The Morning Jolt


No Clear Winner Yet

A person holds stickers saying “I voted” at the Northampton County Courthouse on Election Day in Easton, Pa., November 3, 2020. (Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters)

On the menu today: We don’t have a declared winner in the presidential race as of this writing, but last night taught us a lot.

Twelve Big Lessons from Last Night and This Morning

Wow. As of this writing, we don’t have a clear president-elect. You would probably rather be in Joe Biden’s position than President Trump’s position at this hour . . . but Biden doesn’t have it locked up. Here are twelve things we know already:

One: Joe Biden may reach 270 electoral votes, but this election was no comeuppance, rebuke, or vengeance upon Donald Trump. There was no “blue wave.” If Trump loses, it will not be by much, and among the swing states, Trump won Florida, Ohio, Iowa, almost certainly North Carolina, and probably Georgia. At this hour, he still leads the vote count in Pennsylvania. Trump appears to have come very close to winning in Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin. The popular vote, as of this hour, is 50.1 for Biden, 48.2 percent for Trump

Two: The polling was largely wrong. Robert Cahaly of Trafalgar is now a superstar and deserves to be. The entire polling industry — to the extent the polling industry survives this — must now grapple with the ramifications of this comment from Cahaly in his interview with Rich:

One is the number of questions on its surveys. “I don’t believe in long questionnaires,” Cahaly says. “I think when you’re calling up Mom or Dad on a school night, and they’re trying to get the kids dinner and get them to bed, and that phone rings at seven o’clock — and they’re supposed to stop what they’re doing and take a 25- to 30-question poll? No way.”

Why does that matter? “You end up disproportionately representing the people who will like to talk about politics, which is going to skew toward the very, very conservative and the very, very liberal and the very, very bored, “Cahaly explains. “And the kind of people that win elections are the people in the middle. So I think they miss people in the middle when they do things that way.”

Three: Whether Trump wins or loses, he proved that Republicans — including a Republican who is staunchly opposed to illegal immigration — can win a big chunk of the Latino vote:

The President captured almost half of the group in Florida, up from 35 percent in 2016. Former Vice President Joe Biden earned just over half of the Latino vote in the state, compared to 62% who supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton four years ago.

Biden also lost support among Latino voters in Georgia and Ohio, important states to capturing the White House. The former vice president was up only about 16 percentage points in Georgia and about 24 points in Ohio, compared to Clinton’s margin of 40 percentage points and 41 points in Georgia and Ohio, respectively.

Remember those pre-election Jolts and Corner posts about how the Trump campaign was specifically targeting Cuban Americans, Venezuelan Americans, Nicaraguan Americans, and Colombian Americans? News flash, Democrats, Bernie Sanders’s open embrace of the label “socialism” is killing you among these demographics! This is why Trump won Florida by about 112,000 votes in 2016 and he’s on pace to win Florida by 377,000 votes this time. The “socialist” label is a loser, and until Democrats wake up and smell the Cuban coffee on that, they’re going to find themselves dramatically underperforming among group of voters they arrogantly took for granted.

Four: On that above list of swing states, I didn’t mention Texas. I left it off because the Lone Star State is not a swing state, and never should have been considered one. At this hour, with 96 percent of the vote in, Trump won by six percentage points, or 670,000 votes. That’s about half his margin from last time, but . . . that’s still not all that close. Trump has nearly 6 million votes!

The voice who was loudest in insisting that Biden could win Texas is a familiar one:

After skipping the Senate race this year, [Beto] O’Rourke has his eye on the 2022 Texas gubernatorial race, and since ending his presidential campaign he has devoted his efforts to organizing for Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot. “Beto will get credit if Biden wins Texas,” said someone close to him.

This is another case where we feel gaslit. Beto O’Rourke is just some guy! He is not some seer or prophet, the harbinger of a Democratic Party resurrection in Texas. In 2018, he was held aloft by a national media, who wanted to see him as Lone Star Jesus, and Democratic grassroots donors who loathed Ted Cruz with a judgment-skewing obsession. The moment he lost those unparalleled advantages, everybody else saw what we on the Right saw from the beginning.

