Update: Hoo boy. Dems are starting to sweat in Miami-Dade:
Miami-Dade early vote & partial by mail: Biden 54%, Trump 45% after 1,012,444 counted per county elections website
Clinton won Miami-Dade 64%-34% in 2016, when it cast about 980,000 votes.
— Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) November 4, 2020
The Times has its famous “needle” posted tonight and it’s currently pointing towards a two- or three-point win for Trump in Florida due to Biden’s weak performance in Miami-Dade. There’s no surprise there in the M-D numbers, really: Early voting turnout had been weak, local Democratic operatives had complained that the campaign wasn’t doing what was needed to turn out black and Latino voters, and now here we are. The question is whether this is a sign of a national trend for Biden or if Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade are sui generis.
Update: Oh geez.
Officials: We won’t have the vote count we expected tonight in Fulton County, home to Atlanta and a tenth of all Georgians. Absentee-by-mail processing at State Farm Arena was delayed 4 hours because a water pipe burst in a room. Officials say no ballots were damaged. @ajc #gapol
— Ben Brasch (@ben_brasch) November 4, 2020
Update: Remember Dave Wasserman’s bellwether analysis of Sumter County? Well, 87,000 votes are in right now — and Trump stands at 67 percent. Wasserman thought that would be a sign that Florida will indeed be very tight. We’ll need to check back in when there are 95,000 votes counted, as he thought 67 percent would be a slight underperformance for Trump at that stage. Nate Cohn also thinks the race will be tight:
The advanced vote in Florida we’ve seen so far will probably be to the Trump campaign’s liking, and it augurs for a tighter race than the pre-election polls given that the Democrats underperformed a bit on Election Day
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) November 4, 2020
Update: Biden leads by 38,000 or so in Pinellas County as I write this. The GOP apparently turned out 21,000 more voters there today on Election Day than Dems did. So, absent a Dem crossover vote for Trump or an indie tilt towards the GOP, Pinellas should go blue this year.
Update: An early result worth noting from FL:
FIRST RESULTS FROM FLORIDA:
Pasco County (~79% estimated reporting)
Trump won this county by 22% in 2016. DeSantis won this county by 16 points in 2018.
— Ryan Matsumoto (@ryanmatsumoto1) November 4, 2020
Biden is also up around eight points in Pinellas County right now, which Trump won by two against Clinton. But most of that is based on the early vote. Trump should cut into it as the same-day votes are tallied. On the other hand, Florida turnout is so high this year that Biden has already notched more votes there than Hillary did in 2016.
Update: Biden would need to make history to overcome a GOP turnout advantage in Florida. Independents would have to carry him home.
1/3 If Biden wins FL tonight, it’d be unique; he’d be the 1st top-of-ticket candidate to carry a state when his party had a lower share of ballots cast than the opponent’s party. As of about 6:30, GOP’s vote share was 1.8 points higher than Dems’ (R+1.8). It was R+0.6 in 16 pic.twitter.com/noSCrjuLD1
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) November 3, 2020
Update: Dems may be making up ground in the last hour before polls close in Florida:
Since 6pm in Broward (10 minutes until polls close): D45/R17/I37 (D +28). Democrats closing the Florida in-person vote much stronger than they started it.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 3, 2020
Silver thinks a two-point turnout lead for Republicans would be a little lower than needed for Trump: “Based on the partisan splits in recent polls of Florida, I estimated that — because Biden is doing better among independents in most polls of the state and gets somewhat more crossover voters — the breakeven point for a Trump win was about R +3.5 in Florida. That is, if Republicans led in turnout by 3.5 points or more, Trump would be the favorite to win; otherwise Biden would be. We’ll probably end up just to the Biden side of the line.”
