Bearing in mind that what will transpire, being reality, will probably be weirder than what you can contrive.
At present we are looking at two really old guys as the dominant candidates. I think Biden has said that he will choose a woman as a running mate (Tammy Duckworth would yank a lot of chains), so many are saying Individual-ONE will drop Pence for a woman (Nikki Haley, arrgh).
Now imagine that, in autumn, one of the main candidates has an debilitating event, like a major stroke that renders that person essentially ineligible for Oval Office duties. What happens if it happens in mid-to-late October, when the Party has no opportunity to put up a replacement?
Could a man who literally drools in his hospital bed still be able to defeat a crazy person?
What if the event were to happen after Election Day, but before the Electors cast their votes?
I picture a situation in which the Republicans have so rigged the system that they still manage to “win” the election once again, Pence is running the country while Individual-ONE is fully incapacitated, and the electors are being vigorously lobbied by various factions to vote one way or another. They would be pledged to vote for a person who literally cannot take office, but, in most states, the electoral pledge is not legally binding, so most of them can vote as they choose, since they have to cast a vote for President and a second one for VP.
It would be quite a conundrum, to decide whether to choose the elected VP for President, to go with the sitting VP or to vote for someone else entirely.
The notion that Trump would dump Pence is utterly absurd. I continuously see people predicting this and I have to assume that these people are just totally unable to read the pulse of politics or indeed human psychology at all. Pence was perhaps Trump’s single most strategic asset in bringing into his camp the people who really would have preferred Ted Cruz. He’s also the perfect foil to Trump’s emotive, reactive, and boisterous persona - the “gray man” with the poker face who fades into the background, and obeys Trump’s every command. It was and remains a brilliant strategic pairing.
There’s also absolutely no way in hell that Trump would ever think “Biden is picking a woman, so I’ll also pick a woman.” That’s not how Trump operates. He doesn’t give a fuck about pandering to women or people who want to see women more represented in politics. He doesn’t care.
The electors, of both parties, are basically party hacks who will vote as they’re told. Your scenario envisions slates of electors being elected as pretty much as has always happened. The worst case I can envision is multiple credible accusation of fraud, from both parties, clouding the results of several states. In 2000, we had just one state that had messed up results and people are still arguing over that one.
I have a very rich imagination, so I can come up with many very off-the-wall weird scenarios. However, carefully considering all that have come to mind, and weighing all of the options, I believe that the weirdest scenario is:
Worst election is: The outcome is truly unknowable. Just too much shadiness. Ballots being tampered or destroyed or never arriving in the mail, a Florida-2000 narrow outcome in multiple swing states, and the Supreme Court has to step in with some 5-4 ruling.
COVID-19 mutates yet again. The virus, currently causing blood clots in young patients, starts causing selective clots that damage specific regions of the brain. It controls neural pathways in those regions, forming a hyperspace hivemind among all those infected.
These victims form a new shadow political party whose sole purpose is the complete subsumption of our species as hosts for the virus. The president is already infected, and encourages the uninfected to take dangerous and ineffective cures, so that trust in medical science drops precipitously, protecting the hivemind from medical counterattacks.
A benign parasitic hivemind with alien origins has coexisted with our species peacefully and undetected for millennia, causing relatively mild symptoms such as malapropisms and absentmindedness. It sees the COVID hivemind as an existential threat, and it forms an opposing shadow political party. Biden is already infected with the alien parasite, and through him the parasitic hivemind tries to blunt the effects of COVIDmind.
At this point, due to unknown causes, the effect of gravity in our solar system drops by 20%. Trump claims credit, and wins in a landslide.
Not bad, LHoD, but my weirdest-case scenario starts with the evaporation of a thunderbolt black hole, triggering a precipitation of the false vaccum into a lower energy state, accompanied by a change to all of the laws of physics as we know them.
What **eschereal **said; the House system works in favor of the Republicans, vaguely akin to the Senate or Electoral College. Even though individual (D) representatives outnumber individual (R) representatives, the Republicans control more state delegations (South Dakota wields just as much power as California or New York, under such a system), and would win.
Bad fantasy scenario: Trimp the Chimp finds workable excuse to declare emergency and martial law, detaining all dissidents i.e. opponents, with troops deployed at all local election offices to oversee the shutdown - and fuck the Posse Comitatus Act.
Variants: Trimp’s minions work up various excuses. Virus if nothing else pops up. Whichever Kim is in power in DPRK nukes Honolulu, Seattle, or Mar-a-Lago. Deep-cover Mexican agents swarm from the fields and meat plants to overwhelm government offices and armories. Or COVID starts infecting petroleum exports. Yikes! Cancel the election!
Weird stuff: Fiendish residents of the Hollow Earth (it ain’t flat, folks) swarm up with even worse results than a Zombie Apocalypse because their brains still work. They steal all the absentee ballots and vote for Sarah Palin, their human heroine. Meanwhile, radioactive fleas infest voting machines and switch votes to Taylor Swift. Few humans complain.
The other issue with the election being postponed is that some 468 Congressional seats are up for re-election: the Democrats in the House cannot protest the legitimacy of the President without also conceding that the House itself is unelected. Only some 67 or so Senators would have a valid claim to their seats, and the Senate is only empowered to select the VP – from the candidates that got the most EVs, so there is really nothing to go on without an election.
There could be a military coup, which is not entirely unthinkable, because there is no shortage of enmity toward Individual-ONE from the Pentagon.
I thought that the president’s (and VP’s) terms were not necessarily connected to the election?
Even if the election were postponed or nullified, wouldn’t the term still end in January 2021? I would think in that event the various succession rules would come into play. If there was indeed no election, I guess there would be no house of representatives (since all their terms ended too) and only two thirds of the senate would still be intact. I think the senior member of the majority part of this remnant senate would become the president in that case.
One wrinkle here is that state governors could appoint new senators to fill these vacancies. Assuming all the governors appoint senators of the same party as theirs, this could give Democrats the majority in the senate. Some governors are up for reelection too and I don’t know state elections would be affected by a postponement or nullification of federal elections.
Obviously I’m no expert so don’t take anything I say with more than a grain of salt.