Arguably the most important Election Day in living memory is over, but the vote-counting is definitely not. It may only be a matter of hours before the presidential race is called for Joe Biden. He has continued to make slow steady gains against President Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia, while holding on to slim leads in Arizona and Nevada. We’re following the results, calls, campaigns, court battles, and all the latest developments on Election Day +3.
Updates will appear below in reverse chronological order.
Biden surges ahead in Pennsylvania
After days of counting, what appeared to be an inevitability has happened: Joe Biden surpassed President Trump’s vote total in the super-swing state of Pennsylvania — by 5,594, according to the AP. With more ballots coming in from Philadelphia and other Democrat-friendly areas, that lead is poised to grow substantially. And with Michigan and Wisconsin safely in his column, Biden only needs the Keystone State to bring him to 270 electoral votes, regardless of what happens in Arizona and Georgia. The upshot is that election calls by major networks and other news organizations seem imminent.
Is Trump’s campaign in Wisconsin soliciting voter fraud?
As President Trump rails against the counting of ballots cast by Election Day but received days later, it appears that his campaign in Wisconsin is mounting a push to have Pennsylvanians mail their absentee ballots after November 3 – which would be a clear violation of Pennsylvania and federal election laws. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, the Trump campaign is trying to take advantage of Pennsylvania’s effort to count all absentee ballots received by Friday:
Under a federal court ruling upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, absentee ballots received by 5 p.m. Friday can be counted.
That ruling said ballots received by that point without postmarks, or with illegible postmarks, will be considered to have been mailed in time “unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day.”
An email obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sent at 5:19 p.m. Thursday by Kenosha for Trump is headlined “Volunteers Urgently Needed.”
It reads: “Trump Victory urgently needs volunteers to make phone calls to Pennsylvania Trump supporters to return their absentee ballots. These phone calls will help President Trump win the election!”
Volunteers are urged to contact a pair of field directors listed in the email. The two, Riley Pella and Joshua Williams, are paid staffers for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, filings with the Federal Election Commission show.
Dozens of Republican staffers in Wisconsin were involved in the operation to recruit volunteers to contact Trump supporters in Pennsylvania, according to one person familiar with the effort.
Pella referred questions about the email to Anna Kelly, spokeswoman for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin.
Biden has overtaken Trump in Georgia
New graph as Biden stretches his lead to 1,096 votes ahead of Trump in Georgia
Counting is now done in Clayton County.
We’ll see how the numbers change as those results come in. pic.twitter.com/Qnx4JL3gFx
— Christie Diez (@ChristieOnTV) November 6, 2020
After a long night of slow and steady gains as the heavily Democratic Clayton County reported batch after batch of results, Joe Biden has pushed ahead of President Trump in Georgia. As of 5 a.m., Biden leads Trump by some 1,096 votes — a .02 percent advantage — out of nearly five million votes cast. There are still thousands of votes left to be counted, and don’t expect a call on the state anytime soon, but if Biden can hold onto his lead, he will become the first Democrat to win Georgia and its 11 Electoral College votes since 1992. (If the state is called for Biden, it would leave him just one vote shy of on an Electoral College victory.)
As far as what’s left, GPB reports: “The final vote totals will not be known until all remaining provisional, uncured absentee, military and overseas ballots are counted, but the unofficial results show Biden with an advantage with the balance of uncounted votes still in areas that favor Democrats.”
Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania continues to evaporate
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Julian Routh summarizes Biden’s steady ascent in the state through early Friday morning:
What was once a near-700,000 vote lead for President Donald Trump in the battleground state of Pennsylvania fell to below 20,000 in the early hours of Friday morning, and was poised to fall even further as Democrat Joe Biden looked to benefit — again — from soon-to-be-counted batches of mail-in ballots in blue areas like Philadelphia and its surrounding counties.
Down by just 18,229 votes as of 3:30 a.m., Mr. Biden looked like he could even take the lead in the state overnight, as counties continued to chip away at the 150,000-plus mail-in ballots left in their warehouses. In the previous 12 hours, mail-in votes had gone to Mr. Biden by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio. …
The biggest chunk of mail-in ballots that remained, as of the state’s latest tally after midnight, was in Philadelphia — which was continuing its vote-count throughout the night. Mr. Biden was winning mail-in ballots there by about 254,000 votes — or 92.5% to 7% over Mr. Trump.
He’s awake, folks
Considering the president’s usual sleep schedule and habit of watching TV late into the night, it was a reasonably safe assumption that he was awake watching the networks slowly call the votes in Georgia and Pennsylvania in favor of his challenger. But around 2:20 a.m., Trump confirmed the speculation, by going online to deliver misinformation and complain:
I easily WIN the Presidency of the United States with LEGAL VOTES CAST. The OBSERVERS were not allowed, in any way, shape, or form, to do their job and therefore, votes accepted during this period must be determined to be ILLEGAL VOTES. U.S. Supreme Court should decide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2020
Twitter then once again attached a warning to the tweet, prompting the president to say that the company was “out of control.”
Where things stand in Arizona
Biden held onto a slim lead in the state on Thursday, with more results due to be reported starting Friday morning. Though Fox News and the Associated Press have already called the state and its 11 Electoral College votes for Biden, every other major network still judges the race too close to call. Here’s what Friday has in store and how that may play out, according to the Arizona Republic:
Trump won 55.6% of the ballots counted in Maricopa County on Thursday to Biden’s 41.7%. It was a great showing, but Trump’s challenge is he needs more than 57% of the outstanding votes to win.
Statewide, Trump chipped away 22,000 votes from Biden’s lead, closing the gap to 46,667 votes as of 9:30 p.m. Thursday. But unless the next batches of votes show Trump with a higher percentage than what the president managed Thursday, he will fall short.
The Arizona Republic estimates there were 300,000 votes left to count statewide as of 9:30 p.m. Thursday, with 218,000 of those votes left to count in Maricopa County. Trump has already exhausted many of the remaining votes in the state’s reddest counties, as Mohave, Cochise and Yavapai reported many of the ballots they had left to count. Although Trump saw huge margins there, it wasn’t as much as some had hoped, said Republican pollster Paul Bentz of HighGround.
Trump’s remaining path to victory here seems to lie in Pinal County, which still has 33,800 votes to count, along with winning the votes that were dropped off at the polls on Election Day in Maricopa County, which have yet to be counted.
There are about 32,000 of those votes left in Maricopa County.
The Secret Service is reportedly boosting Biden’s security detail
As it looks increasingly likely that the former vice-president will become the president-elect, the Washington Post reports that the Secret Service is increasing Joe Biden’s security detail as of Friday:
The Secret Service summoned a squad of agents to add to the protective bubble around Biden after his campaign alerted the Secret Service the Democratic nominee would continue utilizing a Wilmington convention center at least another day and could make a major speech as early as Friday, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the security protocols.
The additional security for Biden that is expected to begin Friday doesn’t give him a full protective detail that accompanies a president-elect, but moves closer in that direction. It remains unclear when the Secret Service would provide that level of security for Biden should he win.
The agency typically ramps up protection for a president-elect immediately after that person has been declared the winner by assigning a new raft of agents to the incoming president. Historically, that increase in protection has happened late into election night after one candidate has conceded and the other has given a victory speech.
According to MSNBC, Biden will now have “a full counter-assault team and a full HAMMER (hazmat, medical countermeasure) team, and there’s a national defense zone over his house with fighters on alert. There’s also now regular counter-sniper and counter-surveillance teams assigned.”
