By Philip Baillargeon
A lot can happen in four years. Arguably, much more will happen in the next four years. The timeline is shrinking to address climate change, the pandemic is careening out of control, and the opiate crisis is wreaking havoc on American families across the nation. The time to pick a president is here again, however, that is not the only decision on the ballot. Here are some of the storylines we will see on election night and beyond.
Election Night (Likely) Won’t End on November 3rd:
Election night has the potential to stretch into Election Week, a prospect the current president seems to take great issue with. However, to count all of their votes, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which in tandem could deliver former Vice President Joe Biden the presidency, will likely need a longer time frame. These key Midwest battlegrounds can only begin to count mail in ballots on Election Day, and since there is a large influx of such ballots this year, totals will likely be incomplete by the end of the night. Some counties in Pennsylvania won’t start counting these ballots until 9am the next morning, This means the results on Election Night will not be complete, and some projections or predictions from major networks have the potential to cause major problems if they are perceived as results.
The results we will get on Election Day will be in the southeast, where voting laws are much more strict. The main storyline will be the state of Florida, which always seems to be the focal point of the election as the largest swing state in the nation. Biden holds a narrow lead in the polls around two points, but likely this prize will be decided by less than a percentage point. Georgia and North Carolina are also trending toward Biden, with Georgia practically tied, so either of those states in the Biden column on November 3rd could spell disaster for Trump. On the more wild side of this map is Texas, which is a narrow two point lead in the polls for Trump, and down dramatically from Trump’s 2016 margin of nine points. If Biden wins Texas… The race is all but over.
The House is Not Worth Talking About:
Democrats will retain the House of Representatives. No matter what. Few Democratic incumbents are in danger, and many Republican incumbents are slipping in relatively Democratic states for their support of President Trump through this crisis. Nothing to see here.
The Senate Hangs in the Balance:
For control of the Senate to change, Democrats need to flip four seats. At the beginning of this year, this seemed practically impossible, but like most things in 2020, impossible can shift to probable in an instant. The ten most competitive Senate races are all taking place against Republican incumbents. Democrats are on the cusp of not only winning seats in Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, and South Carolina, but they also are on the cusp of winning two Senate seats in Georgia, a state that has not voted Democrat on a national level since Bill Clinton in the ‘90s. While Democrats may lose Doug Jones’ seat in Alabama, they are also the heavy favorites to pick up a seat in Colorado from a Republican incumbent, so these losses effectively cancel each other out. However, according to FiveThirtyEight, Democrats have about the same chance to win control of the Senate as Hillary Clinton did the election. Stranger things have happened.
Joe Biden is the heavy favorite because Trump needs a colossal (and I mean HUGE) systemic polling error AND he needs to basically run the board in all of the swing states. Or, as some Trump advisors have expressed to the Times, they can bank on a decent election night performance and challenge largely Democratic mail in ballots in courts with the hopes of throwing them out.
Let’s unpack that for a second; if the election is close, the Trump team is hoping to shave off ballots in key states and deliver themselves a victory. If Biden is up by a large margin in swing states, this does not work; the Secretary of State will likely certify the results before they can be challenged, ending debate and the election. The legal battles could go on for a very long time, and if they reach the Supreme Court, a body with three justices appointed by President Trump himself could decide the fate of this election. But, if Biden wins big on election day, capturing Florida, Georgia, Texas, or North Carolina, Trump’s path to a second term all but vanishes.
I wouldn’t recommend any election night parties, both for safety reasons (of course) but also for the simple fact that an election night party gets pretty awkward when the night ends and nobody wins. Welcome to 2020.