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Race is '50-50'

Democrat megadonor: Mail ballot fight and ‘closet Trumpists’ could tip election

Haim Saban says US presidential race will be close, but is confident Joe Biden has learned from Clinton’s mistakes and is focusing on campaigning in swing states

Israeli-US businessman Haim Saban arrives before the start of the third US presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)
Israeli-US businessman Haim Saban arrives before the start of the third US presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)

Democratic megadonor Haim Saban on Tuesday predicted the US presidential election would be a close race, dismissing polls showing Joe Biden winning by a landslide.

In an interview with Channel 13, Saban cited two unknown factors: the effects of US President Donald Trump’s attacks on mail-in ballots, which are primarily used by Democrats, in an attempt to undermine their legitimacy, and the “closet Trumpists” who are ashamed to tell pollsters they will vote for the incumbent.

It’s “50-50,” he predicted of the race.

A Real Clear Politics average of national polls on Wednesday gave Biden a 10-point lead over Trump.

This combination of Sept. 29, 2020, photos shows US President Donald Trump, left, and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Saban, who was a major supporter of Hillary Clinton, said the former Democratic presidential candidate erred in 2016 in thinking swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin were “in her pocket” and therefore neglecting to campaigning there.

“Biden’s campaign, and Biden himself of course, learned from this mistake. They’re working very hard on the swing states,” he said.

He also criticized Trump over his Iran policies and handling of the coronavirus pandemic, noting that “Iran today has three times as much enriched uranium as it had four years ago. Today, 218,000 have died [of coronavirus], and this is on the backdrop of the president’s comments — don’t worry, it will end soon.”

Asked how he would respond to a Trump victory, Saban jokingly recalled an argument with his wife over where they would flee.

“So she said, ‘Switzerland.’ But I said, ‘I don’t like snow. Bahamas.’ She said, ‘No, Switzerland.’ So the fight is between Switzerland or the Bahamas.”

The Jewish billionaire, 75, who grew up in Israel, has poured millions into Democratic politics over the years, including $15 million into Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign. He also donates to causes related to Israel, including the annual Saban Forum on Israel, which brings together political leaders from the United States and Israel to debate topics related to the Jewish state, and the Israeli-American Council, which aims to boost the Israeli and Jewish identity — and political clout — of Israelis living in the US.

JTA contributed to this report.

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