Power Up: We still don’t know if Trump or Biden will be the next president. Here’s what we do know.

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with Brent D. Griffiths

Good morning, obsessive Needle refreshers of America. Tips, comments, anxiety? Reach out and hang in there with us.

The campaign

COUNTING CONTINUES: The presidential race is still stuck in limbo, with Joe Biden’s bid to oust President Trump essentially coming down to what happens in the Rust Belt states that put the Republican in office four years ago. 

The Washington Post has not called races in three critical states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — as votes are still being counted due to the surge in mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden leads in Arizona, which if he wins, would make him just the second Democratic presidential candidate to capture the historically red state since 1948 and narrow Trump’s path to victory. 

But this didn’t stop Trump from prematurely declaring victory and falsely asserting election fraud at 2:30 a.m. The president said the still-ongoing vote count in key battleground states amounted to “a major fraud on our nation” and vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court to get “all voting to stop.” As our colleagues note, however, any lawsuits to challenge state procedures and practices would have to be filed in lower-level courts. And while all voting has stopped, all counting has not.

Trump’s statement came after Biden insisted “we believe we’re on track to win this election” and urged voters to be patient: “It ain’t over till every vote is counted,” Biden told a parking lot filled with supporters in their cars in Wilmington, Del. 

(Graphic by Post staff)

THE BACKLASH: Democrats and Republicans alike slammed the president’s comments, which also were immediately hidden as a “misleading claim” on Twitter and labeled on Facebook. 

  • “There’s just no basis to make that argument tonight,” Chris Christie said of Trump’s late night speech from the East Room of the White House. “There just isn’t.”
  • “I was very distressed by what I just heard the president say,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said on CNN. 
  • GOP election lawyer Ben Ginsberg told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the president does not have a path to go directly to the Supreme Court to claim fraud and such a move would likely be viewed as “a massive disenfranchisement” effort: What the president said tonight is not only unprecedented, and not only lacks any basis in the law, it really is a disservice to all the other men and women on the ballot.”  

Trump claimed that he’d won several states that are still counting ballots, including GeorgiaNorth Carolina and Pennsylvania. But even those alone wouldn’t necessarily be enough to win him the electoral college with other states still uncalled. 

  • From Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon: “The president’s statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect… it is a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.”
  • From the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania:

WHAT IS CLEAR SO FAR: “Democratic hopes for a resounding coast-to-coast repudiation of Trump over his management of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and race relations did not materialize,” our colleagues Philip Rucker, Toluse Olorunnipa and Annie Linskey report. 

  • “Instead, Trump was buoyed by projected victories in Florida and Ohio, while also keeping his margins with Biden tight” in states such as Georgia and North Carolina, they note. Biden’s clearest path to victory relies on Rust Belt states that both campaigns had prioritized.
  • Republicans limit Democrats’ efforts to take the Senate: “Republicans are clinging to their Senate majority, as they held narrow leads in key battleground states and fended off Democratic challenges that had emerged amid a challenging national environment for the GOP,” Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane report.
  • Democrats keep their House majority, but:Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats on Tuesday appeared on track to secure another two years in the majority. But as votes were being tallied late into the night, the party looked set to fall drastically short of its bullish predictions that it would cut deep into Trump country to grow its majority,” Rachael Bade, Juliet Eilperin, Steven Mufson and Amber Phillips report.

© Carlos Barria/Reuters A note left behind on the podium by Trump reads ‘Won Texas’ after he reacted to early results from the 2020 U.S. presidential election in the East Room. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

WHERE THINGS STAND IN KEY OUTSTANDING STATES: 

We won’t have final results in Nevada until tomorrow (yes, Thursday) morning: Biden is leading in Nevada but tens and thousands of mail ballots still must be counted and election results will not be updated until 9 a.m. on Nov. 5, per Nevada’s elections division

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Bensen (D) said: “We’re on track to be in a position to potentially see a full result of every tabulation in the next 24 hours.” 

  • Why it’s late: “Benson said Tuesday night that 3.3 million absentee ballots had been cast in this election,” according to our colleagues Meryl Kornfield, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Reis Thebault. And jurisdictions with more than 25,000 people had to wait until Nov. 2 to begin processing mail ballots. “That number is expected to grow to about 3.5 million once the final batches of absentee ballots are collected … She estimated that between 2 million and 2.5 million people voted in person Tuesday.”

Why Pennsylvania is taking so long: Officials started processing absentee ballots the morning of Election Day, per state law, “but a handful of counties said they would not begin the process until Wednesday.”

© Matt Slocum/AP Philadelphia election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots for the general election, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

  • Philadelphia officials said they planned to count through the night, but would not be reporting updates overnight. After counting into early Wednesday morning, Alleghany County, home of Pittsburgh, was expected to resume the process later in the day.”

Wisconsin has been counting all night: “Mail ballots could not be processed until Election Day. Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe told reporters Tuesday night to expect local jurisdictions, which are responsible for the count in the state, to continue the counting into the morning,” per Meryl, Michelle, and Reis. 

Georgia and North Carolina still remain up for grabs. “Georgia has not gone Democratic since 1992. But while Mr. Trump held a narrow lead, much of the remaining vote to be counted appeared to be in the greater Atlanta area, where Mr. Biden performed strongest,” the New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher and Adam Nagourney report. 

