture?

BREMMER: It makes it more divisive. It delegitimizes it. It makes both sides feel like the system is somehow rigged when the other is in charge. And I mean, it's one of the things that's been good that Biden has tried to continually say that he wants to be president of the red and the blue states.

He is not disparaging Trump voters. But much of the left is, and I think that's a real worry. I mean, if Biden wins and wins big, they need to learn the lesson that for so many decades the working class in the United States and the white working class in the United States has felt like they have been treated like cannon fodder.

And that was true for 40 years of Biden in the Senate. It was true for eight years of Biden as vice president. I mean, I am still stunned that there are so many people on the left that would never disparage blacks or Hispanics or Muslims and they are completely comfortable mocking rural working whites in 2020, and I think that especially because coronavirus is going to hit that group so much harder in 2021, that it hits you and me and those on the panel, they are going to be so much angrier that if we don't find a way to actually make America work for them, then the populism that you and George were talking about in the last segment is going to get a lot badder and a lot sharper in the United States. Not better.

ZAKARIA: Charlotte, let me just go back to you for a second on that point because I agree with Ian. You know, I have written about this in my book. The inequality is just going to get much, much worse. And when you talk to Trump voters and you would talk about inequality, or you talk about how maybe his tax cuts have helped the rich more than the poor or that the billionaires are doing well, would that resonate with these, you know, much, much poorer, working -- lower middle class or working class people?

ALTER: So the truth is that I think people have made up their mind. The cake is baked. You know, I did talk to people who felt like their taxes went down a little bit under Trump. I talked to a lot of people who are voting for him again because they feel like he's done well by the economy, they feel like the economy has been much stronger under him even for them. And I'm not talking to people who are billionaires on this trip.

But more broadly, you know, the trend persisted where when I would bring up facts about, you know, who really benefitted the most from the tax bill and actually, you know, in the last year the economy has not been doing so well in terms of job creation and millions of people have lost their jobs, there was this persistent reluctance to believe anything that contradicted the narrative they had about what they believed the economy was like and what they believed Trump was doing as president.

And that's, I think, the crucial distinction here. There is what the Trump presidency actually has done and then there is what his supporters believe about the Trump presidency, and the gulf between those two things is wide and getting wider.

ZAKARIA: George, let me ask you if you can put on your prior hat, because you were not just the finance minister, you were kind of the chief strategist of the Conservative Party. And you tried to fashion a modern conservativism.


You tried to fashion a conservativism that was about limited government, about open markets, but very much also in favor of what we would call social liberalism, gay, you know, pro-gay rights, pro diversity, all that kind of thing.

What was your -- what's your conclusion about that experiment since you are now out of office and Boris Johnson, who was sort of opposed to all that, is prime minister?

OSBORNE: Well, you know, we came (INAUDIBLE) as you say here in Britain at the Brexit referendum, where, you know, we had not established nor had our predecessors the argument for being in the European Union. But I don't, therefore, abandon that kind of moderate mainstream politics, which I was very proud to be part of, A, because I think it's the right thing for my country and indeed other countries. And I think it is also still the winning formula.

I think what Ian was saying there is really important. You know, let's remember what Joe Biden isn't. You know, he is not a radical left Democrat who hates all Republicans and thinks, you know, nothing but ill of them. You know. he was chosen as the sort of safe alternative. Of course, some people would say, you know, quite elderly, not as exciting as some other Democrat candidates.

But I think, you know, America and indeed countries like mine are yearning for a return to a more civil politics where you see something in the other side's argument that you are seeking to unite rather than divide. And there is a huge opportunity for a Biden presidency if he is elected to be the healer, to be the unifier rather than just to be the anti-Trump, although all the best now divides the country from the left.

And, you know, the stage is set there. And if he walks on to that stage, and I think, you know, having known him a bit myself, that is his, you know, natural inclination to do that, and if his party let's him become the unifier in chief, then I think he will lead the world towards setting a -- the democratic world, the Western world, towards a more civilized, less divisive politics. And that's got to be good for our countries and it's got to be good for the West and it's got to be good for democracy.

