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Winners and losers from the 2020 election.

Byline: Aaron Blake The Washington Post

Joe Biden is the president-elect of the United States. And with the calling of the election in his favor, it's time for a recap of how we got here.

With the caveat that votes are still being counted and some races are undecided, here's a look at the winners and losers from the 2020 election.


* Joe Biden

OK, obvious, yes. But at this point, Biden is on track to notch the third-highest popular vote share since 1988 -- with the only one beating him being his running mate Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

That owes in part to the lack of formidable third-party and independent candidates, but Biden is also something of a rarity these days in that he was actually elected as someone most people liked. Exit polls show 52% of voters had a favorable opinion of Biden, versus 46% unfavorable.

Biden also concluded his remarkable recovery from being left for dead earlier this year by some in the Democratic presidential contests after losing the first three states. And his electoral college margin is on pace to be 306-232. That's the exact margin which his opponent in the 2020 election, President Donald Trump, deemed a "landslide" in 2016.

* The suburban Democratic shift

While the election was closer than Democrats would have preferred, there was one way in which the election lived up to their hopes: a shift in the suburbs.

While there was much attention paid to late-counted mail ballots in urban areas that put Biden over the top in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the bigger shift was in the suburbs. In fact, there's evidence that Trump actually improved his lot slightly in urban areas, which made the suburbs crucial for Biden.

In 2016 exit polls, Trump won the suburbs by four points, 49-45. This time, Biden won them 51-48 -- a seven-point shift in the margin. Biden also joins Obama as the only Democratic presidential candidate to carry the suburbs since 1992, if the exit polls don't shift from now.

Democrats' suburban edge was also slightly bigger than in the 2018 election in which they won the House, when those areas split about evenly. And given the suburbs account for about half the votes these days -- and growing -- Democrats will want to keep that going.

* Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

This one comes with a caveat, which we'll get to, but: If you have to pick the biggest disappointment for Democrats in this election, it was the Senate.

Potential pickups in Maine and North Carolina didn't materialize, and Iowa wound up a rout. That leaves them with a net gain of one seat at this point, out of three that they needed to take the Chamber. They'll very likely need to win both of two January runoffs in Georgia -- which will be very tough -- to get a 50-50 split and effective control off the Senate (with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking the tie).

It's the second straight election in which Democrats have won the most votes but failed to take the Senate. And at the end of it all, they'll be in about the same place in the Senate as before -- and potentially worse. That's reflective of the difficulty of winning the Senate in a country with mostly red states, yes, but it's also likely to be a significant obstacle when it comes to passing their agenda over the next two years.

* Georgia political junkies

Georgia, you are among the states that will help decide a presidential race. Your reward: two months of wall-to-wall campaign ads, text messages and partisan fighting for not one but two Senate races.

The runoffs for Sen. David Perdue's, R-Ga., and appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler's, R-Ga., seats likely will decide control of the Senate. That means both parties will absolutely pour resources into them in the coming weeks. And by weeks, we mean nine weeks. Senate control in 2020 will be decided in 2021, on Jan. 5.

These will be difficult to win for Democrats -- partly because GOP candidates took more votes in both on Election Day and partly because Georgia runoffs usually favor them. But with no other federal races up for grabs, the eyes of the nation and the money of the nation's political donors will be focused in the state that just split about evenly in the presidential race. Buckle up.


* Donald Trump -- and Trumpism

The result was closer than Democrats would have liked, yes. It also means that, to the extent GOP leaders want to move beyond the Trump era, it will be more difficult because Trump can plausibly say he could have won.

But it's also clear that Trump lost a pretty winnable election -- one in which a more standard-issue Republicans might well have won. Trump underperformed GOP Senate candidates in the states with both competitive Senate races and a competitive presidential race. And that's telling: the fundamentals were better for the GOP than Trump's vote total suggests. And given he's losing most of they key states by around 1 percentage point or less, it suggests it was truly costly.

* The polls

The polls got a battering after the 2016 election -- in some ways unfairly. They missed in some crucial states, but overall (and nationally) they weren't that bad, and the decisive states didn't have much quality polling.

The polls in the 2020 election, though, have no such excuses. The missed especially badly in the Midwest (again) in Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. But they also missed Florida by about five points and badly missed Sen. Susan Collins', R-Maine, clear win. Collins trailed in virtually every poll; as of now, she not only won, but she also avoided an instant runoff by taking more than 50% and leading Democrat Sara Gideon by more than eight points. Texas' presidential race and the South Carolina Senate race also weren't nearly as close as we were led to believe.

It's time for a reckoning when it comes to how these poll are conducted. It's difficult when political coalitions are changing, yes. But it's getting to a point in which even leads that are outside the margin of error in many cases can't be trusted.

All of this comes with the caveat, as in 2016, that national polls weren't nearly so off. Biden led in them 51.8% to 43.4%, according to the final FiveThirtyEight poll average. Biden currently leads by about four points, and that's expected to grow, especially with California always counting its votes late. The margins could also creep somewhat closer to the polls in key states, given most of the late-counted votes are friendly for Biden.

But the poll-doubters have been vindicated, to a significant degree. And any coverage in the future should reflect that increasing uncertainty.

* The Sqaud and Bernie Sanders

The somewhat split decision between the presidency and Congress has been seen by some as a repudiation of the Democratic Party's leftward trend. That might be too simplistic. But Democrats losing big ground in south Florida among Cuban Americans who were fed a steady diet of anti-socialism messages -- among the many other areas in which Democrats thought they could win by didn't -- should cause some reflection.

But even if you set aside the causes, the fact is that the 2020 election put a true progressive agenda on hold. Biden will very likely have to deal with a Republican-controlled Senate.
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Title Annotation:Nation_
Author:Aaron Blake The Washington Post
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Nov 8, 2020
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