We’ve finally arrived. Donald Trump and Joe Biden have been campaigning, in effect, for more than three years. Americans have been casting their ballots — in record numbers — since September. And now it’s the first Tuesday in November, a day of anticipation and trepidation, and in all likelihood one that won’t provide the resolution Americans are seeking — with counts and challenges expected to last for days and weeks to come. Today’s Daily Dose brings you the scene on the ground from three critical swing states, reveals our final election predictions, nerds out with counties to watch and inspires with tales of how you, dear readers, are getting out the vote this year. Democracy is happening. Soak it up.
— Nick Fouriezos (in Philadelphia), Joshua Eferighe (in Milwaukee) and Daniel Malloy (in Pilot, N.C.)
The tightness of the race statewide could be felt across the voting lines this morning in South Philadelphia. “I’m a first-generation American, so my mom, brother and dad can’t vote. I’m here for them,” says Emily Aponte, whose family is originally from Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. The 22-year-old is frustrated: She recently found out her 2016 absentee ballot for Hillary Clinton was tossed out without her knowledge. Plus, she lost her job in the service industry amid the pandemic. Across a chain-link fence, a truck flies by with a Trump supporter shouting “Four more years!” rattling both Aponte and her companion, Ibn Craddock, 24. It’s been a stressful day. “I’ve already gone through my cigarette and am feeling I need something stronger,” Craddock says. “I should have rolled up a blunt,” Aponte nods in agreement.
In the small town of Pilot, N.C., beyond the far edges of Raleigh’s suburbs, the local fire station had about a 30-minute wait to cast ballots during the morning rush. Sean Skaggs, 50, who works in aerospace and is a part-time Baptist minister, said he sees far more enthusiasm for Trump around these parts than four years ago. “I think there was a lot of apprehension [in 2016] because of his past — not that he’s a bad person or anything — but he just kind of says stuff, he cusses,” Skaggs says. But, among other things, Trump delivered on a pro-life, pro-gun agenda in his first term, Skaggs notes. Other voters here cite morality as a factor in the president’s favor, including Rose Dry, 62, who when pressed about Biden grins through her mask and says only: “God bless him.” Still, this town does have its Democrats, such as Darfield Jones, 66. “He came in crooked and he’s going out crooked, that’s the way I see it,” Jones says of Trump. As for Biden? “It’s going to take him two years just to straighten out what Trump’s done.”
3. Enthusiasm Check
Milwaukee saw a severe drop-off among Black voters from 2012 to 2016, helping Trump pull off a stunning win in Wisconsin. Tamer Malone, 22, who’s volunteering for the organization Count Every Vote, has been seeking to change the narrative. “If they are in poverty and they are struggling and they feel like, ‘Well, if I cast this vote, he’s not going to do nothing for me. What’s going to be different about my lifestyle? What’s the difference?’ So with them, it was ‘ain’t nothing gonna change.’” But something has changed between 2016 and 2020, Malone says, as voting was steady at an elementary school polling place this morning in Milwaukee. “I’m actually shocked that this many people are actually getting out to vote,” she adds.
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Our final forecast from the OZY predictive election model, in conjunction with the data firm 0ptimus, gives Biden an 88 percent chance of victory. He hasn’t dipped below 80 percent since the end of September — that’s just how remarkably steady this race has been. Taking polls, historical trends, economic data and more, our predictions find Trump trailing in a slew of must-win states — and the fact that states like Texas and Georgia are even in play is a sign of the president’s struggles. Still, as some polls show tightening, Trump does still have a narrow path to pull off another shocker.
The Senate looks similarly dire for Republicans, with Democrats holding an 85 percent chance of an outright majority of 51 seats. Democrats are now favored to pick up majority-making seats in North Carolina (where GOP Sen. Thom Tillis has been unable to capitalize on Cal Cunningham’s sex scandal) and Iowa (where Democrat Theresa Greenfield, a real estate executive, has been surprisingly strong). But the big movement lately has come in Georgia — which has two seats on the ballot, and in both cases Democrats are now slight favorites to win. The 33-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff (who filleted Sen. David Perdue in a recent debate, calling him a “crook”) could win outright on Tuesday, but there’s a good chance both of these races will see no one crack 50 percent and end up being decided in runoffs on Jan. 5.
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the counties to watch
1. Erie County, Pennsylvania (polls close 8 p.m. ET)
While a full count will take days in this year’s ground zero battleground state, keep a close eye on the county in Pennsylvania’s far northwest corner: This working-class area along Lake Erie, battered by the coronavirus recession, has correctly picked the winner of the past seven statewide elections, and will be a window into how the oft-scrutinized Obama-Trump voters are leaning.
