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Wake Up To Politics - November 4, 2020

Wake Up To Politics: No presidential winner yet
Wake Up To Politics - November 4, 2020

It’s Wednesday, November 4, 2020. Inauguration Day is 77 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Campaign 2020

No presidential winner yet as key states continue to count votes

The historic 2020 presidential campaign is over — but the chaos of the race has yet to subside, as Election Night turns to morning without a clear winner in the battle for the White House.

With a victor declared by the Associated Press in 43 out of 50 states, former Vice President Joe Biden maintains a slight but indecisive Electoral College lead over President Donald Trump, 238 votes to 213. The needed threshold to claim the presidency — 270 electoral votes — remains out of reach for either candidate.  

All eyes are now trained on the trio of Rust Belt states — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan — that lifted Trump to victory in 2016; he currently leads Biden in two of the three states, but large portions of the vote remain uncounted and results may not be finalized for several days.

Trump addressed supporters in the White House at about 2 a.m. this morning and falsely declared victory, a move with little precedent in American history. “Frankly, we did win this election,” he said, although the outcome remains unclear. The president called for states to stop counting ballots, baselessly accusing Democrats of perpetrating “a major fraud on our nation” and promising to take a legal challenge to the Supreme Court.  

However, vote-counting continued into the early morning and will go until all ballots have been tabulated. As of 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, Trump is leading in Pennsylvania (55.1% to 43.6%), with 75% of the expected vote reported, and Michigan (49.4% to 48.9%), with 86% of the expected vote reported. Large swaths of mail-in votes remain uncounted in the Democratic areas of Philadelphia and Detroit in those two states; final totals in the cities are not expected to be announced until tonight or even later in the week.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Biden has assumed a slight edge (49.5% to 48.8%), with 97% of the expected vote reported. The former vice president trailed in the state for much of the night, but emerged on top after absentee ballots were counted in Milwaukee and Green Bay, a “blue shift” Democrats are hoping to replicate in the other tossup states.

“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who has won this election,” Biden said in remarks to supporters in Delaware at around 1 a.m. “That’s the decision of the American people.” He described himself as “optimistic about this outcome,” urging patience while adding: “We believe we’re on track to win this election.”

Donald Trump speaks from the White House (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images). Joe Biden speaks from Wilmington (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

Biden has already managed to flip two 12 electoral votes won by Trump in 2016: 11 from the state of Arizona, which had not been won by a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996, and one from Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district. (Nebraska is one of two states, along with Maine, that awards some of its electoral votes by congressional district.)

Trump, meanwhile, has not captured any electoral votes won by Hillary Clinton four years ago; despite his attempts to flip states such as Minnesota, New Mexico, and New Hampshire, each has been added to Biden’s column. The president did, however, fend off Democratic threats in states that appeared increasingly competitive as the cycle wore on, including Florida, Ohio, and Texas.

In addition to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, the Associated Press has not declared a winner in the battleground states of Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada. Trump currently boasts slim leads in Georgia (50.5% to 48.3%), with 92% reporting, and North Carolina (50.1% to 48.7%), with 95% reporting. Full results have yet to come in from Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs, which could tip Georgia into the Democratic column. In Nevada, the lone outstanding state won by Clinton in 2016, Biden is ahead (49.3% to 48.7%), with 86% of the vote reporting.

It is unknown who will emerge victorious in the presidential race — the result is expected to hinge on the aforementioned Rust Belt states — but it is clear that the Democratic “wave” scenario that some analysts had envisioned did not materialize. Not only did Trump win by comfortable margins in a succession of states that polls deemed competitive, such as Florida and Ohio, but Democrats struggled down-ballot as well. (In all, it was yet another uneven campaign cycle for the American polling industry.)

Control of the Senate remains up in the air, with seven races uncalled and each party currently guaranteed 47 seats apiece. Democrats have succeeded in ousting Republican Sens. Martha McSally in Arizona and Cory Gardner in Colorado, while Republicans defeated Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama. A number of Republican incumbents won re-election in states heavily targeted by Democrats, such as Joni Ernst of Iowa, Steve Daines of Montana, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. In the latter example, Democrats poured a record-breaking $104 million into Jaime Harrison’s quest to unseat Graham; Harrison is currently trailing Graham by 13 percentage points.

The Senate races in Alaska, Maine, Michigan, and North Carolina have yet to be called; Republicans currently lead in all four, with varying levels of the vote tally reported. The two races in Georgia are also undecided: the special election is projected to go to a January runoff between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock; the other, regularly-scheduled race may also be forced to a runoff, which could render the Senate majority party unclear for two more months.

In the House, Democrats are expected to maintain their majority, but projections that they would comfortably expand it seem to have missed the mark. As of 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, Republicans had defeated five Democratic incumbents — Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida, Collin Peterson in Minnesota, Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico, and Kendra Horn in Oklahoma — while Democrats had flipped only two seats in North Carolina, both of which were due to redistricting.

Even if Biden pulls out a victory — which remains very much possible at this hour — his ability to enact the sweeping agenda he has promised will be significantly hamstrung by his party’s disappointing down-ballot results.

When will a winner be known in the race for the White House? Election officials in Wisconsin predicted that their absentee votes would be done counting today; officials in Pennsylvania and Michigan have said tabulation may go on until Friday.

Polls may have opened more than 24 hours ago in most states, but it will be at least a few more until either candidate can accurately say the White House is theirs for the next four years.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has no public events scheduled.

The House and Senate are not in session.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia at 10 am:

  • In 2018, the city of Philadelphia learned that two foster care agencies it had hired were refusing to refer children to same-sex couples. Philadelphia promptly cut ties with one agency; the other agency, Catholic Social Services, has sued the city, arguing that Philadelphia violated its right to freely exercise religion under the First Amendment.
  • Catholic Social Services wants the Supreme Court to overturn a famous case called Employment Div. v. Smith (1990), which says that even if laws like Philadelphia’s have negative consequences for religion, they’re still allowed if they are neutrally written. Catholic Social Services is suggesting a looser standard: if the agency proves that Philadelphia would’ve allowed the same conduct by someone with different religious views, then the agency wins its challenge.
  • Even though Antonin Scalia wrote Smith, his opinion is criticized by conservatives like Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, and Thomas for allowing laws to interfere with religion. With the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, the court’s newly emboldened conservative wing will likely rule that Philadelphia discriminated against the Catholic agency.

— Supreme Court case summary contributed by Anna Salvatore

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