Nov 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

A safe, sane way to navigate the vote count

Photos: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images; Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

America faces tense, tumultuous, uncertain days ahead: President Trump says he won, even though he hasn't. Joe Biden says he's "on track" to win, even though it'll take days — or longer — to sort through a half-dozen nail-biters.

Why it matters: Now, whatever the resolution, close to half the country is going to feel robbed. Many of them will be angry, and will refuse to accept the winner as the legit president of all the people.

⚡ The latest: The presidential race is too close to call, with four battlegrounds undecided: Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina and Nevada.

  • So many states are so tight that we could be facing multiple recounts and court challenges. And it could be days before we know the winner of North Carolina.

We got a great response to our Sunday piece, "A safe, sane way to navigate election night — and beyond." Unfortunately, we need a sequel.

  • So here are ways we can try to navigate the worrisome days ahead:

1. Buckle up and be patient. Remember that in some battlegrounds, a slight Trump lead this morning could still turn into a slight lead for Biden in the end.

  • Just before Labor Day, we told you about the "red mirage" — the concept that early results might look more Republican than the ultimate outcome.
  • The reason: Republicans are more likely to vote in person, and those are often the first votes tabulated.

2. Trust the system. There's nothing unusual about counting mail-in votes for days. That's how the system was designed. Trump can claim votes tallied after election night are invalid, but only the courts can reverse the rules.

3. Realize Republicans had a big night. It wasn’t a red wave, but it sure was a better result than virtually any GOP official imagined, especially for the House and Senate.

  • Republicans are optimistic about holding their Senate majority.
  • House Republicans may wind up gaining seats.

4. Recognize that we paid way too much attention to polls, which have even more limitations than we realized. It was a terrible night for polling. They were wrong, almost all of them, almost everywhere. Save yourself time and stop watching them so closely in elections. 

  • Because we're still missing some crucial final results, we don't know exactly how far off they were. But nearly every battleground race is looking much tighter than the polls prepared us for.
  • "The political polling profession is done," leading Republican pollster Frank Luntz told me just after 11 p.m. "It is devastating for my industry."

5. Have some humility about what you think you know about America. The media and Twitter don't understand America, writ large. Republicans resonate in ways — and with depth and breadth — neither understand. 

  • Even if Biden winds up winning, the early returns suggest durable, enthusiastic support for Trump from big swaths of the country.

6. Understand that Trump’s appeal was broader than believed. He actually found new voters. Many of them were the working-class, white males who are the base of his base. But there were more of them.

  • These results contradict the argument that his 2016 victory was a fluke or mainly a repudiation of Hillary Clinton — or that he’d be resoundingly rejected for his handling of the coronavirus.

7. Start obsessing about Hispanics. Something's happening here, but it's still not precisely clear. Biden never fully connected with Hispanics — and Republicans did better in several areas than expected. This is the fastest growing demographic, so dig into the details. 

  • Back in August, former 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro warned Alexi McCammond in an interview for "Axios on HBO" that Democrats could win the presidency in November but lose support with Latino voters, which could "benefit the Republicans in the years to come."

8. We're going to re-up the points we made about social media. There'll be mountains of bad information. Don't waste time on it, and don't share it.

  • Only pay attention to sources of information you trust and can validate with 100% certainty. Measure twice, tweet once (or, better yet, never).

We end with optimism: Be happy so many Americans voted, peacefully, amid a pandemic. 

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