I promised I’d write up some thoughts this morning about what went down last night, so here they are:
- I didn’t mean for my Electoral College tie post yesterday to be a prediction, but it was surprisingly prescient. The scenario I outlined can’t happen anymore because Joe Biden won Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, but nearly everything else has either come to fruition or is looking likely. Florida and North Carolina were redder than expected, Trump prematurely declared victory, and Pennsylvania ended the day showing a large Trump lead.
- However, none of that means Biden is dead in the water. In fact, I’m optimistic he’ll still win. We were warned about the “red mirage” prior to Election Day, so don’t be too concerned about last night’s numbers. At the moment, he’s slightly ahead in Wisconsin and Michigan with plenty of ballots still to count, which would put him at exactly 270 electoral votes if he holds the remaining Clinton states. Pennsylvania, which still looks favorable for Biden, would be icing on the cake.
- Donald Trump’s Hispanic outreach strategy paid dividends. Trump will probably win Florida by about three points, which is a blowout in a perennially tight state. Trump has essentially been campaigning in the Sunshine State for three years, tailoring policy rollouts to attract Cuban and Venezuelan Americans in South Florida. The COVID-19 pandemic definitely interfered with Biden’s plans to campaign there, but I’m not sure it would have mattered. Florida has always been slightly redder than the rest of the country, and it seems to be tilting further in that direction as time goes on.
- On the other hand, I’m pleasantly surprised that Georgia is so close, especially given what happened in Florida. Months ago, I wrote a post about how Georgia is still a red state at its core and that a successful attempt to flip it would require high turnout and a strong performance by Democrats nationally. Since then, the Peach State has transformed into a true battleground. Before I went to sleep around 1am ET, the New York Times gave Biden a 67% chance of carrying Georgia. I still expect Trump to win there, but a lot of the remaining vote comes from areas friendlier to Democrats. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
- What the hell is going on with polling? Most people seemed to think Biden had leads in Florida and North Carolina and was within striking distance in Ohio, Iowa, and Texas. It’s too early to know how inaccurate the polls ultimately were, but for two straight presidential elections they’ve been surprisingly off the mark. That’s definitely a blow to the credibility of polling science as a discipline.
- I’m not sure a different Democratic candidate/message would have performed any better against Trump. For all the talk about how centrism and a return to normalcy don’t motivate voters, turnout reached an all-time high. Biden will win more votes than any presidential candidate in history, and he ran ahead of most Democrats down-ballot. It’s just that a lot of new voters also voted for Trump. The cult of personality is contagious and hard to break, and I struggle to believe that someone like Bernie Sanders would have expanded Democrats’ map, particularly in the Sun Belt. That doesn’t mean Democrats shouldn’t embrace a more progressive message moving forward, but I think any rush by the left wing of the party to say “I told you so” is premature and a poor read of the situation.
- The Senate will most likely stay in Republican hands. What that means for the new administration, whether that’s Biden or Trump, remains to be seen. But any hopes for an ambitious progressive policy agenda, court packing, or DC statehood are DOA without unified Democratic control.
There’s plenty more I could write about, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Hopefully we’ll have a clearer picture of who won after today, but I expect this to get drawn out several more days, possibly into next week. In the meantime, stay sane!