Ten Takeaways from Election Night 2020
An early reaction to the events of election night 2020.
Ten Takeaways from Election Night
[Note: This post is based on news as of 10 pm PST on election night and is cut and pasted from my Facebook page]
1. The fracking gaffe in the second presidential debate may end up costing Joe Biden the election. It’s doubtful a prospective Biden Administration would actually reduce, let alone eliminate fracking. But that unnecessary blunder at the worst possible moment (just enough time for the Trump campaign to turn it into a major issue) could swing enough voters in Pennsylvania to end up losing that critical state. I listed this #1 because I believe, if Biden loses, it was probably the straw on the political camel’s back that swung the outcome.
2. With several states still uncalled and uncertain, Ohio’s results (looks like Trump winning by 3 percent) is a terrible bellwether for Biden’s chances. One expects the same demographics and turnout to apply to other “rust belt” states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, which are also critical. I don’t see how Biden can lose by perhaps 450,000 votes in Ohio, but somehow make up those numbers in states with similar populations.
3. The Democratic Party ran a smart campaign, nationally speaking. Ads were upbeat and well-targeted. Strategic targeting went after Trump’s numerous and obvious vulnerabilities while staying positive. Unlike 2016, when the DNC and its cohorts ran a horrendous campaign on all levels, no matter what happens, I’m not sure the party and many of the down-ballot candidates could have done much better and improved the numbers.
4. Purely in Machiavellian terms, Trump’s campaign ran a brilliant campaign — wisely targeting just a handful of swing states and blitzing those key semi-rural districts with rallies and other events which generated genuine enthusiasm and motivation to go and vote. The peeling away of some traditional Latino support (especially in South Florida) and Black males (some of whom mistrusted Biden) also proved effective. The Trump campaign knew it had no shot of a landslide, nor even winning the majority of the popular vote. So, instead — they wisely went after several key counties in swing states — WI, MI, OH, NC, OH, and FL — and feasted on the spoils of that enthusiastic support. When I earned a degree in political science 36 years ago, I wrote a thesis titled “political surgery.” Funny, I had not thought of that title in many years. But what Trump (and the campaign) did in this election was “political surgery.”
5. Even if Biden somehow pulls this election out and wins, forget the notion of Republicans tossing Trump onto the ash heap and hitting a reset button. This is now the party of Trump. Whatever faint hopes still lingered about the Republican Party returning to the grace and civility of Bush and Reagan, is now completely shattered. Trump’s victory, or even a narrow defeat, erases any notion that the GOP voter base wants a shakeup. This represents a fundamental shift in American politics. Trump was not an aberration. The consequences of this reality will be monumental, and long-lasting.
6. It’s inconceivable that Trump’s approval numbers hovering at around 38-44 percent nationally have not shifted in four years. Let’s see: We’ve had an impeachment, several scandals, a pandemic that’s killed a quarter-of-a-million, 20 million Americans have lost jobs, and what can only be described as mass “fatigue,” yet Trump’s numbers have not declined. They haven’t really increased, either. So, the election results can only be described as “shy Trump supporters” being under-counted. Again, it appears Democrats will win the popular vote, perhaps by 3-5 million votes. This quandary will drive political scientists crazy for the next 50 years. It’s impossible to figure out an explanation (aside from the ongoing debate about the fairness and utility of the Electoral College)
7. Message to Democrats: Don’t waste a dollar or a second in the state of Florida in future elections. That state is getting redder by the year. It’s a waste of time and money. 2020 results prove this.
8. I was going to credit Trump for being uncharacteristically civil and even presidential on election day, but then he just tweeted out an accusation “they (Democrats) are trying to steal the election.” Winning with grace, or even being ahead and showing a little class was apparently too much to ask.
9. I played the gambit of major networks on election coverage tonight. I was pleasantly surprised at how crisp in terms of content and visuals both CBS and ABC were, and was just as disappointed by CNN’s coverage, which I found very repetitive. It also seemed gutless to not call Florida and Texas sooner in the evening. There was no reason to delay those inevitable results. None. The drag on calling states which were obvious really detracted from the network’s coverage on this night, when they typically are strong. MSNBC was also weak, though some of the map forecasting and analysis was arguably the best of any network. I spent little time on FOX and no time on NBC, which I refuse to watch.
10. It’s hard to predict how long this will go before we know a definitive winner and loser. I would venture a guess, but that would just be a parroted summation of what others are saying. I do think PA is a serious problem for Biden, and am greatly concerned the results in OH will be some indication of similar states, including WI and MI, which Biden almost certainly needs to win. Biden needs major help in those states, and I don’t think he’s got enough support to make up the differences in tallied results, so far.
Two more points:
- Betting markets were all over the place on Tuesday night. There’s money to be made exploiting overreactions if you can remain politically neutral.
- This could still be a political win for Democrats. But it wasn’t the slap in the face to Trumpism that many Biden supporters hoped for, and so in many ways, no matter what happens, this night will be a tremendous disappointment.