Trump escalates legal challenges to Pennsylvania’s count
According to a new report from the Philadelphia Inquirer, part of the reason for the considerable delay in ballots from the city can be traced to the Trump campaign’s legal efforts in Pennsylvania:
The pause in the city’s count came after a state appellate court ordered that monitors from Trump’s campaign be granted closer access to the counting operation. Within hours, the city had appealed the ruling to the state’s top court, which has yet to decide whether it will resolve the matter.
Early in the day, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court ordered that Trump’s campaign observers had to be able to stand within six feet of any tables where counting is taking place in order to meaningfully monitor the process. The ruling came as Joe Biden appeared to be on the cusp of winning the presidency, and his top campaign officials accused the president’s campaign of waging legal battles over “utterly immaterial matters, like where they may be permitted to stand and observe while the counting takes place” …
The pause in the city’s counting of mail ballots lasted only an hour or two, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Meanwhile, it continues to be a record-smashing week for COVID-19 cases
The third wave is still climbing:
TODAY: US records its highest single day total of new coronavirus cases: 121,054 *so far*, per Johns Hopkins University
Top 5 highest single day case counts have all come in the last week 👇
Nov 5: 121,054
Nov 4: 102,831
Oct 30: 99,321
Nov 3: 91,530
Oct 31: 89,126
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) November 6, 2020
A block-by-block guide to the vote in New York City
Gothamist has prepared an interactive guide for the nosiest of New Yorkers to see how their neighbors voted in the election:
Like most prior elections, the city’s political divides remained consistent, with most New Yorkers voting Democratic with pockets of Republican support in the Rockaways, south Brooklyn, and in Orthodox areas of north and central Brooklyn. Staten Island remains Staten Island.
The USPS failed to deliver over 150,000 mail-in ballots before Election Day
Though the expansion of absentee voting during the pandemic election was largely a success, the USPS stated in a court filing on Thursday that over 150,000 ballots had not been delivered to state processing facilities by Tuesday — including 12,000 ballots in the five states that remain uncalled. As the Washington Post reports:
The number of mailed ballots the Postal Service did not deliver by Election Day is expected to grow as more data is released in the coming days. Some election experts worry such delays could run up against even more generous ballot acceptance windows that some states have granted.
In several swing states, late ballots will still be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and received by Friday, according to state law. They include Nevada, where 4,518 ballots arrived after Election Day, as well as North Carolina (2,958) and Pennsylvania (3,439). But in other states — such as Arizona, where 864 ballots were delayed, and Georgia, where 853 were delayed — votes that did not reach election officials by Nov. 3 will be disqualified.
Counties hit hardest by the pandemic voted overwhelmingly for the president
In both 2016 and 2020, President Trump won the vast majority of the rural vote, a demographic that now includes many communities facing some of the worst COVID outbreaks in the nation. According to an analysis from the Associated Press, of the “376 counties with the highest number of new cases per capita, the overwhelming majority — 93% of those counties — went for Trump, a rate above other less severely hit areas.” Most of these counties were in Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Wisconsin, the “the kinds of areas that often have lower rates of adherence to social distancing, mask-wearing and other public health measures, and have been a focal point for much of the latest surge in cases.”
The president reportedly plans to act like he belongs in the White House
Politico reports that Trump and his aides have decided that the best way to convince the country that he has already won a second term in office is to make him look busy looking presidential:
Trump and his aides have settled on a plan for him to take full advantage of his existing perch at the White House to look as presidential as possible, according to three people briefed on the strategy. He may fire a few Cabinet members and top aides, including FBI Director Chris Wray and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. He could sign a slew of base-pleasing executive orders. He might even resume his travel schedule.
And Trump’s plan to contest the outcome of the election won’t just include legal challenges, but a surrogate blitz in too-close-to-call states:
The Trump campaign is separately dispatching surrogates like David Bossie, Corey Lewandowski, Pam Bondi, and Ric Grenell to battleground states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Nevada to raise doubts about state election results and elicit local media coverage for the campaign’s spate of ongoing legal challenges, which Trump aides and advisers anticipate will last for the next several weeks.
What are Trump’s legal options at this point?
While the president has filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia to lay the groundwork to contest the election, judges in those last two states have already knocked them down. As Yahoo News’ White House correspondent Hunter Walker notes, the “scattershot nature of the Trump team’s comments” — saying the vote count should be stopped in some states and continued in others — has “caused speculation about what litigation” he actually plans to pursue. According to Walker’s reporting, the president’s current strategy is as follows:
A source familiar with the Trump team’s legal strategy tells me their main Supreme Court litigation is the case about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that granted a three-day extension letting officials there count some mailed ballots received up to tomorrow.
Jay Sekulow, who has a winning Supreme Court record and helped lead the successful impeachment defense is the attorney of record for the Trump campaign in that case. Sekulow filed a motion to intervene on the Trump campaign’s behalf yesterday. The [state] consented to that intervention this evening.
This case began in late September. The Supreme Court deadlocked on it the following month. The Republicans are hoping they will hear it now with Amy Coney Barrett as a potentially deciding vote.
My understanding is that there are only about 100,000 PA votes at stake in this case. It won’t matter if PA is not decisive or if the margin there exceeds that total.
It is not clear that the Trump camp will have another Supreme Court challenge if Biden wins enough electoral votes to render PA irrelevant and there are still multiple ways that could happen.
Trump reads long rambling list of election grievances at Thursday night press conference
JUSTIN MILLER: Trump threw a presidential pity party for himself in the White House Briefing Room on Thursday evening as his vote margin over Biden continued to shrink in states that he must win to be reelected. He read a long prepared statement which offered little but falsehoods and grievances.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” Trump said, apparently referring to election returns from heavily Democratic areas in places like Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Arizona’s Maricopa County.
Trump sounded notably less energetic, almost wooden, compared with the speech he gave to supporters inside the White House in the early morning hours after Election Night. On Thursday, the president falsely claimed that election officials across the country were trying to “rig” the election for his Democratic rival — an accusation that would necessarily include the Republican secretaries of state in Georgia and Nevada where Trump’s lead is shrinking. As usual, Trump falsely claimed he had won several states that have not been called for him, namely Pennsylvania.
NEW: I’m told that President Trump can’t get his messaging straight on counting the votes because he doesn’t understand what “stop the count” means. On a call this morning, an adviser had to explain to him that if they stopped counting votes right now, he would lose the election.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) November 6, 2020
Not content with a polling error that overstated Biden’s support, Trump went so far as to call out individual pollsters such as Quinnipiac by name. The president went on in detail about how off some of the surveys had been about his chances, rattling off a slew of numbers and percentages. He called the polls “suppression” efforts meant to try and dismay Republicans and reduce their turnout for him on Election Day.
Trump reiterated his campaign’s legal challenges and his intention to settle the election in the Supreme Court, but his campaign’s efforts have had no success in any courts thus far, and he is nearly out of time, with some key counts expected to finish as early as tonight.
Democrats couldn’t make it happen down-ballot at the state house level, either
While Electoral College math suggests the likelihood of a Biden win and a tight race in Georgia suggests that control of the Senate won’t be decided until two January run-offs, Democrats unexpectedly lost seats in the House and did even worse lower on the ballot, as Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore explains:
It will take a while to sort through the debris, but it appears that the same disappointing suburban results that hurt Democrats in U.S. House races kept them from making the expected gains in state legislative contests as well … The really bitter setbacks for Democrats were in state legislative races in states where redistricting could have a significant impact on drawing new and favorable congressional districts with the 2020 Census results.
