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Former White House Chief of staff Mick Mulvaney took a break from the campaign trail in Pennsylvania today to catch up with United States Studies Centre (USSC) Distinguished Ambassadorial Fellow Joe Hockey in our latest Election Watch webinar. Mulvaney predicted we’d see the same Donald Trump in the final presidential debate for the same reason Paul Manafort pushed back on Republicans wanting to temper Trump’s style in 2016 by saying, “How many of you just won a Republican primary for president. Nobody? Nobody? Okay, the president is going to do it his way.” While he shared why he still thinks Trump will perform better than polling shows, he revealed that he believes the approach to China will be the same under either administration because scepticism toward China has become a bi-partisan issue. Regardless of the election outcome, he underscored the strategic importance of the alliance between the United States and Australia.

In one of the few examples where 2020 has been less fractious than previous years, the Senate hearings for Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett could not be more distinct from the hearings for Justice Kavanaugh two years ago. Perhaps the numbers force Senate Democrats to chose between focusing on the election or the nomination – the current Senate split is 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two Independents – two fewer Democrats than during the Kavanaugh hearings. The only political tool at the Democrat’s disposal is a filibuster to delay the vote, but this also presents a double-edged sword – focus public attention on the election, the Supreme Court battle or risk losing both. With only two weeks to election day, a final debate to navigate, a return to rallies and a country in the throes of a health crisis, both parties have to make hard choices and hope their best efforts are enough. Even if successful, time alone will tell if victory is worth the risk.