Update: The tea-leaf reading about turnout in Florida has begun early. Marco Rubio is hinting at surprisingly large GOP numbers relative to 2016, when Republicans enjoyed an advantage of 0.6 percent in turnout. But that comes with two caveats. One: If the GOP really does have a two-percent advantage this year, well, there are polls showing Biden winning the state even in that scenario:
This equates to a 2-pt GOP turnout advantage in FL, which is larger than 1-pt in 2016 (I believe). However, our last @MonmouthPoll in FL (which has R+2 turnout) shows Biden ahead by 7 pts among NPAs and up by 4 pts overall. https://t.co/pGjYtpKDpQ
— Patrick Murray (@PollsterPatrick) November 3, 2020
Other polls showed the same. A turnout advantage for Republicans helps, of course, but what are independents doing? And how many registered R’s crossed the aisle and voted for Biden?
Two: Democrats traditionally turn out later on Election Day, which may be happening as we speak:
From 4pm to 6pm, the partisan split in Broward was D43/R22/I35 (D+21). A very big blue shift over the course of the day. https://t.co/BwQGJhsT7c
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 3, 2020
Are Dems going to whittle down the GOP turnout advantage to some degree before polls close at 7?
On the other hand, Jeff Zeleny reported on CNN at 6 p.m. that the Biden campaign is scrambling to try to turn out more minority voters in Florida, as the state seems “challenging” to them right now.
Original post follows:
There’s good news and bad news for Republican readers in this thread. The bad news is that you’re on the one election-night post on this site where Trump realistically can’t win the presidency. In all three other threads there are potential tipping-point states, the ones that’ll get him over 270. Pennsylvania is the most likely; Jazz is covering that. A Trumpy trend in the midwest that keeps Wisconsin and Michigan red and flips Minnesota could also get it done; Ed’s covering that. In a tight election, Arizona could be decisive; John’s covering that.
My thread consists of the “building block” states, the three southern strongholds that Trump needs to win just to have a chance in one of the other states I’ve mentioned. If he sweeps Texas, Georgia, and Florida, we have ourselves a ballgame. If he loses one of them, he’s hanging by a thread. If he loses more than one, go to bed immediately. Trump can’t win the election in this post — but he can lose it.
Which brings me to the good news. Florida, Georgia, and Texas all report their returns early. That’s not true of any other region. Pennsylvania will take days to count mail-in ballots, rendering the outcome uncertain unless there’s a surprise same-day blowout by one candidate or the other. Same goes for Michigan. Same for Arizona in all probability. But the three I’m covering count most of their mail votes early and should have verdicts late tonight unless the race in that state is so exceptionally close that late-arriving absentee votes will have to decide it. We may not know who won the presidency this evening but we should know by bedtime whether Trump has a fighting chance or not.
Let’s take them in turn.
Polls close at 7 p.m. ET:
Georgia. Don’t get suckered into overlooking GA as tonight’s big surprise just because it’s lumped in with two “sexier” states. Everyone obsesses about Florida because it’s always insanely close and traditionally has the highest electoral-vote haul of any swing state. People are obsessing about Texas this year because early-voting turnout was off the charts and flipping it would completely reorder American politics, knocking over the de facto capital of the Republican coalition. But my strong suspicion is that if any of the three states in this thread puts a dagger in Trump’s presidency, it’ll be Georgia. Dems got very close to winning there in the gubernatorial race with Stacey Abrams two years ago and changing demographics have since conspired to improve their chances. The state has fewer rural white voters than it used to — the heart of the Trump base — and more college grads and suburbanites, the engine of the Dems’ House takeover in 2018. Georgia also has a large black minority, and while Trump has made some inroads with that group, they’re still overwhelmingly Democratic.
It feels like the stars are aligning there for Sleepy Joe. FiveThirtyEight’s poll average actually has him ahead in Georgia by a point and both parties seem to believe from their private polling that the state is in play. Barack Obama visited over the past few days; Biden himself visited a few days before that. “At one point, NRSC strategists believed Biden hit 50 percent in Georgia — a figure they found ‘terrifying,’” WaPo reported a few days ago about GOP data. Despite its reputation as a red stronghold, Trump won the state by just five points over Hillary Clinton four years ago. It’s in play.
