SOUTH BEND — Let’s look at election prospects in Indiana, Michigan and the rest of the nation after a chaotic first presidential debate, the superspreader in the Rose Garden, that spread even to President Trump and the vice-presidential debate.
     
Q. Who’s ahead?
     
A. Joe Biden. All the polls show it. Biden stretched his lead after Trump’s unhinged debate performance and again when the president, who scoffed at masks and the seriousness of the coronavirus, wound up hospitalized with the virus. On Thursday, Nate Silver, the guru of presidential forecasting, moved Biden’s chances of winning up to 85%.
     
Q. With the election so close, is Biden certain to win?
     
A. No.
     
Q. What could happen?
     
A. A lot. More surprises no doubt lie ahead. As president, Trump can and undoubtedly will spring surprises. Something totally unexpected could sway opinions. Remember how the FBI director’s surprise announcement of allegedly new Hillary Clinton emails was devastating at campaign close in 2016. Also, consider what that 85% chance of winning means.
     
Q. Isn’t it a prediction that Biden will win?
     
A. No. As Silver warns with his “fivethirtyeight” projections, they are only a snapshot of what’s happening now, not a prediction of Election Day final totals. An 85% chance of Biden winning means Trump now still has a chance of about one in six to win. Kickers sometimes win football games with field goals from well beyond 50 yards that would seem to have no more than a one-in-six chance.
     
Q. Since the election depends on the Electoral College results, how does it look in key battleground states?
     
A. Good for Biden – right now. He is ahead in most of the key states, although not by much in some. The most positive projections for Biden are in the three states where Trump pulled upsets by narrow margins in 2016 – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
     
Q. Biden is ahead in Michigan?
     
A. Way ahead, so much so that the Trump campaign at times has virtually conceded it. The president’s handling of the coronavirus hurt him especially in Michigan. It backfired on Trump when he insulted and ridiculed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as she sought to restrict activities through which the virus spreads.
     
Q. How about Indiana? Is there a chance that a blue wave will sweep across the state Trump won so big last time?
     
A. Sure. But not a good chance. Silver moved up chances of Biden carrying Indiana to 5% last week. Those odds are kind of like making a field goal from 60 yards out, against the wind. Could happen – if the winds shift and the blue wave becomes a tsunami.
     
Q. Why did that first debate hurt Trump so much? Wasn’t Biden shouting, too?
     
A. Trump initiated and never stopped his interruptions and shouted at the moderator as well as at Biden. Trump’s strategy was to make Biden look weak. It helped Biden when he withstood the blitz and had no gaffe.
     
Q. Why such effect from the Rose Garden superspreader?
     
A. The president wanted his big Rose Garden shebang and inside reception, celebrating selection of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, to shift attention from the pandemic, his worst problem, to his determination to add conservative influence to the court. When those attending flaunted their disdain for precautions of wearing masks and social distancing, and then so many came down with the virus, all attention was back on the pandemic and how it is worsening.
     
Q. Who won the vice-presidential debate?
     
A. Both Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris did what their respective sides wanted. Vice-presidential debates never have had much influence on presidential elections. And it is doubtful that many voters switched sides as a result of what Pence or Harris said or where the fly landed. 

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.