EJB Talks about Election 2020

After a long night of watching and liveblogging election returns, Stuart Shapiro sits down with Amy Cobb for a special episode of #EJBTalks to discuss the current state of the election and what we may see–or expect–in the coming weeks.

Stuart Shapiro
Welcome to EJB Talks. I’m Stuart Shapiro, the Associate Dean of Faculty at the Bloustein School. And the purpose of this podcast is to talk with my colleagues and our alumni about policy, planning and health, and the interaction between these issues and how they affect people in New Jersey, the United States and the world.

Well, on this very special day after the election, we have a very special episode of EJB Talks. We’re going to pontificate… I’m going to pontificate on yesterday’s results to the extent that we know anything, and Amy Cobb is going to step up from behind the glass to try and keep me under control and make sure I don’t talk too much. So without further ado, let me turn it over to Amy.

Amy Cobb
Well, it is definitely a morning in America this morning! And Stu, I know you were up rather late last night… into the early morning. Because we were looking for results or, some of the results, that we could definitively know. And so maybe I just ask you a really simple question. Where are we now, at almost noon, the day after the election?

Stuart Shapiro
Well, I don’t know about you, but one place I am is very, very tired.

Amy Cobb
I’m tired, too!

Stuart Shapiro
So I stayed up for Trump’s speech last night till about 2:45am. So…..

Amy Cobb
Oh, you lasted longer than me, I gave in at about 1:30.

Stuart Shapiro
So one thing we want to be careful about is, we don’t want to do what the President’s doing. Which is, say we know something has happened when votes are still being counted. So I’m going to be somewhat cautious and careful in talking about where we are right now. Because the fact of the matter is, I do believe we have to count all the votes. And we need to count all the votes before we decide who won and we need to count all the votes before we draw conclusions about what happened yesterday.

So with that in mind, Vice President Biden is currently winning the race for President. He is ahead in states that would give him 270 electoral votes. When he won Nebraska… the second district in Nebraska last night, which was sometime after midnight, that gave him a path to victory; whereby if he went to Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan, he would become the next President of the United States. Right now he is leading in all three states. They are close, votes are still being counted, but there’s every reason to believe that the votes that have not yet been counted are more likely to favor Biden than they are to favor Trump.

In addition, Pennsylvania and Georgia are both at the very least tossups right now. So even if something went disastrous with one of the states I mentioned before, if Biden were to win Pennsylvania or Georgia, he would also be President. So he has multiple paths to the presidency. Whereas Trump has a very narrow path. He needs Pennsylvania, Georgia; he needs North Carolina, which hasn’t been called yet. And he needs to pick one of those states off that Biden is currently winning, and favored to win.

Amy Cobb
So I have a quick question for you, just a follow up on Georgia. What areas of Georgia haven’t been counted yet? And was that one of the…. maybe I’ll lead into another question, too. Georgia surprised me… what are some of the other surprises that are kind of facing us today?

Stuart Shapiro
Right. So again, we’ll put the usual caution in there that we’re not sure about. I think there are one or two surprises we can definitely point to at this point. As for Georgia, most of the votes that have not yet been counted are in Atlanta. And that’s why Biden still–at least according to the needle on the New York Times page–has a better than 50% chance of winning Georgia. It’s very close to 50, though, so we shouldn’t jump to too many conclusions there.

The surprises in my mind were twofold. And this is what I think we can take from what we saw last night, and there may be more surprises as we process the data more. The first is the degree to which Trump improved on his standing in 2016 with Hispanics, particularly Hispanic males. I’m not going to off-the-cuff theorize about why that happened or try to explain it. There is stuff out there that people that are doing but I think at this time point, we need to just acknowledge that it happened and then figure out why it happened. It happened in Florida with Cuban and Venezuelan communities. That’s less of a surprise. But it also happened in Texas. And it also happened in Nevada. And so how Trump managed to get more Hispanic votes than expected, I think is surprise number one.

Surprise number two, and maybe it’s a little bit less of a surprise to those of us deeply immersed in this stuff, but probably will surprise casual viewers of election politics, is … the fact that we had an extremely high turnout election did not help the Democrats. Part of the Democrats’ mantra is “we need everyone to vote, if everyone votes, we’re going to do better.”

Well, more people voted yesterday than have voted in any presidential election ever. And a higher percentage of the electorate voted in any election since 1900. And that’s great. I mean, civic democracy is good. We want everyone to vote. All those are good things. What yesterday showed is that it’s not clear who that helps in terms of the two parties. And that will vary by region and by area, and that Democrats should not assume, “Oh, we got high turnout, we’re gonna win.”