ZAKARIA: So from what I can hear, George Osborne telling us Angela Merkel is the pin-up, the poster child for this new era.

Thank you all. Fascinating set of conversations. Really appreciate it.

Next on GPS, I told you earlier who I thought was going to win. Coming up, Nate Cohn of "The New York Times" will tell us what strikes him as the most telling in the latest polls.



ZAKARIA: As became obvious to the whole world in November of 2016, if not earlier, winning more votes nationally does not win you the American presidency. It is all about the Electoral College and getting to the magic number 270. Two hundred-seventy votes wins the White House.

So who has the best path there?

Joining me again is Nate Cohn of "The New York Times."

Welcome, Nate.


ZAKARIA: So, first, let's talk about the lead. Biden has a lead that is, you know, depending on how you look at it, averages and such, in the somewhere between eight to nine-point range.

Compare that to what it's been like historically in these races. That's a pretty solid lead, right?

COHN: It's the largest lead that a candidate has had at this stage of a race since Bill Clinton in 1996. Even when Barack Obama was heading to a decisive victory in 2008, he wasn't ahead by this much.

It is a little bit -- it's a little bit smaller of a lead than Biden had earlier in the month while the president was hospitalized with the coronavirus, and the president has recovered a little bit since then, but by basically any other measure over the last 20 years of American politics, this is the most significant lead that anyone has had in the national polling.

And if you translate that into, you know, into electoral college votes, which is obviously more about the state by state, where do you -- you know, what kind of range do you come out with?

COHN: If we stipulate for a second that the polls are right, then Joe Biden would have a pretty comfortable lead -- let's say five points or more -- in states where, you known, around 300 electoral votes, the states carried by Hillary Clinton plus those three Midwestern battleground states that got away from her four years ago, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and Nebraska's second congressional district.

You know, Joe Biden would then have a number of additional options in states where he leads but not necessarily so clearly that could get him up to 350 electoral votes, states like Florida and North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa.

And in a really big win, where he maybe just did a couple of points better than the state polls currently say, Joe Biden could win 400 electoral votes or more by winning Ohio and Texas.

And that scenario, by the way, is a lot closer to, you know, being reflected in the polls than a Donald Trump victory.

ZAKARIA: And the Trump victory would look like what, something very similar to 2016?

COHN: I mean, you have to think so. There aren't too many other ways for him to do it. He's not contesting a number of states where Hillary Clinton won last time. There are only so many ways that he can get to 270 electoral votes this way.

I mean, it has to start by locking down these Sun Belt battlegrounds like Florida and Arizona and Texas and North Carolina. If he can't do that, you know, it's basically over.

And then he has to win something out of the Midwest like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, any one of those states, supposing that the president has held all those Sun Belt battlegrounds, would be enough for Donald Trump to win.

But, again, those are states where Joe Biden has a comfortable and consistent lead in the polls.

ZAKARIA: The big shift demographically, it seems like, from between 2016 and now, is women, correct, white women in particular?

COHN: Yeah, I mean, I think that women are definitely a group where Joe Biden is doing better than he -- than Hillary Clinton did four years ago. But Joe Biden is also doing a little bit better among men as well.

And, I mean, given how close the election was four years ago, really any shift in the direction of the Democrats would be sufficient to give them the presidency this time around.

To me, the shift that really stands out, Fareed, is white voters, that, you know, even in the national polls four years ago, it was very obvious that Joe Biden -- that Hillary Clinton, rather, was doing very poorly among white voters without a college degree. And so even though the state polls showed Hillary Clinton narrowly ahead in the Midwest, you can still see that there was this vulnerability there.

They just don't show that now. Joe Biden is competitive among white voters overall, which is extremely rare for a Democratic candidate under any circumstances. And he's doing much better than Hillary Clinton among white voters without a college degree. And that's why he has that lead in the Midwestern battlegrounds.

ZAKARIA: Let's talk about the two big states that -- that, you know, are close and important. Pennsylvania: what -- what are your thoughts, based on the most recent polling out of Pennsylvania?