Video: Trump or Biden? Big turnout, few hiccups as voters choose (Associated Press)

Trump or Biden? Big turnout, few hiccups as voters choose
What to watch next

Biden’s lead in Arizona was the big surprise of the night for Democrats. Trump won the state by 3.5 percentage points in 2016. While the blame game among Democrats commenced shortly after Biden’s loss in Florida last night — especially about the campaign’s lagging outreach to Latino voters in the state — Arizona was a different story. 

  • “In some ways, Arizona’s political shift mirrors its demographic one. It has a growing population of younger Latino voters who tend to be more progressive and focused on more liberal immigration policies, universal health care and climate change,” the New York Times’s Jennifer Medina reports. “Those voters helped Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, defeat Martha McSally in 2018 to win the seat vacated by Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican. (Mr. Flake famously broke ranks with the president but did not run for re-election to find out whether Arizona voters would punish him for that.)”

Biden’s big win in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District opened up his path to the White House. “Biden is also a slight favorite to win Nevada and its six electoral votes. If he does win there and in neighboring Arizona, he would need 26 electoral votes from five states: Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10), Georgia (16) and North Carolina (15). Winning two of them would get him to 270, unless those two are Wisconsin and North Carolina, which would set us up for a potential 269-269 electoral college tie. (One congressional district that awards an electoral vote — Maine’s 2nd — remains undecided),” Aaron Blake and Shelly Tan report

  • One bit of trivia: Biden joins Barack Obama and Lyndon Baines Johnson as the only Democrats to win at least one electoral vote in Nebraska since WWII.

Both candidates are dueling over the White, working-class voters in the Rust Belt states that Trump flipped in 2016. Biden’s goal of rebuilding the so called “blue wall” was why he entered the race. 

  • Our exit polling shows that overall, Trump still continues to lead with White voters who attended some college or less. “White voters without college degrees accounted for about one-third of the electorate nationally, the surveys indicated,” our Post colleagues report. “Trump won about 6 in 10 of those voters nationally, a slight decline from his dominance with that group in 2016.” 
  • The gap between the president and Biden was even wider in Georgia, Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, a state where those Whites without college degrees accounted for nearly four in 10 voters, the surveys found.”

In the media

On the Hill

KEY SENATE RACES STILL OUTSTANDING: “Republicans defeated well-funded Democratic challengers in South Carolina and Texas while seizing leads in the battlegrounds of North Carolina and Iowa,” Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane report. “Democrats successfully took out Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado and appeared to be on track to win Arizona, although the GOP picked up a seat of their own in Alabama and appeared to diminish the prospects of a Democratic majority as results continued to roll in early Wednesday morning.

(Post graphic) As of 6:30 this morning.

Where we are in races that haven’t been called: 

  • Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly is leading his race against Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.).
  • Two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) are leading their respective opponents. Collins’s lead is complicated by the fact that her race could end up in the state’s ranked choice voting system.

The GOP holds these key races: 

  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the only female member of the Senate GOP leadership, defeated Democrat Theresa Greenfield in her first reelection campaign.
  • Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) defeated Gov. Steve Bullock (D).
  • Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, defeated Democrat Jamie Harrison in route to his fourth term.

The GOP flips: 

  • Former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville defeated Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who won his seat in a shocker special election in 2017.

Democrats flip:

  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) defeated Sen. Cory Gardner, a former chairman of his party’s campaign arm. 

(Graphic by Post staff)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell easily dispatched his well-funded challenger: “McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters last week that holding onto the Senate was a ‘50-50 proposition,’” our colleagues write. “He coasted to victory in his own bid to secure a seventh term.”

  • What changed?:I think it’s all a function of the top of the ticket. The panic was predicated on polls suggesting that the president would fare extremely poorly – clearly he has held his own, much to the surprise of many, myself included,” Liam Donovan, a Republican political strategist, wrote to us.

Dems need a lot to go right, now: 

A ROUGHER NIGHT FOR DEMOCRATS IN THE HOUSE THAN EXPECTED:  “In South Florida, two first-term Democratic incumbents who were projected to win reelection, Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala, lost to Republican challengers,” Rachael Bade, Juliet Eilperin, Steven Mufson and Amber Phillips report. “In Texas, several competitive districts that Democrats had hoped to flip landed solidly in Republican control or were leaning toward the GOP.”

(Graphic by Post staff)

What they’re saying: “As the votes started coming in Tuesday, Democrats privately acknowledged that they weren’t doing as well as they hoped. Those results come despite the party raising more than $300 million due to the vast energy on the left,” our colleagues write. Many forecasters projected that Democrats could gain three to 15 seats, the latter appears very unlikely now.

Viral

NEEDING SPACE FROM THE NEEDLE: Election Day turned out poorly for the prognosticators who projected razor thin races in Florida and South Carolina and aged even more poorly for those who mocked a noted Iowa pollster. But the true haymakers were reserved for the New York Times’s election needle, the much-mocked invention whose limited return found even fewer fans this time. 

Some like Shawn Mendes tried it get the needle of their head:

The needle tried to assert its independence:

Some did delight in its fluctuations:

But in the end, it looms over us all:

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