Amy Cobb
Hmm. So you know, just a quick, maybe a quick recap. I know a lot of people are saying, oh, polling data…you know, we were so far ahead in the polls, it should have been a landslide. But I just want to reiterate, Stu, from what I remember you posting about last week, I think we’re well within the margin of error for what they had stated that Biden’s possible lead was.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah, and you’re seeing lots of hot takes out there about the polling right now. And that is definitely one of the things we need to wait for the final results on. The final polling average on FiveThirtyEight.com was Biden by about 8 or 8 1/2 points. Biden will likely win the popular vote by less than that. But it could be as many as five points. And if it’s five points, that’s well within the margin of error of where we were… where the polling average told us we would be.

Now that doesn’t mean that in particular places, the polls weren’t off by more than that. And it’s quite possible that we see that in Florida, and in Texas, and Nevada, the states I mentioned before. Which is largely driven, I think, to an error in estimating the Hispanic vote, which is why that was a surprise. So there were some mistakes. I think there always might be some mistakes. But again, it’s not like we are in an outcome that is far outside the line of expectations there.

Amy Cobb
So I think because you’re tired, and I think a lot of us are tired that have watched this. I have one more question. And then maybe we can talk in a week or so because things will be all confirmed, and we’ll feel much better about it, right? How are the next few days, weeks… I mean, I realize a lot of this is you having to imagine where we are, but what does it look like for us for the next couple of days, weeks and maybe months ahead?

Stuart Shapiro
So yeah, let’s take those in turn. And first, in the next day, today… Wednesday, and I don’t know when people will be listening to this. But today, we will likely have results in Wisconsin and Arizona finalized. We will likely have results in Michigan by Friday at the latest. And hopefully, we’ll have results in Pennsylvania by then, although Pennsylvania may take longer. Georgia I’m not sure about. So we should have more information coming in as the week goes along here. So that’s where we are in the next few days.

The problem we have is that the President is attempting to undermine confidence in the election. It’s a sign I think he knows that he lost. So people are worried that… that’s another sign of confidence for Democrat, that Trump is behaving as he’s behaving. But it’s a very dangerous thing to have the President of the United States on Twitter, giving press conferences as he did at 2:30 in the morning, saying that he knows he won and that these mail-in ballots are not legitimate. I don’t think the courts will buy the argument. I know Democrats are very worried about the courts and such. Right now there’s no sort of cogent argument that the votes that have been sent in shouldn’t be counted.

But people will buy that argument. Trump’s supporters will buy that argument. And what that means for the weeks ahead, I’m not sure. And I do expect that the transition is going to be very bumpy. That Trump will not concede, regardless of what we see in the next few days. And conceding is not a legal term, it’s just a rhetorical term. But still, in terms of peaceful transition of power, it’s helpful and it’s important. So I think there’s a lot of unpredictability about where we go over the next month or two, and what that means for our democracy moving forward. So we will see.

I am hopeful that there will be some people who, you know, will talk Trump down or undermine Trump. I mean, already, a fair number of Republicans… Ben Shapiro, no relation, this morning tweeted out that it was irresponsible of Trump to say he won. And Ben Shapiro is very, very conservative. And very, very pro-Trump. So I’m hopeful that we will see that, but I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of uncertainty there.

I will also add in we didn’t talk about the Senate at all. Right now the Democrats flipped two seats in Arizona, in Colorado; the Republicans flipped one seat in Alabama. The seat in Maine is still up for grabs. Susan Collins, everybody’s favorite concerned Senator, is still in a tight race. She is winning. But there’s still a fair amount of vote to be counted in Maine. And the two races in Georgia are up in the air. The Democrats need two of those three races to take control of the Senate if Biden is the President. If Trump were to pull out a victory, they need all three of those races. So right now, it is looking more likely than not that Mitch McConnell will be the Senate Majority Leader again, in the next term.

Amy Cobb
Yeah. Well, when I saw him win last night… There’s a runoff in Georgia correct? One of the races…

Stuart Shapiro
One of the races they’ve already called a runoff for that is the open seat. And that will be Kelly Loeffler against Raphael Warnock. The other seat in Georgia and I will bring it up on my screen right now…. between John Ossoff and the incumbent, David Perdue. Purdue remains above 51, I should say, with 91% of the vote. Like in the presidential race, we’re waiting for votes from Atlanta. So that could switch, but it does appear that Ossof is running behind Biden, which means he’s less likely to reverse the current result, then Biden is.

Amy Cobb
Okay. Well, Stu that was a quick recap of a long slog through last night. Maybe you’ll get a nap today.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah, I’m hoping so. And I will try and stop refreshing my Twitter feed to the FiveThiryEight page.

Amy Cobb
Yes. time to walk away for a little bit, Stuart!

Stuart Shapiro
Yes…. exactly.

Amy Cobb
Thanks for having me back on Stu. It’s always interesting, and maybe we’ll come back in a week or two and really kind of discuss where we’ll be in January.

Stuart Shapiro
Yep, that sounds great. Until then, everyone stay safe. I’ll do the sign off here. Thanks, Amy, and thanks to Karyn Olsen, who also helps out with these.