And if Dems flip it, Trump is in desperate trouble. I’ve been a broken record about this point in posts lately but it’s important enough to repeat it again: For Biden, winning Georgia is almost as good as winning Pennsylvania. The electoral votes at stake are nearly equal (16 vs. 20). And if he can win the two Rust Belt states where the polling strongly favors him, namely Wisconsin and Michigan, winning Georgia would hand him the presidency. He’d have 274 electoral votes if he hits that trifecta. Trump would have to flip Minnesota or Nevada or he’s done.
As if all of that wasn’t reason enough to get you interested in GA, there are not one but two Senate seats in play tonight — and they’re both ridiculously tight. The big one is David Perdue versus Jon Ossoff, which has been 49/48 one way or another in various polling over the last several weeks. What’s important to know about that is that finishing with the most votes isn’t enough to win the race; Georgia requires one candidate to reach 50 percent for victory. If neither candidate does, they’ll head to a runoff in January. Likewise in the other race, which has Democrat Raphael Warnock, Republican Kelly Loeffler, and upstart Republican challenger Doug Collins all running against each other in a “jungle primary.” No candidate should reach 50 percent in that one, but there’s intense suspense over whether Loeffler or Collins will finish ahead of the other and advance to the runoff against Warnock.
Which means we could see an outright Perdue win tonight, an outright Ossoff win, a (very longshot) outright Warnock win, or we could be headed for two runoffs which might decide control of the Senate and whether President Trump or President Biden has a chance of advancing his agenda in a second term. It’ll be nuclear war in Georgia over those two races in January if they’re not decided this evening. The stakes are as high as can be.
South Carolina. I’ve thought from the start that Jaime Harrison’s quest to knock off Lindsey Graham was fool’s gold for Democrats and I’m sticking by that, but it’s worth keeping tabs on this race just in case of a “blue tsunami” scenario nationally. Harrison does lead in *some* polls of the state, even recently, but most observers expect Republicans there to come home to Graham. Trump will win the state easily so I expect Graham will win fairly comfortably too. The reason not to overlook this race isn’t the polling, it’s the fact that Harrison’s campaign has seen the most stupendous fundraising of any Senate effort in U.S. history. Democratic donors have flooded this guy with an ocean of money in hopes of knocking off one of the president’s most visible toadies in the Senate. Tonight’s election is a simple test of whether South Carolina’s partisan lean is so strong that even a liberal whose finances are essentially limitless just can’t get over the hump there, even against a Republican whom many righties dislike. South Carolina’s Senate seat will only turn blue if many other battleground seats turn blue first, which is unlikely tonight — but not impossible.
Polls close at 8 p.m. ET:
Florida. We all expect Florida to tip red because, well, it almost always tips red and that sort of “logic” is good enough during a jittery Election Day. But there are other reasons. Although the FiveThirtyEight weighted polling average favors Biden by 2.5 points, pollsters have had a terrible track record in Florida over the last two cycles by underestimating Republicans there. Recall that Democrats Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson were expected to comfortably defeat Republicans Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott in 2018 — a Democratic wave year across most of the country — and the GOPers pulled it out. How much can we trust polls in Florida really?
There were also signs of Democratic underperformance in early voting in Florida and of Republican overperformance in Miami-Dade County, where Dems normally expect to run up the score. Florida is also expected to be the state where Trump’s improvement with Latino voters since 2016 shows up most conspicuously, particularly given his support among Cuban-Americans. The mystery tonight (and really everywhere) is this: Which candidate can pull more from the other’s base? Trump’s aiming to take Latino and, to a lesser extent, black votes from Biden; Biden’s aiming to take white college grads and senior citizens from Trump. Biden has a bigger pool to fish in but that doesn’t mean he’s going to catch more fish.
The bellwether to watch early according to the pros is Sumter County, home of The Villages retirement community. Dave Wasserman thinks Trump needs 67 percent of the vote there to feel comfortable. If he matches or exceeds that tonight in early returns, it’s a sign that Biden’s strength with seniors in polling has been overstated. That would make Florida — and the national picture — suddenly look a bit Trumpier. If instead Trump doesn’t get to 67 percent, that’s a sign that he really has lost ground with seniors to Biden. And if there’s any state where you don’t want to be shedding senior votes, it’s this one.