Five: At this hour, it appears Republicans will retain control of the Senate, but that’s not carved in stone yet. With all precincts reporting, Thom Tillis is ahead by 96,000 votes. I’m as surprised by that result as you are, because we’ve heard so much about Democrat Cal Cunningham’s extensive efforts to reach out to women voters. In Georgia, Republican David Purdue is eight-tenths of a point away from avoiding a runoff; he’s a good four points ahead of Jon Ossoff. In Maine, there’s still a lot of votes to count — they don’t start counting them until the polls close — and Susan Collins is just short of the threshold to avoid “ranked choice voting.” In Michigan, John James is still ahead by a percentage point, with 84 percent of the votes counted. In Montana, Republican Steve Daines is a good seven points ahead of governor Steve Bullock. For the National Republican Senatorial Committee, this was a surprisingly good night.

Six: I was reasonably confident about Lindsey Graham’s chances in South Carolina, and I should have been far more confident. (You were right, Dad!) Jaime Harrison’s bid to be the Great Southern Democratic Hope now looks like a comical flop, and every national political reporter who hyped Harrison should hang his head in shame. At this hour, with 91 percent of the vote, Graham is ahead, 56 percent to 42 percent. The Quinnipiac pollsters said this race was a tie three times. Harrison had more money than he knew what to do with and didn’t even keep it close.

Seven: Speaking of Great Southern Democratic Hopes, Amy McGrath is Alison Lundergan Grimes’s stunt double. Every six years, Democrats talk themselves into the idea that they have a shot at beating Mitch McConnell. And every six years, Cocaine Mitch just steamrolls them. This year, insanely over-optimistic Democrats gave $90 million to Amy McGrath . . . and she lost by more than 20 points. One of the great advantages for the Republican Party in this era is that the Democratic Party’s grassroots are angry, generous, and stupid.

Eight: House Republicans quietly put together a good night. At this hour, the House picked up four seats, none of their vulnerable incumbents lost, only a handful of the 30 or so “toss up” districts went to Democrats, and they picked off a few in the “lean Democrat” pile. (You know, New York Times, Joe Cunningham in South Carolina’s first congressional district probably shouldn’t have been in the “lean Democratic” pile.)

After 2018, Democrats and the media convinced themselves that Nancy Pelosi was no longer an electoral liability for House Democratic candidates. Are you sure about that, guys?

Nine: There weren’t a ton of governors’ races at stake last night, but the Republican Governor’s Association can stride with confidence this morning. They kept every governor’s mansion they were supposed to keep, and in North Carolina, heavy underdog Dan Forest is only down by four points with 95 percent of votes reporting. The Republicans in North Carolina won the lieutenant governor’s race — Republican Mark Robinson will be the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor — and the Democrat leads the state attorney general’s race by a tenth of a percentage point.

Ten: With all precincts reporting, turnout in my home county of Fairfax County is . . . 77.5 percent, which is lower than the 82.5 percent turnout in 2016. That’s not enormously lower, but this is prime territory for Democrats. (The county split, 68 percent for Biden, 27 percent for Trump; four years ago, the county split 62–27 for Hillary Clinton.) If turnout in this heavily Democratic county declined a bit . . . is that an indicator that the talk of Democratic enthusiasm was a little overhyped?

Eleven: For example, doesn’t the fact that Democrats didn’t match their 2016 thresholds in the early vote in North Carolina look like a significant indicator?

Twelve: Throughout the fall, when we noticed Joe Biden had the lightest of light schedules, Biden defenders would insist he was just being responsible in light of the pandemic. Except . . . if you can responsibly and safely do campaign events on Monday and Wednesday, you can responsibly and safely do campaign events on Tuesday and Thursday. Biden’s once-every-two-days schedule didn’t make sense from the perspective of disease control, but did make sense in the context of fatigue, or a deliberate strategy to avoid attention.

If keeping Biden away from the voters was a deliberate strategy, it was probably a terrible mistake.

ADDENDUM: If Democrats think tonight was bad, how much worse would it have been if they nominated Bernie Sanders? Or Elizabeth Warren?

Or Kamala Harris?