The votes are in — well, most of them anyway — as polls start to close, and now the hard part begins: counting them.
As the most atypical presidential campaign in recent American history comes to a close, the big question is, when will we know the winner? It could be tonight. It could be days from now.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 campaign was conducted largely online and the election has seen a surge in mail-in votes. And some key swing states — including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — weren’t by law allowed to even begin to process them, much less count them, until Election Day.
Michigan, another battleground state, was only able to start processing mail-in ballots Monday.
Complicating matters even more, last week the Supreme Court allowed Pennsylvania and North Carolina to continue accepting absentee ballots for several days after Election Day.
President Donald Trump’s campaign has called foul and threatened legal actions to stop Pennsylvania election officials from counting late-arriving ballots. Both Trump and Democrat Joe Biden have enlisted high-powered legal teams in case of a drawn-out election battle in the courts.
Trump told Fox News on Tuesday that he believes he has a “very solid chance of winning.”
Biden has been equally bullish, telling rallygoers on Monday that, “I have a feeling we’re coming together for a big win tomorrow.”
As expected, early voting has favored the Democrats. Over 100 million people have either voted early or cast an absentee ballot, and in states where voter party affiliation is reported, Democrats cast 45 percent of the votes to the Republicans’ 30.5 percent, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a nonpartisan website that is tracking general election voting statistics.
Polling also favored Biden heading into Election Day. The RealClearPolitics polling average showed the former vice president with a comfortable lead nationally, though it also showed a much narrower Biden lead in top battleground states.
And the polls have been tightening. Over the past few months, Biden has consistently led in most polls in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Florida. But Trump is leading in some of the most recent polls in both of those states, and others. Pennsylvania and Florida are key for Trump — there’s almost no clear reelection map for him if he doesn’t carry Florida — but Biden’s team says he has multiple pathways to victory that don’t include either state.
Jen O’Malley Dillon, of Joe Biden’s campaign, says they continue to believe that Biden has “multiple pathways” to winning 270 electoral votes. She stresses that they believe Biden can win without winning FL, PA, OH, and TX, which she called the four largest battleground states. pic.twitter.com/ek5U7gvpIC
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) November 3, 2020
O’Malley Dillon also making a point to note Biden can win without PA and FL, if necessary: all it would take is (AZ or NC)+WI+MI. PA/FL “are requirements for Donald Trump to get to 270. They are not requirements for Joe Biden to get to 270.”
— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) November 3, 2020
Democrats also have their sights on flipping Arizona blue. Most of the state’s residents live in a single county, Maricopa, home to Phoenix and its suburbs. Trump has struggled with suburban voters, but the state remains a toss-up according to the RealClearPolitics roundup.
FiveThirtyEight, a website run by polling analyst Nate Silver, heavily favors a Biden win, giving Trump only a 1-in-10 chance of holding the presidency. Trump needs a bigger-than-normal polling error in his favor to win, “but the real possibility that polls are underestimating Trump’s support is why he still has a path to win reelection,” according to the FiveThirtyEight analysis.
Trump’s reelection chances have been hampered by COVID-19, which has led to more than 230,000 deaths in the U.S. this year. Even many Republicans have been disappointed by Trump’s handling of the virus, though he has defended his response to the pandemic.
Trump is counting on a repeat of 2016, when he was the decided underdog but outperformed the polls to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s base is clearly energized, as his rallies over the past couple of days in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina have shown.
“Go out and vote — unless you are going to vote for somebody other than me, in which case, sit it out,” Trump told rallygoers in North Carolina on Monday.
Trump supporters in Wisconsin waited in line for hours Monday to hear the president speak at a regional airport in Kenosha, a city that erupted in riots after an August police shooting. Trump’s pro-law enforcement message could resonate in Wisconsin and neighboring Minnesota, which also was the scene of riots after the death of George Floyd in May.
Despite most polls not being in Trump’s favor, Trump and his surrogates have predicted a big win. Trump called into Fox & Friends Tuesday, and said he expects to top the 306 votes he won in the Electoral College in 2016. He needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Trump also said he sees evidence that a replay of 2016 is in the cards.
“Tremendous changes have taken place over the last week, tremendous,” Trump said on Fox. “And we think we’re winning Texas very big. We think we’re winning Florida very big. We think we’re winning Arizona very big. I think we are going to do very well in North Carolina. I think we are going to do very well in Pennsylvania.”
In a statement Monday, Justin Clark, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, said Democratic operatives are “advising surrogates and media to create a smoke screen” to conceal a Trump victory on Tuesday night, by “imagining postal delays or falsely claiming that mail-in ballots that have simply not been returned should be considered legitimate votes that need to be counted.”
“None of this will be true, but it will be held up as proof that President Trump’s victory is a so-called ‘Red Mirage.’ No one should fall for it,” the statement read.
Biden has spent much of the past couple days making a final push in Ohio and Pennsylvania, hosting drive-in campaign rallies in Cleveland and in and around Pittsburgh.
“Tomorrow we have an opportunity to put an end to a presidency that has divided this nation,” Biden said Monday in Cleveland. “Tomorrow we can put an end to a president who has failed to protect this nation.”
On Tuesday he met with a small crowd of voters on the street in Scranton, his hometown, speaking to them through a megaphone. He said he wants to restore basic decency and honor in the nation.
“We’ve got to restore the backbone of the country,” Biden said. “You all know it.”
Send a tip to the news team at NR.