Democratic party operatives have told Politico that they don’t expect to win the state houses in Michigan or Iowa, either congressional chamber in Pennsylvania, or their best bet of the Minnesota state senate, despite a blue shift there in the presidential race. While it’s still possible they could gain control of the Arizona House and Senate, Democrats weren’t able to flip the nine seats needed to get a majority in the Texas state house — despite picking up a dozen seats in the midterms.
There have been no reported incidents of violence, but this doesn’t help
Intelligencer’s Olivia Nuzzi calls out the president’s son:
Absolutely reckless. Donald Trump Jr. calls for “total war over this election” as rates of gun purchases spike. A Trump campaign volunteer I spoke to just bought a new AK47 because, she said, she worries there’s an actual civil war coming. https://t.co/GKI9YQ7jg1
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) November 5, 2020
Facebook shut down a group claiming Biden wanted to ‘steal’ the election, and calling for violence
The Facebook group “Stop the Steal” was growing at a rapid clip on Wednesday and Thursday, building to around 350,000 users — some of whom called for violence and a second civil war, while others encouraged followers to attend pro-Trump events in swing states. But on Thursday afternoon, the platform shut down the group due to its “worrying calls for violence.” In a statement provided to NBC News, a Facebook spokesperson described the group as “organized around the delegitimization of the election process.” Previously, two of its organizers were involved in the effort to crowdfund the border wall which resulted in several charges against Steve Bannon, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
So the “stop the steal” demonstration in Harrisburg has devolved into… a MAGA karaoke session with a a couple dozen people. The song: “First Date With An AK” pic.twitter.com/JHXRA5A1YD
— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) November 5, 2020
Freshman Democrat blames ‘socialism’ for almost losing
SARAH JONES: House Democrats convened for a fractious phone call to dissect Tuesday’s drubbing, and someone leaked the proceedings to Erica Werner of the Washington Post. Highlights include Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia blaming socialism and “defund the police” for her 5,000-vote victory over a Republican:
Spanberger on the Dem caucus call: We lost races we shouldn’t have lost.
Defund police almost cost me my race bc of an attack ad.
Don’t say socialism ever again.
Need to get back to basics.
— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) November 5, 2020
Spanberger, an ex-CIA officer who probably knows a lot about exaggerating the dangers of socialism, flipped her district from red to blue two years ago. Like Democrats in similar districts, she’s banked on moderate politics as the way to keep her seat. But centrism can’t fend off Republican smear campaigns. Republicans have been calling Democrats socialists for years. They said it about Joe Biden, they say it about Nancy Pelosi; by GOP metrics, anyone who runs to the left of Ronald Reagan is a Bolshevik. They will call Abigail Spanberger a socialist even if she agrees to ritually sacrifice a member of the Squad at the next full moon.
There isn’t much evidence to recommend a right-wing pivot, either. Though the American public has not come around to the idea of defunding the police, other left-wing policies are popular. It’s also not at all clear that a single attack ad deserves all the blame for Spanberger’s tight race. She ran for reelection in a highly competitive district, and nearly got hosed. Socialism didn’t have much to do with it.
Biden: ‘Each ballot must be counted’
Biden briefly addressed the nation on Wednesday afternoon and defended the slow counting of votes across the country as Americans wait to learn who will win the presidential race. Unlike Trump, who is calling (and suing) for votes to stop being counted in several states, Biden reiterated that “each ballot must be counted” and called for patience as officials in too-close-to-call Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina finish counting enough votes in order for prospective winners to be declared.
“I ask people to stay calm, the process is working,” he said. Nevertheless, Biden insisted that he believes he will come out on top, which would happen with some combination of Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia. (North Carolina will not finish counting until next week.) “We have no doubt that when the count is finished, Senator Harris and I will be declared winners.”
No state in the country has certified a winner yet, only news organizations such as the Associated Press have declared the winners of states based on vote totals.
Defense Secretary Esper is exiting the Trump administration
SARAH JONES: NBC News reports that Defense Secretary Mark Esper is preparing to resign. Though it’s not unusual for Defense secretaries to draft such letters ahead of an expected presidential transition, Esper’s case is somewhat unique, as “he is one of the Cabinet officials long expected to be pushed out after the election,” as NBC News notes.
He may also take one final shot at Trump on his way out the door: He’s working with unnamed members of Congress to rename military bases named for prominent Confederates: His goal is to “put language in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) so the name changes will be written into law.” Trump, of course, has rejected all calls to rename the nation’s bases.
Anonymous officials told NBC that Esper’s renaming effort stems from sincere conviction, but he’s also thinking about the future, and wants to shed his reputation for rubber-stamping Trump’s defense agenda. “He cares about his legacy and prefers to be remembered as someone who was fired because he stood up to the president, rather than being remembered as ‘Yesper,’” an official told NBC. And well, who wouldn’t?
A nation still very much split in two
At the Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein concludes that, “In America’s domestic cold war, this election was more like Antietam, a brutally bloody stalemate that wounded both sides, than a Gettysburg or Vicksburg, which pointed to a decisive victory for one side over the other”:
With Biden’s near-certain popular-vote victory, Democrats have now won the most votes in seven of the past eight presidential elections, something no party has ever done since the formation of the modern party system, in 1828. Yet the election did not deliver the unequivocal repudiation of Trump that Democrats and his many Republican critics had hoped for. Even amid a pandemic whose death toll is approaching 250,000 Americans, record campaign spending by Biden, and unprecedented defections from prominent former Republican officials, Trump demonstrated that his grasp on the places and people drawn to his belligerent approach is almost unbreakable.
In all these ways, the election showed the two parties as the 2020s begin, confronting each other from across deep and well-defended fortifications. For the most part, the shifts in the political landscape that the election produced were only modest ones: single-digit gains for Trump among Black and Hispanic men, and a slight improvement for Biden among non-college-educated white voters (especially women) and seniors.
He also suggests that American elections have now become a “quasi-parliamentary system”:
So powerful was the overlap between presidential and House outcomes that the national exit poll conducted by Edison Research found that voters who backed Biden supported Democratic House candidates by a margin of 95 percent to 3 percent, while those who supported Trump backed Republicans 94 percent to 5 percent.
Those extraordinary results, like the continuing high correlation between presidential and Senate outcomes, underscore the extent to which American elections are becoming a quasi-parliamentary system, with voters basing their choices less on their assessments of individuals than on their views of the two parties. The tightening relationship between attitudes toward the president and votes in congressional races also reinforces how the parties are partitioning America into two almost unassailable spheres of influence.
Michigan attorney general: Asking my staff ‘to shove sharpies in uncomfortable places is never appropriate’
A sad sign of the times indeed:
Dear members of the public: Please stop making harassing & threatening calls to my staff. They are kind, hardworking public servants just doing their job. Asking them to shove sharpies in uncomfortable places is never appropriate & is a sad commentary on the state of our nation.
— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) November 5, 2020
Lessons from the long 2000 legal game
Here at Intelligencer, Andrew Rice revisits the protracted legal battle in Florida that elevated George W. Bush to the White House — and explores what it can tell us about how the 2020 legal endgame might play out:
First of all, let’s start with an obvious difference. At least at this moment … Biden has narrow leads in enough states to give him a very narrow majority of the Electoral College. That matters a great deal. That means Trump is Gore: a candidate seeking to find enough votes to close a narrow gap …
As my colleague Gabriel Debenedetti reported in October, [Biden’s lawyers] have been getting ready for a post-election legal battle for months. They can take heart from one further lesson of Florida: Even making up a few hundred votes proved to be difficult — ultimately impossible — for Gore. When a consortium of media organizations later did its own unofficial recount of the “undervote” ballots in question in the Supreme Court case, they found that depending on the standard for determining a vote employed, the state recount would have most likely produced little or no gain for Gore. In the best Gore scenario — ironically, under the strictest standard — he won by a margin of just three votes.
By contrast, at the moment, Trump faces deficits of tens of thousands of votes in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona, and (as of this writing) more than 7,000 in Nevada. If the margins hold, a recount probably won’t help. What Trump will likely be looking for, then, is invalidation — throwing out tons of votes on the kind of technicalities that the Gore campaign declined to pursue … If one legal battle for the presidency threw America’s democratic system into cardiac arrest in 2000, it is staggering to imagine what four separate legal battles for the presidency might do in 2020.
Trump’s odds plunge on prediction markets
As of this morning, politics betting site PredictIt showed Trump with about a 20 percent chance of wining the election. As of around 3 p.m., contracts on Trump reelection were trading at 11 cents, after steadily declining for most of the day. Prices in these markets bounce around a lot and Trump optimists could reemerge — but the slow fall over the course of the day suggests that nearly all observers see and understand that the president’s path to victory appears to be vanishing.
The American left finds itself “condemned to political purgatory”
Intelligencer’s Eric Levitz writes that he’s losing sleep trying to come to terms with what the election means for progressives, and in particular, on these many questions:
So, what is to be done? How are we to make this country less cruel and unequal at home, and a less destructive force on the world stage? How are we do so within a political culture so pathological, a president can shamelessly abet the spread of a fatal disease — and still come a few lucky breaks short of reelection? How, when increasing voter turnout to levels unseen in a century did not produce a Democratic landslide — as progressives have long told themselves high turnout would — but rather, a down-ballot disaster? How, through political institutions that systematically underrepresent the constituencies most sympathetic to the progressive project?
Read Eric’s attempt to answer those questions, as well as his extensive roundup of all this week’s warning signs for progressives, here.
Trump campaign not getting any traction in courts, so far
Earlier today, Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore reexamined the Trump campaign’s legal efforts to contest ballot counting or ballot eligibility in multiple states — and found them wanting. A few hours later, two of the campaign’s lawsuits have already been thrown out. One in Georgia, as noted by Law & Crime:
[T]he Trump campaign lost an election lawsuit in Georgia on Thursday after two witnesses called by Republicans admitted under oath that they did not know whether the challenged ballots were received on time. Two witnesses for Chatham County’s board of elections affirmed that the ballots were on time.
And in Michigan, reports the Detroit Free Press:
A Michigan judge on Thursday dismissed a challenge from the Trump campaign to ballot counting in Michigan, saying local officials have already finished counting ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election and there is no legal basis or evidence to grant what the campaign requested.
Trump’s attempts to leverage the courts against the count are almost certainly going to fail, Intelligencer’s Jonathan Chait argued today:
As a strategy to retain office, this gambit stands almost no chance of success. For one thing, Trump can’t even hew to a simple message of legal strategy. He is simultaneously demanding more vote-counting in states like Arizona and Nevada, where he trails, while stopping the vote count in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where he is clinging to a disappearing lead. The way to steal an election is to seize the lead, gum up the works, and find ways to prevent a chunk of decisive ballots from being added to the totals. Trump doesn’t have that option.
Second, while he stands some chance of coming from behind in Arizona, and perhaps squeezing out a narrow win in Georgia, the math in Pennsylvania is forbidding. As Nate Cohn explains, Joe Biden is tracking for a clear win in that state based on a breakdown of the uncounted mail ballots. What’s more, the identifiable variables are all upside risk for Biden. An unknown number of same-day ballots and provisional ballots — from voters who requested mail ballots, didn’t return them, and then voted in person — will likely add even more to his total. The Pennsylvania margin will be well beyond the range where a recount or any legal challenge can overturn it.
International election observer monitoring U.S. election says no evidence of fraud
Per the Associated Press:
The head of an international delegation monitoring the U.S. election says his team has no evidence to support President Donald Trump’s claims about alleged fraud involving mail-in absentee ballots.
Michael Georg Link, a German lawmaker who heads an observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told German public broadcaster rbb Thursday that “on the election day itself, we couldn’t see any violations” at the U.S. polling places they visited. Link said he was “very surprised” by Trump’s claims about postal ballot fraud because the United States has a long history of this method of voting going back to the 19th century. “We looked into this. We found no violations of the rules whatsoever,” Link told rbb.
Pennsylvania might be decided today
CNN’s Abby Phillips reports that “Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar says it’s likely we could know by TODAY the winner in the state[.] The outstanding +/- 550,000 votes are being counted today.”
The ballots seem likely to trend far enough toward Biden for him to win the state — and the election — but it’s not over until it’s over.
The Waiting Game
The Cut’s Bridget Read has a written a handy guide to what’s happening in the states where votes are still being counted, and when we can expect to finally see some calls for Biden or Trump.
More on what looms in Georgia
From Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore:
The Republicans, Perdue and Loeffler, will probably be favored initially. For one thing, the conventional wisdom is that Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to turn out for a runoff that’s not held in conjunction with other elections. That was the case in the two previous Senate general-election runoffs in Georgia: in 1992 when Republican Paul Coverdell beat incumbent Democrat Wyche Fowler after narrowly denying him a majority on Election Day; and in 2008 when incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss beat Democrat Jim Martin by a landslide after barely edging ahead of him on Election Day.
Republicans will also claim an advantage based on their narrow Election Day leads (which are growing narrower by the hour as mail ballots are counted). In particular, it will be noted that much of the sound and fury in the special election involved two Republicans, Loeffler and Congressman Doug Collins, who has already endorsed the incumbent he scorned for so many months as a RINO and a corrupt plutocrat. But if you add up the votes of all the Republicans and all the Democrats in the special election, the Republican totals barely exceed the totals for Democrats. So all else being equal, both runoffs should be very competitive.
Control of the Senate will likely all come down to Georgia
As more votes come in from blue-leaning areas of Georgia, Senator David Perdue’s vote percentage in his race against Democrat Jon Ossoff has fallen below 50 percent, and is unlikely to hit that threshold again. This means, thanks to the state’s unique election rules, that the race is headed for a January runoff. The other Senate race in Georgia (there are two this year because of former senator Johnny Isaakson’s midterm retirement) is also headed to a runoff that month between incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock.
With Democratic Senate candidates performing surprisingly poorly across the country on Tuesday, the party only picked up two seats, in Arizona and Colorado, and lost one in Alabama. If Joe Biden wins the presidency, Dems will need two more to gain 50 seats in the upper chamber, where incoming Vice-President Kamala Harris could act as a tiebreaker vote. So it looks like everything is riding on the Peach State.
