It’s Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Election Day is today. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
I just checked the archives, and I began the Wake Up To Politics countdown to Election Day 2020 on January 23, 2017 — 1,379 days ago. Now, it stands at zero. These have been an unforgettable 1,379 days: for me personally (going from a freshman in high school to a freshman in college), for this newsletter (going from about 2,000 subscribers to about 50,000), and for the nation.
My deepest gratitude to all of you who have been reading WUTP along the way, whether you were subscribed 1,379 days ago or just signed up this morning. None of us know what will happen tonight, but I know this: I’m looking forward to sending Wake Up To Politics bright and early tomorrow morning, and helping you sort through the results from this historic day.
For now, if you are eligible to do so and haven’t already, I hope you’ll take part in our democratic process today and vote. You can go to vote.org if you need help finding your nearest polling place or information about the voting rules in your state. Happy Election Day, everyone!
Election Day in America
Four years after bucking expectations and riding an improbable wave of energy to the White House, Donald Trump now faces the prospect of becoming the first president since George H.W. Bush in 1992 to be denied a second term.
His rival, Joe Biden, has consistently led in national polls by a margin of six to 11 percentage points since June; his advantage currently stands at 8.4%, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average. Biden’s lead also extends to the three Rust Belt states — Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — that lifted Trump to victory in 2016 after decades of electing Democrats. (His lead is shakiest in Pennsylvania, the largest state in that trio and the one most central to his path to 270 electoral votes.)
Trump, who has had historically low approval ratings throughout his presidency, also enters Election Day positioned dangerously in a number of Sun Belt states, including some which are traditional presidential battlegrounds — like Florida and North Carolina — as well as others that have historically been comfortable GOP territory — such as Arizona, Georgia, and Texas.
Although Trump has picked up some ground among voters of color, Biden has made significant gains among suburban white women and seniors, building a coalition distinct from the one that elected him and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Despite promising data, Democratic operatives across the country remain anxious about tonight’s results, fearful of “hidden Trump voters” and state polling errors like those seen in 2016. (Biden’s polling edge, however, has been larger and more stable than Hillary Clinton’s.) Trump and his advisers remain outwardly optimistic that he can eke out a second term, but some Republican lawmakers have begun to speak publicly about their worries for the party, as the GOP’s Senate majority hangs in the balance.
Depending on who wins the White House, Democrats would need a net gain of either three or four Senate seats to flip the chamber. A number of Republican senators are seen as endangered, including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Other GOP-held Senate seats are vulnerable as well, in Georgia, Montana, and South Carolina. The most likely Senate Republican pick-up opportunities are in Alabama and Michigan. On the House side, the Democratic majority is seen as secure and could possibly even be expanded.
Along with the races for control of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, more than 8,000 state legislative seats are also up for grabs today: as the decennial census was conducted this year, control of statehouse majorities will determine congressional redistricting for the decade to come. Combined, an estimated $14 billion has been spent on political campaigns this year, making it the most expensive election in American history.
It has surely also been one of the most dramatic: the 2020 cycle kicked off with an impeachment trial and a caucus breakdown and reached a crescendo amid nationwide protests and a global pandemic. It now ends in the wake of a Supreme Court justice’s death and a presidential hospitalization.
With the coronavirus pandemic shadowing much of the campaign, some analysts wondered whether the health crisis would dampen voter turnout in 2020. Instead, the virus — which has sickened more than 9 million Americans — seems to have only redoubled the nation’s civic energy, as states have introduced new ways for their constituents to vote.
More than 100 million votes have already been cast; experts are predicting turnout could reach 150 to 160 million by the end of the day, far outpacing the 138 million votes cast in 2016. It is less certain, however, how long it will take to count those votes, as the increase in mail-in voting threatens to spark tabulation delays and protracted legal battles.
America will choose a president today; whether we will know tonight who has been chosen is another question altogether.
What the experts are watching
There will be a lot of races competing for your attention tonight. Wake Up To Politics reached out to some of the top election experts in the country to hear what they will be watching as results roll in.
“North Carolina is the state that I think will tell us a lot — and early,” said J. Miles Coleman of Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “I’m told 80% of the vote there will be counted by 7:30 pm, so we should have a good idea of the state quick. If Biden is up — or just down by 1-2% — that bodes well for him. If Cunningham wins, it’s hard for Republicans to hold the Senate.”
