Welcome to COMMENTARY’s Election Day live blog. As the polls close around the country, John Podhoretz, Abe Greenwald, Christine Rosen, and Noah Rothman will share their observations here:
2:11 AM, JOHN PODHORETZ: My closing thought: Elections are amazing. Every presidential election since 1992 has created its own original drama—with the sole exception of the excruciating and never-in-doubt 1996. In all my reckonings of what this evening would be like, the idea that we would be seeing Trump win in Florida because of Hispanic turnout, the idea that Georgia suddenly began to look like a Biden state after looking like a Trump state, the idea that we are in fact not going to know who the president will be for a day at least….there’s no drama like real drama. Hoo boy. Buckle up. Americans are very interesting people and they do very interesting things.
10:53 PM, NOAH ROTHMAN: A glimpse into the future of the GOP:
In Georgia, appointed incumbent Sen. Kelly Loffler has managed to box out Rep. Doug Collins in the “jungle primary” that will head to a runoff in December. But while polls suggested Democrat Raphael Warnock would emerge with a large plurality of the vote, he has languished in the mid-twenties, right on par with Loeffler. Her campaign, in which she presented herself as “more conservative than Attila the Hun” who would “eliminate the liberal scribes” and acted as though she had never heard of the “Access Hollywood” tape, is on a victorious trajectory. Meanwhile, in North Carolina’s 11th congressional district, incoming Representative Madison Cawthorn celebrated his one victory in a similarly polarizing fashion: “Cry more, lib.”
At this point, it seems rather hard to avoid the conclusion that, whatever the outcome of the 2020 elections, the GOP in 2021 will be, at least in a dispositional sense, a Trumpy party, with or without the current president in the Oval Office.
10:17 PM, CHRISTINE ROSEN: It’s odd to watch an identity politics battle play out in real-time, but that’s what is happening tonight among the elite commentators who have been its most vociferous proponents. As news filtered in that Trump was doing well among Hispanic voters, Atlantic contributor Jemele Hill tweeted, “If Trump wins reelection, it’s on white people. No one else.”
And 1619 Project doyenne Nikole Hannah-Jones went on a tear on her Twitter feed trying to parse with meticulous calibrations the varieties of the Hispanic experience (“I’ve studied and traveled to Cuba, the DR [Dominican Republic] and Brazil,” she assures us). “People are consistently surprised by how Latinos trail only white voters in their support for Trump, but this is simply an unsophisticated understanding of the Latino as a category created by white po [sic],” she tweeted.
The not-so-subtle thing they are doing is trying to magically turn Hispanic voters who went for Trump into white voters because it’s the only way they can wrap their heads around this evening’s results thus far. It’s fascinating (and also alarming) to watch it happen in real-time. If Biden rallies thanks to the votes of suburban white women in the Midwest, many of whom were derided as patriarchal handmaidens when they voted for Trump in 2016, there will be even more identity politics confusion at hand.
Meanwhile, according to Hannah-Jones and Hill, “white” still encompasses a single, unified, and, in this rendering, supremacist category.
10:09 PM, NOAH ROTHMAN: Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has likely lost his bid for reelection in Colorado, but Republican Tommy Tuberville has defeated incumbent Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama. So Democrats have so far achieved a net gain of nothing in the upper chamber of Congress. And, as of this writing, Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina and David Perdue in Georgia are beating the expectations set by public polling. With the possible exception of Susan Collins in Maine (and she may well withstand the challenge to her seat), polling has suggested that vulnerable Republican incumbents in places like Iowa and Montana are in better shape than their Democratic opponents. We have no reason to assume they will not similarly outperform their polling averages. And all that assumes that Michigan’s senate race really isn’t as competitive as it looks right now. At the very least, Republican control of the U.S. Senate in the 117th Congress has become a thinkable prospect.
10:01 PM, JOHN PODHORETZ: Trump hasn’t just won Florida. He’s won it by 3.5 percent so far. That’s literally triple the margin of his victory in 2016.
9:16 PM, CHRISTINE ROSEN: Adding to what Noah highlighted about Trump’s performance with minority voters, a few, preliminary thoughts on the Democrats’ double-down on identity politics during this election cycle: Even if he loses the election, if Trump does better among Latino and black voters this election cycle than he did in 2016, that’s a sign that the hyper-conscious focus on race by the left has not persuaded the voters it claims to be speaking for. Biden played the intersectional game explicitly by choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate, and white, college-educated voters who are the Democrats’ major base on these issues love the intersectional, anti-racism talk, but if it doesn’t resonate broadly with voters (and turns off non-college-educated voters), will they have a reason to rethink it?
Likewise, on the progressive economic message, Biden repeatedly stating that he’s not a socialist (as opposed to specifically calling out the more extreme Democratic-Socialist messages on his own side from the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) might not have been enough to convince Cuban-American and Venezuelan-American voters in Florida, or non-college-educated voters in other parts of the country, that the economy is safe in his hands. If Biden wins, it will be interesting to see if he will distance himself from the rhetoric of the progressive Squad (even as he has promised to tax and spend like a progressive).
9:11 PM, JOHN PODHORETZ: One theory to be discarded as a result of the vote so far, if it indicates that Georgia and Texas are won relatively comfortably by Donald Trump, is that Joe Biden was going to build on the Democratic surge in these states in 2018. The absence of Trump at the top of the ticket in 2018 may have meant that GOP voters stayed home because they had become Trump voters, not GOP voters, and that want they really want to do is vote for Trump rather than for the GOP generally.
