Biden wins clear victory over Trump, downballot Democrats suffer

By JohnCarl McGrady, Editor In Chief

After a long and brutal campaign, former vice president Joe Biden has defeated President Donald Trump to become the next president of the United States, winning 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. Despite all major news organizations calling the election for Biden, Trump has refused to concede, falsely alleging that Biden and his team committed large scale voter fraud to steal the election. So far, the courts have thrown out all of Trump’s lawsuits seeking to overturn the legality of large numbers of ballots.

While Trump continues to project confidence in an eventual win, his opponents argue that he has few to no legal channels. Even if he succeeded in getting all ballots delivered after November 3rd, but postmarked prior, thrown out, he would not flip the results in any states. Regardless, Trump has loudly proclaimed that he won the election, will sue in court and get the current results overturned, and is preparing to smoothly transition to a second term this coming January, and he has the support of several prominent Republican politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham.

Though Trump lost, Republicans did much better down-ballot, overperforming expectations in most areas. They have won 50 seats in the U.S Senate to the Democrats 48, including upset wins in North Carolina and Maine, and easily stymied upstart Democratic challengers in red states like South Carolina and Alaska that had seemed potentially viable. Ultimately, Democrats only managed to flip two Republican-held Senate seats, defeating Martha McSally for the second time in Arizona, and claiming a seat in the blue state of Colorado. They also lost one Senate seat in ruby-red Alabama, where Tommy Tuberville coasted to victory over incumbent Doug Jones, who initially only won the election because his opponent, Roy Moore, was credibly accused of pedophilia. 

Since Senate ties are broken by the Vice President, control of the Senate will come down to a pair of runoff elections in Georgia this January. Georgia employees a system in which if no candidate acquires 50% of the vote, the top two finishers advance to a runoff. In the first Georgia Senate election, Republican David Perdue narrowly fell shy of 50%, likely because of Libertarian Shane Hazel, and will now face Democrat Jon Ossoff in the runoff. In the second, a massive field of candidates was whittled down to Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Kelly Loeffler, who fended off the more moderate Republican Doug Collins. Republicans are favoured in the special elections this January as Georgia leans Republican, and Georgia Republicans have a long history of doing better in runoffs than general elections, but with control of the entire Senate at stake, the dynamics are unpredictable, and either party could win—there’s even the chance that the parties could split the races.

Republicans overperformed even more in the House of Representatives, where despite prognosticators forecasting that they would lose seats, they ended up gaining them. While the final breakdown of the House is not yet known, with two House seats still uncalled, Republicans have already picked up seats, and the number is likely to continue to grow. However, Democrats will hold on to a slim majority.

Ultimately, the presidential election wasn’t that close. Biden won the popular vote by about 5% and won several more states than he had to. None of the states had margins comparable to 2000 when Al Gore won New Mexico by under 500 votes and lost Florida by a similar margin. In fact, the closest states are still likely to be decided by more than 10,000 votes. It appeared much closer because of a historic partisan divide in voting modes. As a result of Trump and Biden’s pre-election rhetoric about election security and coronavirus, the vast majority of Democrats voted by mail and the vast majority of Republicans voted in person. Many key swing states, including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, counted in-person votes first and mail votes after, meaning that on election night, Republicans appeared to be in much better positions in these states than they actually were. When all votes are counted, Biden is likely to win Pennsylvania by more than 60,000 votes, but on election night, he was trailing by a wide margin. This led many people to form false narratives about the election and what its results might end up being.

It also led to a pattern of calls from major decision desks some have deemed strange. The Associated Press called Arizona on election night, when no other desks did, possibly because Biden held a large lead—but in-person votes in Arizona were counted after mail votes, so the election eventually narrowed dramatically, and the Associated Press faced serious criticism for calling the race for Biden, as it looked possible for a long time that Trump would win the state. After election night, the desks refused to call Pennsylvania for days after it was clear Biden would eventually win, and even after he had taken the lead, with only Decision Desk Headquarters making the call relatively early. 

This divide may have also led to an overreaction about the accuracy of pre-election polling. While the polls missed by more than they have in recent years, the gap between the polls and the final result was initially greatly exaggerated by the order in which votes were counted in some states, and eventually fell well within the bounds of historical precedent. Pre-election polls were just as off in the early part of the century and commonly off by much more in the 20th century. Their accuracy in the 2004-2012 period was perhaps more notable than their relatively lower accuracy in recent years. While the results suggest polls can’t pinpoint results, many data analysts argue that this isn’t their intended purpose, and they rather provide a range of possibilities that can be quantified into probabilities—and the results of this election fell within reasonable probabilistic bounds.

In Massachusetts, the most contested vote was on ballot measure two, which would have established ranked-choice voting in the state. The ballot measure failed, though a similar measure in Alaska has passed. In the other two highest-profile ballot measures, Florida raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and California opted against a bill that would have given more protection to app-based drivers. 

Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly against Trump, actually swinging significantly to the left since 2016. Predictably, Nantucket also voted for Biden by a large margin, with 72% of Nantucket voters supporting the Democrat.

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