Important addendum: if you see Sumter Co., FL (The Villages) eventually report ~95k votes and it’s:
66% Trump or less: very good for Biden
67%-68%: possibly good for Biden
69%-70%: FL on track to be FL
71%-72%: possibly good for Trump
73%+ Trump: very good for Trump
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 3, 2020
One other point about Florida: We should see a “red shift” here because of the way mail votes are counted. Florida, very wisely, has been counting those ballots as they’ve come in over the past few weeks. Those votes are already tabulated and will be reported immediately when polls close. And because Democrats vote by mail far more than Republicans do, that should mean a hefty lead for Biden right off the bat. That’s when the “red shift” happens — because Republicans vote on Election Day more than Democrats do, Trump will eat deeply into Biden’s lead as those same-day votes begin to be tallied. Within a few hours we should know if he has enough to overcome Sleepy Joe or nah.
Polls close at 9 p.m. ET:
Texas. Texas is the most seductive mystery of the election, for two reasons. One: At 38 electoral votes, it could potentially decide the presidency singlehandedly. Biden would reach 270 with nothing more than Hillary’s 2016 states plus Texas, rendering everything else on the map including the entire Rust Belt meaningless. Two: Texas is a black box this year because of the phenomenal turnout during early voting. The state matched its *total turnout* four years ago before early voting ended, which is all but unheard of. And normally turnout in Texas is weak because the outcome is never in doubt: The campaign begins, Democrats huff and puff about how this is the year, and then they lose. No sense turning out for that.
Beto O’Rourke’s shocking near-miss against Ted Cruz two years ago in their Senate race may have given Democrats there enough hope of knocking off Trump in 2020 that they really did show up this time, though, blowing the roof off of early voting. Or Beto’s scare may have spooked Republicans in Texas enough that Trump fans turned out this past month and blew the roof off of early voting, perceiving a serious threat for once to the GOP in Texas. The truth is … we have no idea which party benefited more from the early vote because Texas doesn’t record party registration. But blue urban areas like Harris County (i.e. Houston) and Travis County (i.e. Austin) saw extremely high numbers. And Texas has a lot, lot, lot of suburban residents, the group that’s expected to do so much damage tonight to Trump across the country. Much of the surge in newly registered voters since 2016, 1.8 million people, comes from urban and suburban areas.
The polling in TX is tighter than you may suspect too, just a 1.2 percent advantage for Trump in FiveThirtyEight’s average. As badly as Texas Dems wanted to beat Cruz, they want to beat Trump that much more. The long history of disappointments for the party in the state makes tonight feel like another disappointment in the making, but the fact that we’re already in uncharted territory due to the early vote means nothing can be taken for granted. Texas won’t be the state that gets Biden to 270 but it might be the dagger in the heart for the GOP, the one that gets him to, say, 380.
There’s a Senate race worth watching in Texas tonight too but it should only be in doubt if Republicans are suffering an unholy beating across the country. John Cornyn has led Democrat M.J. Hegar by five points or so for most of the past few weeks. If Texas slips enough that Cornyn’s in trouble, it’s a tectonic shift in American politics. Texas *could* make big news tomorrow in downballot races even if Cornyn wins without difficulty, though. That’s because several Republican-held seats in suburban areas are at dire risk of flipping thanks to Democratic gains among voters there. Even control of the state legislature is up for grabs thanks to the blue suburban trend, which could have ramifications for years potentially. The state legislature gets a say in redrawing the map of Texas’s congressional districts next year as part of the decennial redistricting process. If Democrats are in charge of the state house, those lines are destined to be more favorable to Team Blue.
We might see a bit of a “red shift” in Texas tonight, as mail ballots tend to come in first followed by returns from same-day voting. Don’t panic, in other words, if Sleepy Joe jumps out to an early lead. That’s an artifact of how the votes are counted, not necessarily a sign of true strength.
Updates will appear at the top of this post. And live returns in all races tonight can be followed at the handy Townhall Media/Decision Desk HQ results page. Stand by.