Hundreds arrested on Wednesday night in post-election demonstrations
There were protests across the country yesterday, with some demonstrators demanding that election officials “count every vote,” and pro-Trump groups echoing the president’s call to stop counting votes in certain areas. Most of these demonstrations were small and peaceful, and thankfully there has been no widespread election-related violence, as many had feared. However, protesters clashed with police in several cities overnight leading to hundreds of arrests.
After hundreds of marchers wound through Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday peacefully demanding that vote-counting continue, a smaller group broke off and began smashing windows at downtown businesses. Dozens of police officers began chasing the crowd through the streets, according to the Oregonian, and police declared a riot around 7 p.m. Governor Kate Brown activated the National Guard to help manage the unrest. Eleven people were arrested and police seized fireworks, hammers, and a rifle.
Meanwhile, another large and peaceful “count every vote” demonstration in New York evolved into smaller confrontations between police and protesters in the evening. Around 8:30 p.m., NYPD officers moved in on a group of several hundred people in the West Village who had briefly shut down traffic. The New York Times reports:
Employing the law enforcement tactic known as kettling, the officers pushed protesters out of the street and sought to contain them on sidewalks. At one point, as a few dozen demonstrators walked down an empty side street near the park, police officers on bicycles raced past them and blocked them at the next cross street.
As the protesters banged against signposts and shouted at the police to move, more officers in riot gear joined the fray. Yet another group of police officers, their bright blue and black helmets bobbing beneath the lights from apartments above, approached from behind.
With the protesters surrounded, dozens of officers in riot gear moved in, encircling the group and pushing protesters to the ground as they made arrests.
There were a few other clashes around the city, and by the end of the night at least 58 people had been arrested in connection with the protests. Police said that included arrests for setting trash-can fires, blocking subway entrances, and throwing garbage and eggs and officers.
In Minneapolis, several hundred demonstrators were arrested shortly after they marched onto Interstate 94. Police shut down traffic on the highway and ordered marchers to sit on the ground while awaiting arrest, a process that took hours. The Star Tribune reports: “As the night wore on, the mood even became festive; some protesters played music and danced as they awaited processing, and late Wednesday, officer announced via bullhorn that those who were cooperating would merely be cited and released.”
Meanwhile, there is a dance party happening on I-94 as people wait to be detained pic.twitter.com/n77jFSYxyA
— Leila Navidi (@LeilaNavidi) November 5, 2020
Why Trump’s legal strategy is so shaky
JONATHAN CHAIT: The mixed-up timing of the tabulation in different states is what completely screws Trump here. He can’t come up with an election-stealing play because he needs to continue counting in Arizona and stop counting in Georgia and Pennsylvania. And he needs to win all three.
Election analysts think he’s an underdog in Pennyslvania. And the courts aren’t going to lay out for him like that given (1) he’s quite likely to lose one or both of AZ and GA anyway, making it moot, and (2) Republican Senate control radically minimizes the downside risk to the party of Biden winning.
A tense night in Maricopa County
After the reported presence of armed protesters at a ballot-processing center in critical Maricopa County, the facility closed its perimeter to the public. CNN reports that members of the public, save for counters and legal observers, were escorted from the perimeter of the building. Despite the unrest — which reportedly caused sheriff’s deputies to move reporters inside the building — the counting of ballots will continue.
At one point AZ rep Paul Gosar @RepGosar got on the megaphone in front of the protesters.
At the same time, my friend & coworker @KimPowellTV had her life threatened out there by a man who said he would find out where she lives.
— Briana Whitney (@BrianaWhitney) November 5, 2020
Trump supporters have adopted his inconsistent approach to vote-counting
In his early morning address on Wednesday, the president’s messaging on counting the votes wasn’t very consistent: He said the process needed to be stopped in states in which he was winning, while it should continue in states in which he was down. By Wednesday night, his supporters had taken that approach as their own, as voters in Georgia stood outside ballot-processing centers chanting “Stop the count,” while in Arizona, they stood outside a center in Phoenix chanting “Count those votes.”
It’s tightening up in Arizona
While the Grand Canyon State represented one of the first major projections of a Biden path to victory, the race is getting closer, despite calls for Democrats by both Fox News and the Associated Press. In the former red stronghold of Maricopa County, Republicans have still turned out strong for the president: In the most recent update for the county encompassing Phoenix, Trump gained 13,644 votes, meaning he is now down by 79,173
votes. With 14 percent of ballots still uncounted, it’s unclear if the president will be able to overcome the 2.8 point gap he’s currently facing.
Democratic Senate hopes hang on by a thread with a win in Michigan
On Thursday night, NBC News called the Senate race in Michigan between Democrat Gary Peters and Republican challenger John James in favor of the incumbent, meaning that there’s still a path to a 50-50 Senate with the tiebreaker represented by the vice-president. That path, however, is not straightforward: In addition to the necessity of a Kamala Harris vice-presidency in this scenario, it would require the two Senate races in Georgia to go to a January runoff, with Democrats winning both. While the seat represented by Kelly Loeffler will go another round in January, David Perdue still holds a little over 50 percent of the vote, meaning that unless he sinks below a majority as the final ballots come in, he will defeat Jon Ossoff outright.
Republicans see future victories out of a Trump loss
GOP insiders say even if the president loses, he left the party in stronger shape for future elections. Ben Jacobs reports for Intelligencer:
Other Republicans saw the beginnings of political transformation in the GOP to turn it into a “new party of the working class.” One veteran Republican operative focused on Trump’s strong performance with minority voters, saying, “Nothing has happened to Republican Party like this since Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.” The operative continued: “Donald Trump has given us a gift, but he’s given us a gift and whether he wins or loses we have to continue down that path and this is something that George Will and Mitt Romney could have never could have accomplished.”
After a long back-and-forth in Nevada, it’s looking again like we won’t see new results
It’s been a frustrating experience for those watching the tight race in the Silver State. After an early announcement from Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office stating there would be no new results on Wednesday, Washoe County promised new results at 10 a.m. Then Cegavske’s office said there would be new results today — joining Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas, in a similar declaration. As a consequence, it’s now unlikely we’ll see a definitive national call based on the state’s six Electoral College votes remaining up-in-the-air. With 86 percent of ballots currently reported, they are leaning toward Biden, with a slim 8,000-vote lead.
Biden seems likely to win Pennsylvania
Notes Economist data-hound Elliot G. Morris:
Biden is on track for a clear victory in Pennsylvania, which will put him over 270 to win even before accounting for his likely wins in Arizona and Nevada. Once all the ballots are counted, Biden will be the winner. There is no path left for Trump.
And while New York Times analyst Nate Cohn’s notorious needles are no more, he tweets that, with Biden’s vote total surging via mail-in ballots, “Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania [is] down to four. This is not on track to be especially close in the end.”
Inside Elections analyst Ryan Matsumoto adds, “Looks like if there’s a state that puts Biden over the top tonight it’d be Pennsylvania.” We’ll see.
Fox News’ early Arizona call for Biden reportedly shut down the party at the White House
On Tuesday night, as early vote counts in Texas and Florida showed the president holding onto his two biggest Electoral College prizes from 2016, Trump was apparently very pleased with the way Election Night was shaping up, according to the New York Times.
Then came Fox News’ early projection that Joe Biden would take Arizona, and it sent the White House into disarray. As Fox News hosts grappled with the call on-air, the mood in the East Room went from “upbeat” to one of panic, as the president began making “angry calls to Republican governors,” while ignoring the advice of his campaign aides by letting Biden give the first remarks of the night.
