The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden inches closer to victory
Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday. We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators, and readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 230,996; Tuesday, 231,562; Wednesday, 232,626; Thursday, 233,729.
Former Vice President Joe Biden set a new record for the most votes won by a U.S. presidential candidate and is within striking distance of winning the White House. President Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes narrowed on Wednesday as his campaign filed court challenges in key battleground states he won four years ago, including in Wisconsin and Michigan, states now in Biden’s column.
Biden, accompanied by his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), told supporters in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday that he is confident of victory: “I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.”
While Democrats nervously celebrated projected triumphs in tough states, they were downbeat about the expectations for a narrow GOP majority in the Senate. In the House, Democrats looked for someone to blame for a loss of seats on Tuesday. At best, Democrats are likely to face a divided government in 2021 — an outcome that would throw cold water on Biden’s agenda for transformative bipartisan legislation.
Las Vegas Review-Journal: Nevada is set to release new vote totals from Clark County this morning. As of updates late Wednesday, Biden leads in Nevada 49.3 percent to Trump’s 48.7 percent.
Philadelphia Inquirer: Trump, Republicans sharpen legal attacks on Pennsylvania ballots as the count continues. As of 9:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Pennsylvania had 99 percent of precincts reporting but only 71 percent of mail ballots counted. Of the mail ballots counted so far, 77 percent were cast for Biden.
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Thousands of absentee ballots still need to be counted in Georgia. Early this morning, Biden pulled within 23,000 votes of the president’s lead.
AZ Central: As counting proceeds, Biden’s lead in Arizona narrowed with a new batch of results posted Wednesday evening. News outlets put the state in Biden’s win column, but all eyes are on the next batch of results today from Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.
If Trump is defeated when the election results are complete, he would join Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush in the modern era of single-term presidents.
The Hill’s Niall Stanage takes a look at some winners and losers from a wild election night that hasn’t ended yet.
Which states were still counting ballots (as of Wednesday) and when will they be done? (Reuters).
> Courts and legal issues: Republicans and the Trump campaign deployed an aggressive legal strategy on Wednesday while racing to challenge results in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Legal experts, however, disputed whether the litigation will substantially alter who wins the White House.
The president’s campaign said on Wednesday it will ask for a recount in Wisconsin. The Associated Press projects Biden is the winner of Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes. A recount is automatically conducted in Wisconsin at the state’s expense if the margin is less than 0.25 percentage points. But candidates can request a recount if they agree to pay, provided the margin is under 1 percentage point (The Washington Post).
The Trump campaign also filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Michigan state court demanding access to locations where ballots are being counted. The campaign said it seeks a temporary halt in the counting until it is given “meaningful access” in numerous locations and allowed to review ballots that have been opened and processed (The Associated Press). Michigan also went to Biden’s column on Wednesday.
In Georgia, the Trump campaign and the Georgia Republican Party filed a lawsuit against the Chatham County Board of Elections asking a judge to order the county to secure and account for ballots received after 7 p.m. on Election Day. Chatham County contains Savannah and leans Democratic (The Associated Press).
The Trump team asked at least three counties in Pennsylvania for a rundown of specific election security plans — including ballot storage locations and transportation details. The Pennsylvania secretary of state has advised counties not to disclose election security information to any third parties and has reached out to the FBI. Election officials in Cumberland, Mercer and Montour counties — all of which are delaying mail-in ballot canvassing until Wednesday morning — received the email from a Gmail address connected to a Trump campaign volunteer. Cumberland County Commissioner Gary Eichelberger told NBC News that in his 16 years in office, he has “never seen anything like” the Trump campaign’s request.
Bill Stepien, manager of Trump’s campaign, told reporters late Wednesday, “We are declaring a victory in Pennsylvania.”
The president in the wee hours of Wednesday told supporters gathered in the East Room that he wanted the Supreme Court to block ballots completed before Election Day but returned after Nov. 3 in some states. The New York Times explains what Trump appeared to have in mind and how justices left the door open. Legal experts say the issues that roped in the Supreme Court in 2000 in Florida do not exist as any kind of precedent in 2020 (Bloomberg Law).
NBC News: Some Republicans parted company with Trump, urging patience to tally the votes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “It’s not unusual for people to claim they won the election … but claiming you won the election is different from finishing the counting.”
The Associated Press: Trump backers converge on voting centers in Michigan, Arizona to shout “stop the count,” as anti-Trump demonstrators swarm streets in major cities to call for complete ballot counts in states where the final tally will decide the next president.
The Hill: Deeply divided nation shows blue islands in a red sea.
Perspectives and analysis:
Joe Lieberman, The Wall Street Journal: A disputed election: My lessons from 2000.
The New York Times editorial board: Let the votes be counted. Please, don’t listen to the president.
Francisco Toro, The Washington Post: Florida was always the cynical goal behind Trump’s disastrous Latin America policies.
Kyle Smith, National Review: The media need to reflect on this election result.
Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine: Three reasons Biden flipped the Midwest.
Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times analysis: Win or lose, Trump will remain a powerful and disruptive force.
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg Opinion: Trump’s election lawsuits are legally hollow.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: Outside of Biden’s contest that seems to be breaking in his direction, the 2020 elections were a nightmare for Democrats, who failed to reach expectations in either congressional chamber despite being fueled across the 2020 map by big money that failed to deliver results.
As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, Senate Democrats are feeling disappointed after Election Day as the blue wave that pollsters and handicappers predicted in recent weeks failed to form. Any chance of Democrats retaking the Senate was virtually slammed shut on Wednesday when Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) pulled off a massive victory for the GOP, defeating Democrat Sara Gideon, who conceded the race to the incumbent Republican earlier Wednesday (The Hill).
Democrats also continue to trail in North Carolina, where Sen. Thom Tillis (R) leads Cal Cunningham by 1.8 percentage points with 94 percent of precincts reporting. Tillis declared victory on Tuesday night, but no outlet or network has declared him the winner yet.
The Washington Post: Final batch of results in North Carolina not likely to be known until Nov. 12.
The Associated Press: Democrats’ Senate drive halted by GOP; key races undecided.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) on Wednesday defeated Republican John James in Michigan. Republicans had seen the contest as one of the few pick-up opportunities this cycle.
In all, four Senate seats remain up for grabs. Outside of North Carolina, contests remain undetermined in Alaska, though Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) is the favorite to return to Washington, and Georgia, where two Senate contests could go to a January runoff. One runoff between Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and Democrat Raphael Warnock will take place, but the fate of the race between Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Democrat Jon Ossoff remains unknown. As of this morning, Perdue has 50.1 percent of the vote with 95 percent of precincts reporting. If Perdue falls below the 50 percent marker, it would trigger another runoff in January.
The result is also a major blow to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who likely has been thwarted in his bid to snag McConnell’s post to control business in front of the chamber.
Politico: How Senate Republicans averted catastrophe.
In the House, the expectations that Democrats would expand the majority by 10 to 15 seats landed with a thud, as Republicans have picked up a net of six seats thus far, with a number of races still waiting to be called as mail-in votes are counted. On Wednesday, Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) conceded to Republican Ashley Hinson in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, while Republican Peter Meijer won Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District. Meijer takes over from outgoing independent Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.).
The GOP also won a key toss-up race on Wednesday as Victoria Spartz defeated Democrat Christina Hale in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, a seat that sits in the Indianapolis suburbs. Spartz will replace the retiring Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.).
The losses will almost certainly have an impact on the House Democratic Caucus in the coming months. According to reporting by The Hill’s Mike Lillis and Scott Wong, two moderate House Democrats indicated that they, along with other centrists, are discussing an option that was unthinkable only hours earlier: throwing their support behind a challenger to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Amber Phillips, The Washington Post: House Democrats’ losses crystallize a disappointing down-ballot election so far for the party.
Axios: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gears up to run for Speaker in 2022.
Politico: GOP leaders locking up support to stay atop caucus.
> Lame-duck Congress: McConnell on Wednesday said he wants a coronavirus relief deal before the end of the year. The Kentucky Republican, who was reelected on Tuesday, said it is too early to know which party will have the Senate majority next year. When lawmakers return to Washington next month, he said the Senate’s priorities will be to fund the government, approve pandemic aid and confirm judicial nominees (The Hill).
The Hill: Uncertainty, Trump loom over packed year-end agenda.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
MORE POLITICS: In Florida, Latino voters helped Trump win the state on Tuesday. Hispanic voters also helped flip Arizona, once a GOP bastion, for Democrat Biden, presenting a clear but complex example of the diversity of Latino voters, who are not monolithic in their politics. Some candidates understood that challenge and deployed discrete campaign messages to reach subsets of an increasingly influential demographic (The Hill). … With another Florida loss, Democrats are second guessing the party’s approach to Latino voters compared with Trump’s (The Associated Press).
> Watched around the globe: The U.S. election transfixed a world that still sees America as a beacon for democracy (including in a Venezuela restaurant, pictured below) (The Washington Post). … Security experts and election officials were pleased that no malicious or foreign-based cyber incident emerged in public view to disrupt the U.S. contest, as Russian interference did four years ago (The Hill). Nonetheless, this week’s suspenseful vote counting presents new openings for the spread of election disinformation and destabilizing misinformation (The Hill). … What if Trump works to thwart turnover of power if Biden locks up 270 electoral votes, ending the Trump presidency? Democrats have war-gamed scenarios involving national security (Business Insider).
> Public opinion: The polling industry is in serious trouble in the wake of the 2020 election outcomes, according to some critics. Other veteran political analysts argue that in a presidential election with more than 101 million early votes and overall record-setting participation, the survey models in some national and state surveys were destined to be wrong. The Hill’s Jonathan Easley reports on an “embarrassing election night” for the polling world.