Another good signpost, per Steven Shepard of Politico: the Sunshine State. “A Biden victory in Florida would cut off a lot of the already-limited paths the president has to re-election,” Shepard said. “And it would probably be predicated on a trade: some slippage compared to Hillary Clinton among Hispanic voters, especially in South Florida, but gains among white seniors.” He added that results are expected to be counted in the state fairly early in the night.
Niles Francis of Decision Desk HQ, meanwhile, will be reading the tea leaves in Gwinnett County, Georgia, located in suburban Atlanta. “If Biden can clear 60% of the vote there, he’s in a good position to win Georgia,” Francis said.
If Biden does take the Peach State, he would be the first Democrat since 1992 to do so: Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report said that he will be watching for “whether we’ll see a historical realignment” in Georgia and other Democratic “reach states” such as Arizona and Texas. If those states do fall into Biden’s column, “it would mean a fulfillment of a long-held Democratic dream and a crumbling of Republicans’ ‘red wall,’” Wasserman added.
Sarah Frostenson of FiveThirtyEight will also be looking for any potential “larger electoral shifts” in the offing. “Biden is in the lead and the race doesn’t really show signs of tightening,” Frostenson noted; she said she will be watching for how large his margin is and whether the expected Democratic gains are “lasting” or “temporary.”
On the demographic level, Madelaine Pisani of National Journal said she would be watching for the size of the “gender gap,” especially in a collection of key Senate races. Pisani said Republican hopes in Georgia and Arizona are contingent on their Senate candidates outperforming “Trump’s lagging support among women, especially in the suburbs.” Meanwhile, Democrats would need to rely on “a good chunk of men staying home and “boosting their numbers among white women without college degrees” to notch victories in Iowa and Kansas.
Drew Savicki of 270toWin will be eyeing the subrubs as well, especially “traditionally Republican suburban counties in the Midwest,” such as Delaware County, Ohio; Dallas County, Iowa; and Hamilton County, Iowa. “Can Biden pick off at least one of them? I’d think so.”
But it won’t just be the presidential and Senate races at stake tonight: “Texas House of Representatives,” Chaz Nuttycombe of CNalysis responded when asked what he would be watching. “Easily.” Nuttycombe said that it is “the most competitive state legislative champer”; the implications for congressional redistricting could be massive.
Finally, Grace Panetta of Business Insider offered a reminder of “the many important direct ballot initiatives taking place this year.” The citizens of Puerto Rico will be voting on whether they want U.S. satehood; plus, “there are dozens of fascinating ballot referendums and propositions around the country on drug decriminalization/legalization, election and voting policies in states like Alaska and Florida, and the many high-stakes propositions on everything from criminal justice to the future of gig workers in California.”
For more on what to look for tonight, listen to my latest podcast episode, featuring an interview with Fox News Decision Desk Director Arnon Mishkin.
America on Edge
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the nation steels itself for uncertainty and possible unrest tonight, businesses across the country are boarding up and shutting down. Here is a glimpse of the nation’s capital preparing for Election Day:
New fences were also being built at the White House — which was a hotbed of protests over the summer and was already teeming with activity on Monday.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will visit his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia (10 am). He is expected to host about 400 invitees at a White House watch party tonight.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will campaign in Scranton and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He will also address the nation tonight in Wilmington, Delaware.
- Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will campaign in Detroit, Michigan.
- Dr. Jill Biden will campaign in Florida, holding events in St. Petersburg (11:45 am) and Tampa (12:30 pm). She will also visit a polling site in Cary, North Carolina (3:40 pm).
- Doug Emhoff will hold a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio (12 pm).
Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgenson and vice presidential nominee Spike Cohen will attend an Election Night party in Dallas, Texas.
All times Eastern.
The Senate will meet at 10:15 am for a pro forma session.
The House is not in session.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases:
- Jones v. Mississippi (10 am): The court will grapple with an Eighth Amendment question: When judges sentence a minor to life in prison without parole, must they first determine that the minor is “permanently incorrigible” (unable to be reformed)?
- Borden v. United States (11 am): The Armed Career Criminal Act is a notoriously vague and labyrinthine law which lists punishments for armed offenses. The court will consider whether a felony involving recklessness (and not necessarily violence) should still be counted as a violent felony under the law.
— Supreme Court case summaries contributed by Anna Salvatore
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