The president wasn’t the only one on his team making desperate calls, according to the report. Trump’s political adviser Jason Miller called Fox News asking for a retraction, a request that was denied when the head of the network’s counting operation came on-air to defend the projection. Jared Kushner, meanwhile, got in contact with Fox News’ owner Rupert Murdoch himself. In other calls, the president’s son-in-law was reportedly looking for a “James Baker–like” figure, referring to the attorney who led George W. Bush’s recount effort in Florida in 2000. After Trump’s late-night conference, he continued to call up allies, in which he reportedly sounded “dispirited” in some of the conversations. As for the president’s early-morning routine on Wednesday, he stuck to tradition, watching Fox News.
Nevada doubles down on confusion regarding its final results
Nevada Independent reporter Megan Messerly’s summarizes the mixed messaging from state and county officials today:
So, to recap: First the Secretary of State’s office said no new results today. Then Washoe County said new results at 10 a.m. (which didn’t happen.) Then Secretary of State said YES new results today. Then Clark said NO new results today. Now Washoe says NO new results today.
So, tomorrow then, apparently.
The future of the GOP, the South, the economy, and social justice
While there’s no presidential victor yet, we know more than we did yesterday, and your friendly neighborhood Intelligencer writers continue to break it down.
Josh Barro analyzes the economic reaction to — and possible consequences of — the election, concluding that, “There are good reasons to expect the economy to continue recovering robustly into 2021 under divided government in a way that will benefit workers and consumers as well as investors, even if the process won’t be as clean or robust — or tuned to your political liking — as you’d expected.”
Frank Rich writes about what Republicans will and won’t learn if Trump is defeated:
The Trump faithful will still be listening to him and following him through whatever media he chooses as a platform once he’s out of the Oval Office. While it’s true that many of the Vichy Republicans who enabled him these four years will be happy to see him leave Washington, nothing that happened in this election will make them less fearful of his base, because that base is their party. The likes of Ben Sasse, Mitt Romney, and MSNBC’s crowd-pleasing coterie of Republican NeverTrumpers (some of whom promoted Sarah Palin, a Trump in embryo, as John McCain’s running mate) will never inherit the GOP’s grass roots.
But as Ed Kilgore notes, the GOP also made some shocking gains in the House yesterday, predicting that, if Biden wins, “House Democrats will have to face the strong possibility of the usual midterm backlash against the party controlling the White House.”
Ed also concludes Democratic dreams of a blue South remain just that for now:
There remain grounds for Democratic optimism across the region, but it probably doesn’t feel like it for southern Democrats today. It sometimes seems that conservative white voters in exurbs, small towns, and rural areas just achieve previously unimaginable levels of near-unanimous support for Trump and his party whenever their power is threatened. And that’s a story almost as old as the Confederacy itself.
And Sarah Jones warns that corporations such as Uber and Lyft will continue to use the language of social justice to undermine social justice:
Reality has a way of losing out to liars with big pockets. The Yes on 22 campaign was so intense, so manipulative, and so lavishly funded that corporations had labor groups and progressive activists at a serious disadvantage. Companies blanketed their low-wage, mostly minority drivers and delivery workers with in-app messages urging them to vote for the measure. This is coercion, not justice; the terms set by Proposition 22 tilt the balance of power firmly away from gig workers and toward employers. The implications will be felt far beyond California, too.
The popular vote margin
One consequence of the “Red Mirage” that fell over the nation last night was that Joe Biden’s popular-vote lead — unfortunately symbolic, but never in question — seemed fairly underwhelming. That was especially true in New York, where he appeared to severely underperform compared to Hillary Clinton. But on Thursday afternoon, Biden’s national popular vote lead overtook Clinton’s in 2016 both by voters (3 million to 2.9 million) and in percentage of voters (3 percent to 2.9 percent). This lead is expected to grow considerably, as blue states like California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts reportedly have substantial numbers of mail-in ballots that have not been counted yet.
Biden calls for unity in address to nation: “We have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Biden delivered a speech urging unity in a time of clear partisan division and universal anxiety. “We are campaigning as Democrats, but I will govern as an American president,” he said. “The presidency, itself, is not a partisan institution. It’s the one office in this nation that represents everyone and it demands a duty of care for all Americans and that is precisely what I will do.”
The former vice-president, who on Wednesday racked up two critical Rust-Belt states (Wisconsin and Michigan), added that “we are not enemies. What brings us together as Americans is so much stronger than anything they can tear us apart.”
Where the Georgia nail-biter currently stands
Joe Biden went down in Florida, and is unlikely to prevail in North Carolina. So it may come as a surprise that he might still win in Georgia, until recently a solidly Republican state. But with a small slice of the vote still to be counted — and much of that vote coming from the metro Atlanta area, where Biden has been running strong, election analysts give him a solid chance of carrying the state.
We may know more later on Wednesday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pushed local election officials to finish counting as many absentee ballots as they can Wednesday to try to settle close races. Over 200,000 absentee ballots were still left to be counted early Wednesday afternoon, many of them in the metro Atlanta area. President Donald Trump held an 81,000-vote lead over Joe Biden in Georgia. “My team sent reminders to counties, to get all, I repeat, all of our results counted today. Every legal vote will count,” Raffensperger said.
Biden wins Michigan
Joe Biden’s path to the presidency continues to look clear. Both the New York Times and CNN project that he has won Michigan and its — at this point critical — 16 Electoral College votes. If Biden continues to hold Arizona, he will only need one more state to win the presidency, and he still maintains a slim lead in Nevada. The Times has a helpful chart of the various news outlets’ calls, thus far, here.
Shortly after the call was made in Michigan, demonstrators gathered outside the White House, bolstered by the news:
Trump and his campaign are claiming they have won Pennsylvania and Michigan. They haven’t.
President Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon that his campaign has “claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes” wins in both Pennsylvania and Michigan, while also falsely claiming that those wins were threatened by voter fraud:
We have claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (which won’t allow legal observers) the State of Georgia, and the State of North Carolina, each one of which has a BIG Trump lead. Additionally, we hereby claim the State of Michigan if, in fact there was a large number of secretly dumped ballots as has been widely reported!
Earlier, members of Team Trump, including his son Eric Trump and campaign manager Bill Stepien, began falsely claiming victory in Pennsylvania. Lucky for democracy presidential campaigns and their sons do not count the ballots.
While Trump currently has a six-point lead in the state he cannot lose, 15 percent of the ballots there have not been counted. These mail-in ballots are expected to skew heavily toward Biden, as more Democrats tended to vote by mail than Republicans, and the ballots themselves are coming from deep-blue areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Trump campaign sues to freeze vote-counting in Michigan, Pennsylvania
The Trump campaign is making good on the president’s vow to stop the counting of votes in several states, suing Pennsylvania and Michigan to temporarily freeze the tabulation of ballots, the Associated Press reports. The campaign said it wants to stop the count while courts determine whether Republican poll watchers may be admitted to watch the process.
