TIME ZONE-DEFYING, cross-country travel that leaves little time for sleep. Big rallies of sweaty crowds interspersed with tony, high-dollar fundraisers at celebrity homes. Obsessive poll-tracking, September scares and October surprises.

That’s the typical post-Labor Day path for presidential candidates as they embark on what is traditionally the final, frenetic sprint to Election Day, all with the presumption that one of the contenders would declare victory under a cascade of balloons, while the other affects a gracious demeanor in conceding. The loser heads home to contemplate a post-campaign career, and the winner moves to Cabinet-making or preparation of a second-term agenda.

Not this year. A confluence of factors, including the coronavirus, an escalation of early balloting and an unusually firmly decided electorate have made this presidential election like no other in modern history.

When it comes to news and events, the campaign is full of drama: the pandemic, civil unrest over racial injustice, and what would normally be explosive revelations that President Donald Trump deliberately downplayed the danger of COVID-19, insulted military generals and reportedly called those who died serving in the military “losers” and “suckers.”

But the campaign competition itself is remarkably static. Polling has remained fairly stable, with Trump trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 7-10 percentage points nationally and by single digits in battleground states. Trump’s own approval rating has also remained about the same – in the low to mid-40s – despite a flailing economy, escalating virus deaths and what would normally be damaging news reports.

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