COHN: The balance of recent polling has Joe Biden up by about six percentage points in Pennsylvania. I would say that's, you know, good for Joe Biden in the most absolute sense. It's a comfortable advantage. It would make him a heavy favorite to win the state. And if he wins the state, he is a very heavy favorite to be the president.

That said, I would point out it is a closer race than the national polls, which show Joe Biden up by nine percentage points.

ZAKARIA: And Florida, the -- the state that...

COHN: Oh, Florida...

ZAKARIA: ... from 2000 onwards has bedeviled American politics? COHN: It -- you know, Florida's always close, and I don't see too much of a reason to assume that won't happen again. The polls do show Joe Biden with a lead in Florida, but there are two conflicting forces going on in the state that have the potential to work themselves out into a close election there, a really close election, closer than I think Pennsylvania would be, if we take the poll seriously.

You know, on the one hand, we have Joe Biden doing really well among white voters. As I just mentioned, that's a national phenomenon. And in particular, he's doing well among older voters, which is, you know, everyone knows, is a group that's over-represented in Florida.

But on the other hand, Donald Trump is doing quite well among Hispanic voters, and in particular he seems to be doing well among the state's Cuban-American population. It's concentrated in Miami-Dade County, and that county represents about 10 percent of the state's electorate.

Florida can still be quite close even if Joe Biden is doing well among white older voters elsewhere in the state. And then if it turned out that -- that Donald Trump could just do a little bit better among those older white voters and maybe bring some of those Republican voters and older white voters back home in the final stretch, then I think you could be set up for a close race there.

ZAKARIA: Nate Cohn, pleasure to have you on.

COHN: Thanks for having me.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," threats against voters and other forms of intimidation, unacceptably long lines at polling places, unauthorized ballot boxes. Is this a banana republic or the American republic?

You know the answer. We'll talk in depth about the specific problems and what they could mean for the result, when we come back.


ZAKARIA: It is still nine days until the official Election Day, but already tens of millions of people have voted, many by mail. That seems indicative of two things, first, the greatly heightened interest in this election and, second, the fact that this is the first modern American election held during a pandemic, when standing on line to vote is not something many want to do.

Those two factors, the interest and the pandemic, could also lead to big problems on Election Day and well beyond.

Joining me now is Jessica Huseman, who covers voting rights for ProPublica.

Pleasure to have you on, Jessica.


ZAKARIA: So you say that in most countries an election of this sort should be thought about as one election, but in America it's really 10,000 elections. Explain what you mean.

HUSEMAN: So the United States really vests all of its election administration authority in local governments. So the Constitution is more or less silent about how the vote should be conducted and, you know, who should be able to cast it and when, and afforded all of that power to the states.

And in turn, a lot of states have afforded much of that power to counties. So, really, in the United States it's not just one federal election happening by one federal agency that is -- that is making everything go, like in other countries. It is, instead, 10,000 different local election officials all having an election on the same day.

ZAKARIA: So when we think about this issue of foreign election interference, that, you know, we now hear from American intelligence officials is still ongoing, you have powerful governments, very sophisticated ones like Russia. And how is that going to be dealt with in this -- in this -- you know, with these -- individual counties are going to face these challenges?

HUSEMAN: Yes, more or less. I mean, the United States has taken a few steps to centralize response to election interference. So in the very last days of the Obama administration they declared elections critical infrastructure, which, much like our power system, our water system, telecommunications, all of these things are run by private companies or smaller municipal organizations, but they are "critical infrastructure," which means that the federal government has some authority to respond if those systems go down or are under attack.

And so now the election system is considered critical infrastructure, and so that affords election administrators more access to the federal government's resources. It does not necessarily allow the federal government to set any minimum standards but does give these folks access.

So, in 2016, we had a lot of voter roll registration -- registration systems that were not as secure as they could be. We had a lot of sites that were not as secure as they could be.

The DHS has actually worked quite nicely with the states over the last four years to prepare them for this moment. But, by and large, yes, the counties are doing this on their own.