In the critical and too-early-to-call state of Pennsylvania, the campaign unleashed a flurry of legal challenges. In addition to suing over poll watchers, it wants to roll back a deadline that it says allows voters additional time to provide missing voter information. The lawsuit with the greatest potential effect on the final result in Pennsylvania concerns ballots that arrived by mail after Election Day. The campaign said it is joining an existing Republican lawsuit in federal court seeking to disqualify ballots that arrive between Wednesday and Friday. The lawsuit challenges a decision by the state’s Supreme Court last month extending the mail-in ballot deadline through the end of the week. The lawsuit does not seek to disqualify ballots that arrived prior to Wednesday that have already been counted.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to fast-track the appeal before the election but left open the possibility of review. If the Court hears the case, it would be among the first hot-button election cases heard by Amy Coney Barrett, the justice Trump said he wanted to place in the court in order to cement a conservative majority that could deliver him the election if it all comes down to legal challenges.
Senior GOP official predicts Trump will ‘scream and shout for a while and then give in’
Intelligencer’s Olivia Nuzzi reports:
A senior Republican official tells me they’ve accepted that a Trump victory is becoming less and less possible: “Very hard to see the path. Weird rumblings out of Arizona. But seems the three Midwest states will end up going Biden.”
[The official also] makes this prediction about Donald Trump: “I think he’ll scream and shout for a while and then give in … In a way this is the best possible outcome for him. He dramatically exceeded expectations, can claim he would have won easily without COVID, and most important: now he doesn’t have to do the work of being president anymore.”
Biden officially wins Wisconsin
As expected (at least as of about 5 a.m. this morning), Wisconsin has been called for Biden, a critical pickup that is essential to his winning the Electoral College. Per the Associated Press:
The Associated Press called Wisconsin for Biden after election officials in the state said all outstanding ballots had been counted, save for a few hundred in one township and an expected small number of provisionals.
Trump’s campaign requested a recount. Statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes; Biden leads by 0.624 percentage point out of nearly 3.3 million ballots counted.
So are we.
What’s going on in Arizona?
Arizona was the first call of a major toss-up state on Election Day and remains the most contested, with the Trump campaign calling out everyone from Fox News to the Associated Press for putting it in Biden’s win column. If Biden holds on to win Arizona, he’s on track to win the Electoral College and presidency. Without it, the odds would shift dramatically in Trump’s favor and move the contest’s drama to Michigan and, most important, Pennsylvania, where neither candidate has been declared a winner by any major news organization.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien told reporters on Wednesday that they consider Trump will come from behind in Arizona as the outstanding votes are tallied and take a large step toward reelection.
“We know that a final batch of mail-in ballots is being counted,” Stepien said, according to the New York Post:
We know that these ballots are counted sequentially, meaning that late-arriving votes or ballots cast closest to Election Day are the ones being counted now. We know and expect that about a half-million votes are left to be counted. And based on the math that we have been seeing as these late-arriving ballots are counted, anywhere from two-thirds to 70 percent of these votes are coming to the president, that math adds up to a margin of around 30,000 in the president’s favor.
That’s contrary to what the AP expects to happen: “The remaining ballots left to be counted, including mail-in votes in Maricopa County, where Biden performed strongly, were not enough for Trump to catch up to the former vice-president.” As of Tuesday night, 248,000 mail-in ballots remained to be counted in Maricopa, the state’s largest county. Election officials there said more results were expected to be announced at 7 p.m. local time.
How are we feeling the day after the election?
Intelligencer staffers weighed in with their thoughts and emotions as of midday Wednesday:
JONATHAN CHAIT: The Trump era is going to end. Nothing matters more than that. I am feeling a sensation of physical relief, like I’m coming off an endless adrenaline jab that began Election Night 2016 and never completely went away. And because the relief is not coupled with the excitement of a new era of possibility — Mitch McConnell will snuff out Joe Biden’s presidency from the beginning — there is no elation in the triumph. So the way I feel is exactly like having some painful splinter removed from my body. It doesn’t feel great; it just feels much, much better.
ED KILGORE: I’m still focused on figuring out if there is any viable legal or political strategy Trump can use to contest what is looking like a clear if delayed defeat. I’m not happy with the gridlock voters seem to have presented to a President-elect Biden. But after the country came so very close to entrenched authoritarianism, I’ll take it.
MARGARET HARTMANN: Right now, I feel eternally grateful to Ed Kilgore for sounding the alarm since May about the possibility that Trump would appear to be ahead on Election Night and try to prematurely declare victory. Though I think I was relatively calm last night, I started panicking about uncounted votes in Arizona this morning. Maybe there’s some connection between barely getting any sleep and emotional distress? Need more polling on this.
CHAS DANNER: Yesterday was a disorienting catastrophe. But there has only ever been one first step forward, and that was defeating Trump. Everything else is a problem for January 21 and beyond. I’m fine with that. In the meantime, I don’t understand how yesterday happened, and I really want to. I’m very much looking forward to figuring that out.
ERIC LEVITZ: I feel some relief about Biden. But yesterday, it was conceivable that in 2021, the U.S. federal government would make health care more affordable, accelerate the green-energy transition, promote full employment through massive fiscal stimulus, bail out cash-strapped cities, raise the minimum wage to $15, and do many other good things besides. Now, it seems to me that not only will that not happen next year but odds are Democrats won’t get to govern at the federal level for a long time to come. Which raises questions about whether there was any point to most of the policy journalism I’ve done over the past few years.
SARAH JONES: I’m with Eric, for the most part. The policy initiatives I believe to be vital to a fairer and more prosperous future for this country appear to be dead for another four years at minimum. Even if Biden wins, as he’s likely to do, it’s hard to classify the results of last night as a major victory. We’ll have gotten rid of Trump, but not his policies. Our best hope is that Biden gives up on bipartisanship and takes a more aggressive stance than we’ve seen from him so far — liberal use of executive orders, for example. And I don’t feel all that optimistic about the likelihood of Biden doing so.
Susan Collins defeats Democratic challenger
Republican Susan Collins of Maine has beat back Democrat Sara Gideon in perhaps the nation’s most closely watched Senate contest, with Collins saying Gideon called to concede the race on Wednesday afternoon. Collins has won about 50 percent of the vote to Gideon’s 43 percent, with three-quarters of expected votes counted. Collins was among the most endangered Republican senators up for reelection this year, owing in part to Democratic fury over her decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2018 following allegations he sexually assaulted a girl as a teenager.
Pennsylvania: State officials express resolve, call for patience; GOP sues to block count of ‘cured’ ballots
Per the Washington Post:
Pennsylvania officials urged patience with vote-counting on Wednesday, saying that the system is working but that results may not be known for days. “The promise of democracy is that every vote counts,” said Gov. Tom Wolf (D) in a Wednesday morning news conference. “That has been the promise of democracy since 1787. It’s still the promise of democracy. I intend here in Pennsylvania to keep that promise” …
With nearly 80 percent of votes counted late Wednesday morning, Trump was leading. But much of the vote from urban centers, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, had yet to be included.
It was not clear when the count would conclude.
Speaking alongside Wolf, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, also a Democrat, said some votes, including military and other ballots from overseas, are not due until a week after Election Day. Boockvar said the count was proceeding on schedule, despite some glitches with machines.
On Wednesday morning, the Pennsylvania GOP filed a lawsuit to try to block the counting of what are known as “cured” absentee ballots (ballots on which election officials have identified a problem and given voters a chance to fix) in one of the state’s county. Politico reports that the lawsuit got a skeptical reception from a federal judge during a Wednesday-morning hearing.