2. Miami-Dade County, Florida (polls close 7 p.m. ET)
If Trump takes Florida again, he will have the Latino vote to thank. There are ample signs he’s improved among this group in part by tagging Democrats as socialists, a troublesome label for people whose families fled Cuba or Venezuela. The activism of Cuban critics like conservative YouTube star Alex Otaola is playing a role in majority-Latino Miami-Dade. Hillary Clinton took 63 percent of the vote here in 2016 and netted 300,000 votes. If Trump can slice into that margin, he holds his new home state.
3. Kenosha County, Wisconsin (polls close 9 p.m. ET)
Trump narrowly won this suburban Milwaukee county in 2016, and the question is whether it will join the suburban blue shift toward Biden or whether this summer’s Jacob Blake shooting and accompanying violence will help drive home Trump’s law-and-order message. Trump held an election eve rally in Kenosha amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the area. “He did as well as he could” in handling the pandemic, said Luigi Lacson, an immigrant from the Philippines who works in health care, at the Trump rally. “It doesn’t matter which politician was in office; it was going to be a problem because it’s a new virus we don’t know how to handle, and I think we’ve learned a lot.”
4. Macomb County, Michigan (polls close 8 p.m. ET)
This suburban Detroit county was the subject of a classic 1985 study of “Reagan Democrats,” and the largely white area reliant on the auto industry has continued to be a bellwether. The county went for Obama twice, then swung substantially to Trump in 2016 — the president won here by 11 percentage points, netting nearly 50,000 votes (his statewide margin was less than 11,000). The suburbs have been brutal for Trump across the country, and he needs this one if he wants to hang onto his most perilous “blue wall” state.
5. Maricopa County, Arizona (polls close 9 p.m. ET)
Maricopa County was once a conservative bastion that elected nativist Sheriff Joe Arpaio a dozen times. However, a third of its 4.5 million residents are Latino, and the Phoenix suburbs are undergoing the same shift away from Trump that much of the nation’s burbs are seeing. The majority of Arizonans live in this massive county, and it will tell the story of how this state swings.
6. Alamance County, North Carolina (polls close 7:30 p.m. ET)
Long a conservative stronghold, this county went for Trump by 13 points last time. But as it becomes home to more commuters to Greensboro and the Research Triangle area, it could see some of the same suburban anti-Trump shift. Alamance was also the scene of an ugly confrontation over the weekend when police officers pepper-sprayed protesters blocking traffic as part of a march to an early-vote site. If Trump’s margins narrow here, it’s bad news for the president.
7. Gwinnett County, Georgia (polls close 7 p.m. ET)
If Biden is to pull off the upset, it will start in the state’s second-largest county, Gwinnett, a stunningly diverse Atlanta suburb that Democrats are hoping to run up a 60-40 advantage in — although if polls suggesting that Trump has made marginal gains with Hispanic, Asian American and even Black voters are true, that may be difficult.
8. Hidalgo, Willacy, Starr and Cameron Counties, Texas (polls close 8 p.m. ET)
We’re giving you four for the price of one here to examine the Rio Grande Valley. Statewide, Texans passed their entire 2016 turnout in early voting, with Trump-skeptical suburbs giving Dems hope. However, Team Blue must also boost Latino turnout here to win. While initial enthusiasm lagged, the Hispanic-heavy RGV counties have exploded since Kamala Harris campaigned in McAllen, in Hidalgo County, on Friday. These four poor, majority-Latino counties consistently rank among the lowest turnout rates in the country — and three of them surpassed their 2016 votes before Election Day even began.
Nearly three-quarters of Nevadans live in Las Vegas’ Clark County, and Biden likely needs to win that region by at least 10 percentage points — Clinton won Clark by about 11 points and won Nevada by about 2.5 points. Through early and mail ballots, Democrats have already built a formidable 90,000 vote edge that indicates a late push by Trump here in this reach state will come up short.
10. Lawrence County, Ohio (polls close 7:30 p.m. ET)
Four rural towns that Trump won with at least three-fifths of the vote have now elected Democratic mayors by roughly the same margin. If that is indicative of a larger white, working-class shift toward Biden in Appalachia, then Trump could be in major trouble. Ironton, which sits in Lawrence County, is emblematic of this trend, as it elected a 28-year-old Democrat as its mayor in a landslide.