In 2016, pollsters, in some cases unfairly, were widely perceived as off the mark. On Wednesday, they were decried as having performed worse than four years ago. The Atlantic called it a “polling crisis,” while journalist Jon Ward, writing for Yahoo Finance, said the industry has some “soul searching” to do. The gap between the pre-Election Day national poll average estimating the former vice president’s lead and actual results may turn out to be vast. In other words, polls may have tumbled toward the correct result but with bad data (Fox News). Pollster John Zogby, whose firm had predicted a narrow presidential contest, told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday he agreed that overall, polling this year was worse than in 2016. He said poll models this cycle were “getting too many Democrats and not enough Republicans,” and he hailed online versus telephone polling techniques as superior.
> Ballot initiatives: Voters in six states and the District of Columbia approved measures that will broaden the availability of previously illicit drugs for recreational or medical use on Tuesday in an across-the-board win for legalization advocates (The Hill). … There were 38 statewide citizen initiatives decided across the country on Tuesday, about half the level of the last presidential election. Oregon voters decriminalized small amounts of heroin and cocaine, while four states legalize marijuana (The New York Times). … In California, voters approved Proposition 22, which allows app-based transportation and delivery drivers to remain classified as independent contractors. Companies Uber and Lyft as well as DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart, all at the center of a $200 million-plus push for an exemption to a state law, celebrated a victory that’s expected to exempt the firms from major costs of doing business in California (Yahoo Finance).
> State legislatures: Democrats on election night initially appeared poised to pick up state legislative chambers across the country, but It did not happen. The Hill’s Reid Wilson explains.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Why both parties must figure out what drives Donald Trump voters, by former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3kYydhD
Was it faulty science or ethnocentrism that worsened the pandemic? by John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3l5aXPa
WHERE AND WHEN
The House is out.
The Senate will return to work on Nov. 9.
The president and Vice President Pence have no public events scheduled.
The Federal Reserve will release a statement this afternoon at the close of its two-day meeting. Chairman Jerome Powell will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m.
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. EST at Rising on YouTube.
➔ CORONAVIRUS: New U.S. confirmed cases of the coronavirus have climbed to an all-time high of more than 86,000 per day on average. Daily new confirmed coronavirus cases have surged 45 percent over the past two weeks and exceeded 100,000 on Wednesday (The Associated Press). … Italy will lock down a significant portion of the country beginning on Friday, including the northern regions that are its economic engine, in an effort to stop a resurgent wave of coronavirus infections. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday night that the restrictions, considered the most drastic since March and deeply unpopular with Italians, will seal off six regions. Elsewhere in Europe, the United Kingdom will be under a second lockdown today, while Poland will shut schools and shops this weekend and Lithuania will enter a full lockdown. Switzerland has called in the army to bolster hospitals. France’s health minister is pushing to extend a state of emergency until February (The New York Times). Paris also became the target of new restrictions on Thursday as Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced new provisions forcing stores selling takeout food and alcoholic beverages to close at 10 p.m. (Reuters).
Travelers to China will now have to clear testing requirements in order to enter the country. New government rules taking effect on Saturday will require travelers to obtain a nucleic acid test for the coronavirus and a blood test for COVID-19 antibodies. Both tests must be performed less than 48 hours before a traveler boards a flight to China (The New York Times).
➔ ENVIRONMENT: As expected, the United States under the Trump administration on Wednesday formally pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, which Biden says the United States would rejoin if he’s president. The next planned round of United Nations climate talks are scheduled in Glasgow, Scotland, next year. Around the world, 189 countries have ratified the accord, which aims to keep the increase in average temperatures worldwide “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit compared with pre-industrial levels (The Associated Press).
➔ FINANCIAL MARKETS: Investors cheered the idea that Washington in 2021 may be operating under divided government, believing that a Democratic White House blocked by a GOP-led Senate would mean no tax increases on businesses and the wealthy. Markets on Wednesday had their best day since June. But a divided government also makes enactment of major spending on stimulus legislation less likely because of Republican resistance. Stocks following early election results rallied on Wednesday, sending the S&P 500 index up 2.2 percent. Technology stocks, which have proved impervious to the damage inflicted on other industries by the coronavirus pandemic, led the way higher. The tech-heavy Nasdaq index rose 3.9 percent, The Associated Press reported.
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the Trump campaign’s planned challenge of results in Wisconsin, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the history of election recounts.
Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
Four years ago, there was a recount of the presidential contest in Wisconsin, which Trump won. What was the net change in votes after the recount?
- Trump +384
- Clinton +632
- Trump +131
- Clinton +101
On Election Night in 2000, how many times did the networks call Florida for then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush before the state’s recount commenced?
- None of the above
In 2018, the Senate contest between then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and then-Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) ended in a recount. What was the final margin of victory for Scott?
- 13,066 votes
- 4,563 votes
- 10,033 votes
- 698 votes
After the recount surrounding the 2008 Minnesota Senate race involving Al Franken and then-Sen. Norm Coleman, when was Franken officially sworn into office, officially giving Democrats a 60th vote and a supermajority in the upper chamber?
- March 29
- May 17
- July 7
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