Drug-policy reforms win in a bright spot for progressives
SARAH JONES: Progressives in search of good news can take comfort from at least one Election Day outcome: Voters really want drug-policy reform. Oregon voted overwhelmingly to pass Measure 110, which decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of heroin, OxyContin, and methamphetamine, among other drugs, and expanded access to substance-abuse treatment. In Washington, D.C., voters have almost certainly approved the decriminalization of “natural psychedelics,” like psilocybin mushrooms. New Jersey has legalized recreational marijuana. Victories weren’t limited to liberal states. South Dakota also approved a measure to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, and in Mississippi, voters passed a medical-marijuana measure. Legal recreational marijuana will also come to Arizona and Montana.
In what looks like another pending victory for drug-policy reform, George Gascón is projected to defeat incumbent Jackie Lacey in the race for Los Angeles County district attorney. As San Francisco district attorney, Gascón openly criticized the war on drugs and traveled to Portugal to study its drug-decriminalization policies.
Drug-policy reform doesn’t guarantee an end to racial profiling by the police, but last night’s victories will help defang a war on drugs that incarcerates people of color at disproportionately high rates. The popularity of these measures also suggest a question for the Democratic Party: Why aren’t more of its candidates running on drug decriminalization at minimum?
Biden campaign lawyer: ‘We’ve won the election’
“Joe Biden is on track to win this election, and he will be the next president of the United States,” Biden campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon said during a midday-Wednesday press briefing, adding that Biden “will fight for every vote to be counted.”
Biden-campaign lawyer Bob Bauer went even further, remarking, “We’re winning the election. We’ve won the election. And we’re going to defend that election. We don’t have to do anything but protect the rights of voters.”
Regarding Trump’s intention to legally challenge the counting of votes, Bauer insisted, “We’re going to defend this vote, the vote by which Joe Biden has been elected to the presidency.”
“It is far from abnormal and certainly not inconsistent with law and indeed required by the Constitution that the count continue until all the votes are counted,” he added. “Nothing could be more fundamental than this basic proposition that President Trump attacked last night.”
Bauer vowed, “We have lawyers ready to go, papers ready to go, within an hour of hearing of any step that they take.” He also underlined how the Trump campaign has not, in fact, tried to go to the Supreme Court yet, which he suggested was because it doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. “If they go to the Supreme Court, they will be in for one of the most embarrassing defeats the president has ever suffered.”
Twitter keeps whacking Trump’s tweets
At least three of Trump’s tweets questioning the legitimacy of the election were flagged by Twitter as potentially misleading in the past 12 hours. NBC News reports:
In one tweet, which Twitter also restricted from comments, likes and retweets, Trump baselessly claimed his advantage in states led by Democrats “started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted.”
Another used a manipulated or misleading screenshot of a map from an elections results reporting outlet to suggest that 100 percent of a new count of votes in Michigan went to Biden. That did not happen.
“As votes are still being counted across the country, our teams continue to take enforcement action on Tweets that prematurely declare victory or contain misleading information about the election broadly,” Twitter spokesperson Nicholas Pacilio said in a statement. “Our teams continue to monitor Tweets that attempt to spread misleading information about voting, accounts engaged in spammy behavior, and Tweets that make premature or inaccurate claims about election results. Our teams remain vigilant and will continue working to protect the integrity of the election conversation on Twitter.”
Democrats dreams of redistricting look dashed
With a Biden landslide out of the question, it looks like Democrats will not meet their goal of flipping as many as seven statehouses across the country. The party poured millions of dollars into contests that it hoped would let it draw the lines of legislative and House districts with the results of the 2020 Census in hand. The Washington Post reports Democrats appear to be coming up short in Texas and Florida. In North Carolina, Democrats say they flipped a seat in the house and state senate, respectively, but Republicans believe they will maintain control. Meanwhile, the GOP looks like it will expand majorities in Kentucky, Ohio, and Rhode Island.
Republicans control 59 out of 99 legislatures and have used their power to blunt key Democratic agenda items such as maintaining access to abortion providers, expanding Medicaid, combatting the coronavirus pandemic through mask mandates, and favoring easier ways to vote, especially by mail.
Somewhat subdued, as efforts to discredit legitimate ballots go
Trump’s tone this morning is less aggressive than it was last night, when he declared, “We’ll be going to the Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”
Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled. Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the “pollsters” got it completely & historically wrong!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2020
About 15 minutes later, Trump followed up with this poetic musing:
How come every time they count Mail-In ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2020
Just a reminder: As Clare Malone notes at FiveThirtyEight, this is bunk:
The president is tweeting misinformation again this morning. As we have stated ad nauseum: The overnight and morning shifts toward Biden were always expected. The mail-in votes are now being counted, and they were heavily Democratic-leaning.
Biden is now on track to win the Electoral College
As Intelligencer’s Jonathan Chait explains, the outcome of the 2020 presidential race looks far more certain this morning than it did last night:
Joe Biden has taken the lead in the Electoral College and is on track to win the 2020 election. President Trump no longer has any incentive to stop counting the votes, because Biden is currently ahead in enough states to make him president. And the composition of the uncounted votes strongly positions Biden to expand his Electoral College lead.
Biden has pulled ahead in Wisconsin and is going to overtake President Trump in Michigan. Those states in combination with others where he has solid leads would give him the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Additionally, he seems extremely likely to overtake Trump in Pennsylvania, and stands a strong chance in Georgia, though neither state would be necessary for him to win.
The Biden campaign responds to Trump’s potential plan to steal the election
Early on Wednesday morning, Biden’s campaign manager Jennifer Brigid O’Malley Dillon wrote, “If the president makes good on his threat to go to court to try to prevent the proper tabulation of votes, we have legal teams standing by ready to deploy to resist that effort. And they will prevail.”
As we wait to hear more electoral results and more about the president’s power grab, CNN’s Brian Stelter urges responsibility during Fox News’ morning programming: “The media voices who are *trusted by Trump’s America* — including hosts and commentators on Fox — have an incredibly important role to play right now. Fox & Friends starts at 5 a.m. Will they emphasize the truth (it’s too close to call) or Trump’s lies?”
Trump falsely declares victory, says he’ll ask Supreme Court to intervene
President Trump falsely declared that he won the election and said he would go to the Supreme Court because “we want all voting to stop,” during an early-morning address before supporters at the White House.
“This is a major fraud on our nation … so we’ll going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.” — Trump is counting on SCOTUS to help him steal the election pic.twitter.com/MHF60tszkN
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 4, 2020
The president said he was ahead in the vote count in several states and that he would catch up where he was behind, rattling off a list of states he had won — that have not been called by major news organizations for either candidate. In fact, no state in the country has even finished counting ballots, let alone officially certified a winner. Several states said they will not finish counting for days. Trump portrayed this as an attempt to steal the election.
“So our goal now is to ensure the integrity [of the election] — for the good of this nation, this is a very big moment for our nation,” he said, adding that he would ask the Supreme Court to weigh in, although he did not specify how. For months though, Republican lawyers have reportedly prepared a variety of lawsuits seeking to disqualify or stop the counting of ballots.
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election — frankly we did win this election,” he claimed.
Biden, by contrast, said late Tuesday night it was not up to him or Trump to decide who won the election and said he was optimistic he would come out ahead.
Trump’s comments came after months of repeated efforts to cast doubt on the integrity of the election and its outcome. He has said it would not be “fair” unless he won. The president even refused, during the first presidential debate, to commit to the centuries’ old tradition of a peaceful transfer of power to the next administration should he lose.
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