So when we think about foreign interference, we shouldn't think about Russia versus the United States. We should think about Russia versus your local county clerk because, truly, those are the stakes.

ZAKARIA: Wow. And when you look at the issue of voter suppression, what is the thing that worries you the most?

Because I think there are so many things that people talk about. You studied the issue. What -- what do you look at as something really concerning about the nature of voter suppression?

HUSEMAN: I think that this year the thing that concerns me most about voter suppression is the blatant misinformation that's coming out of the White House about vote by mail and the security around vote by mail or drop boxes and the security of drop boxes.

I think that we have already seen the impact that that sort of language has on the populace, and I -- and I don't know that we're going to know exactly how that played out until after the election.

Certainly people are voting in very large numbers. People are notably returning their absentee ballots at a rate much, much higher than 2018 or 2016.

So certainly his rhetoric has implanted a seed in some of the folks' minds who are voting by mail to get their ballot in as early as possible. But I think we won't know for some time how many people just choose not to vote because they don't trust the mail and they don't trust a dropoff box and they're in a -- a position where they have a comorbidity and would prefer not to go out in public and cast a vote there, either.

So -- so really I -- I just am concerned about people feeling like they're out of options.

ZAKARIA: Jessica, pleasure to have you on. Thanks for helping us.

HUSEMAN: Thank you so much.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," much of the world is facing a great recession or a depression because of COVID, and then there is China. The emerging superpower announced this week its economy grew at an astonishing 4.9 percent last quarter.

How in the world did it do that? I will explain.


ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. This week, when Beijing announced that its economy grew 4.9 percent in the third quarter, it merely confirmed the sense of recovery that has been felt for months by China observers.

New construction is changing skylines across the country, and malls and restaurants are full of patrons, including in the original COVID- 19 epicenter of Wuhan.

And the Chinese are starting to enjoy movies again in actual theaters, an experience that still just seems like a dream for many Americans.

All of this was unthinkable six months ago. In the first quarter of the year, China had the biggest economic slowdown it had ever recorded, a 6.8 percent contraction. Now the IMF predicts that China will be the only major economy to experience positive GDP growth in 2020.

To be fair, many experts are skeptical of the growth figures released by the Chinese national bureau of statistics, but all agree that the Chinese economy has overcome a COVID-19 collapse. So how did it recover?

Partly, it's a matter of timing. China dealt with the virus first, so China opened first. But there was much more to it. First, Beijing prioritized opening up its industrial sector much earlier than the consumer economy. Companies were given rebates and loans so they could open factories and make payroll.

Then there was China's economic stimulus. It was far lower as a percentage of GDP than those of the United States and Europe, as the World Bank points out. But it was strategically directed, prioritizing infrastructure.

The plan worked. By mid-year, industrial production was up, way up, over the year before. By September, it was up 6.9 percent over the 2019 figure.

Even with all that production, consumers were still not consuming. Chinese retail spending didn't start growing again until August, despite billions in coupons distributed by local governments and businesses.

But in China, manufacturing remains a much larger part of the economy than in most Western countries, and so factory production translated into overall growth.

The broader lesson, however, is that China's economic success was less because of how it handled the COVID-19 slowdown and more how it handled the COVID-19 virus.

Beijing implemented extremely rigorous mass testing and contact tracing, as well as intrusive quarantines, to ensure that the infection did not spread.

And so with the virus largely vanquished, life has resumed. People are comfortable leaving the house to shop or even to crowd the Great Wall of China.

Today most economists continue to be bullish on Beijing. Its third quarter GDP numbers -- to remind you, 4.9 percent growth -- are the only bright spot, the only engine of growth in the entire global economy.

And it offers a simple lesson. If you get control of the disease, your economy will bounce back. Alas, that is a big "if" for most countries in the world, including the United States of America.

If you're curious about other important takeaways from COVID-19, you will enjoy my new book, "Ten Lessons For a Post-Pandemic World." Go to for a link to order it.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. We are off next week, so I will see you in two weeks.