We should know fairly early if this is a comfortable Biden win or a lengthy fight. (Trump’s promised “red wave” is incredibly unlikely.) Keep a close eye on Florida, which could have nearly all its votes counted by 9:15 p.m. ET, and Ohio, which has been counting its mail ballots before Election Day and thus has a leg up on its Rust Belt neighbors. If Biden wins either one of those, it could effectively end this thing. If Trump prevails there and in early-counting North Carolina, buckle up for a long few days: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin have no illusions of wrapping up Tuesday.
2. The Red Shift and the Red Mirage
Democratic number crunchers such as the data firm Hawkfish continue to warn of a “red mirage,” where Trump appears ahead on election night because not all of the Democrat-leaning mail ballots have arrived or been counted. That will be most pronounced in the Rust Belt states. Another factor to watch tonight: the “red shift,” where Southern states like Florida, Texas and North Carolina dump their Democrat-leaning early votes early — and Republicans make up ground with big Election Day turnout.
3. Premature Declaration
Trump has signaled his desire to claim an election night victory early, even if there are many ballots still left to count. But his argument, that late-counted mail ballots are inherently fraudulent and a victor should be announced immediately, flies in the face of the American election system — which is actually more than 3,000 county election systems, none of which requires certification sooner than a week from now.
4. Who You Gonna Call?
Get to know the data nerds. There is Arnon Mishkin, 65, the Fox News decision desk head who stood up to Karl Rove in 2012 and first called that Democrats had won control of the House of Representatives in 2018. Look to Associated Press executive editor Sally Buzbee, who is pioneering a more transparent process of explaining their decisions, due to what she says is a “more intense desire to understand it at a nitty-gritty level” from the public. Meanwhile, track the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman on Twitter for the best live, precinct-level analyses out there — and to see him call the races with his famous catchphrase: “I’ve seen enough.”
5. Last Gasp for Network News
Tonight, America will hang on the words of the likes of Chuck Todd, George Stephanopoulos, Bret Baier and Wolf Blitzer, as election night screams old media. But Big TV faces a reckoning. Cable news ratings have soared with the drama and conflict of President Trump. Will they lose relevance if the programmer-in-chief is dethroned? Stars from digital upstarts like Blaze Media’s Gaston Mooney and Blavity’s Morgan DeBaun could make us all cord-cutters for good.
6. Online Influencers
They may not grab the mic on election night, but if the race drags on for a few days, you can bet that conservatives and liberals alike will be pushing their messages to the masses over Facebook — no matter what measures the social network takes to tamp them down. The platform has had a major conservative bent as of late, with commentators Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino amassing huge organic followings — and if they adopt Trumpian talking points about voter fraud and the evils of mail ballots, their viewers could lead the charge to call the race for Trump early. Meanwhile, Democrats will try to counter that messaging with paid advertisements, led by progressive digital gurus like Acronym’s Tara McGowan.
getting out the vote
We asked you how you were turning friends and family out to vote. Here are some of the best responses.
My mother hasn’t voted sinceJFK was shot. She was working for a bank in the village of Park Forest, and my brother and I were both in grade school when it happened. She kept saying she was bad luck. Finally, this year I persuaded her to vote using a mail-in ballot. I ordered her ballot. It came before mine did. I helped her to fill it out and then we both went to our early-voting site at the village hall. We are first-time mail-in ballot voters. I usually vote in person, but with COVID-19 and health concerns, we deposited our ballots in the early-vote-by-mail box. We both voted for Biden and Harris, and I was proud to see my mom finally vote again. Stay safe and mask up.
I have gotten many friends registered to vote. The hardest one being my fiancé, who has never taken an interest in politics prior to this year. Yes, this is his first time ever voting. I had to really work on him because he was very upset at the system in general for denying his unemployment. He holds grudges in a big way and is very stubborn. I begged him to vote for Trump, for my children and my grandbabies’ futures, and he chose to do that. This is my son’s third time voting. He is 26. All of my friends, including my fiancé, myself and my son, are voting for Trump! Trump will win!
3. Iris Lopez, Illinois
I was talking to my ex-husband on the phone two weeks ago, and he said he wasn’t going to vote because many people on social media were telling him that his vote wouldn’t count anyway, so why bother? He has voted before, so I talked to him for a while, explaining that it was exactly what Trump wanted. He wanted you to think it wouldn’t matter. … “So why vote?” I spoke to him yesterday though and he was heading to the polls to vote.