8:53 PM, NOAH ROTHMAN: Here’s something few saw coming:
If Florida’s results are indicative of what we’re going to see across the country, Donald Trump will have significantly improved on his performance among key minority demographics. That’s seismic enough. But the flip side of that coin would be, if Democrats manage to pull off victories nationwide sufficient to win the Senate and the White House, they could do so as a result of the support they got from persuadable crossover white voters in affluent and educated suburbs. For a party that is increasingly dedicated to the redistribution of not just economic but social benefits, much of which are predicated on the presumption of vast and often unconscious personal and systemic biases, that could present a real political conundrum in 2021.
8:29 PM, NOAH ROTHMAN: A note on Florida:
Despite a decline in Trump’s support in some of the counties around Florida metros like Tampa and Jacksonville–areas that he won in 2016—Joe Biden both underperformed Hillary Clinton and Trump overperformed in places like Miami-Dade Country. That improvement both reflects Trump’s support this year among Hispanic voters and a consistent failure of high-quality polls to capture the strength of the Republican vote in the Sunshine state.
In 2016, Donald Trump’s Real Clear Politics average polling lead in Florida was just 0.4 percent, and Sen. Marco Rubio was leading with an average of 3.7 percent. On election day, Trump won the state by 1.2 points and Rubio emerged victorious with 7.7 percent. In 2018, Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum led in the average of polls by 3.6 percent on election day and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson led by 2.4 percent. Both lost—Gillum, by 0.4 percent to Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Nelson by 0.2 percent. Narrow misses, of course, which may be explicable by these individual polls’ respective margins of error. But misses nonetheless and within a consistent range on average. On the morning of election day 2020, Biden led in the average of polls by just shy of 1 percent. If Trump wins by 2 points, his victory would fit within an observable pattern.
8:25 PM, JOHN PODHORETZ: Trump’s victory in Florida raises the following analogies: In 2018, when Republicans won both the Senate seat and the governor’s mansion at the beginning of the night, James Carville went on MSNBC and said there was no blue wave. Then…there was a blue wave. But in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s performance in South Florida was a sign she was underperforming with African-Americans. Could that be the case in 2020 with Joe Biden?
8:11 PM, CHRISTINE ROSEN: Ladies and gentlemen, someone on the left side of the aisle is nervous about tonight and has called in the big guns, namely: actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who is urging voters in Minnesota to get out there and do the right thing because “the future of our democracy” depends on them. Question for you film buffs, do we know if Leo has ever set foot in Minnesota? And a note to celebrities: best to steer clear of any hint of Titanic references on election night.
7:46PM, CHRISTINE ROSEN: Kamala Harris made several appearances in Florida around Halloween, including in Miami, as the race tightened in Florida. Biden’s campaign sent Pete Buttigieg to Pinellas County as its surrogate around the same time, where he met with veterans and hosted an LGBTQ event, suggesting the campaign understood what appeals to those voters. If Biden does well in Pinellas County but flails in Miami-Dade, it is a reminder of something we all know about Harris from the Democratic primaries: she’s a less than effective pol on the campaign trail than many others who were in the race.
7:29 PM NOAH ROTHMAN: As of this writing, and with over two-thirds of the vote counted in these counties, Donald Trump is losing territory in Florida he won in 2016—places like Pinellas County near Tampa and Duval County, which is home to Jacksonville. And yet, in Miami-Dade, Trump only got around 334,000 votes in 2016. Already, with 84% of the vote in, the president has won the support of over 457,000 votes. Donald Trump could still take Florida if those trends hold statewide. But, this could also be an indication that, even as the president improves on his support among minority and urban voters, the loss of the suburbs to the GOP could prove fatal.
7:18 PM, CHRISTINE ROSEN: The Biden campaign’s message that a vote for him is a vote for a return to normalcy has clearly landed with some voters, albeit some who take voting their self-interest to new levels. Miami Herald reporter Lautaro Grinspan interviewed one 28-year-old Florida voter and notes, “He said he woke up today thinking he was going to vote for Trump BUT he changed his mind at the voting booth. He ended up picking Biden to ‘go back to normal.’ The voter said: “I just want my Instagram to be about me again, and how good I look.” As a Florida native, I just have to say: You gotta love Florida!
7:01 PM, CHRISTINE ROSEN: Much of the fear-mongering about voter intimidation at the polls and suppression failed to materialize, and Trump has issued some signals throughout the day that he is prepared to accept a loss. He visited his campaign headquarters in Virginia a few hours ago and said he hadn’t yet thought about either a concession speech or a victory speech, but acknowledged that “losing isn’t easy, especially for me.” His mood was subdued. Very different from the man we’ve seen dancing on stage at rallies the last week.
6:59 PM, NOAH ROTHMAN: Dovetailing with what Abe has written below, in the two weeks leading up to election day, political commentary on the center-left focused on the threat to the integrity of the vote represented by anticipated obstacles at the polls. There were prohibitively long lines at early voting places. There was anticipation that the absentee vote would be lost—or stalled—in the mail. There was the expectation that there would be intimidation efforts at the polls designed to suppress the vote.
Guess what? This seems to have been among the smoothest Election Days in recent memory. As NBC News reported, “election officials appeared to have learned from the disarray of the 2016 contest and primaries earlier this year and their quick fixes seemed to be working.” Even Democratic groups have had to concede the point: “Despite fears of the threat of intimidation or even violence around polling places, watchdog groups like Common Cause said it had seen no major reports of either.”
It’s possible that those who issued these predictions had an unduly dim view of the integrity of both average Americans and the country’s elected and appointed officials. Some might even call it paranoid.
6:56 PM, ABE GREENWALD: I’ll follow up on Christine’s good news with an additional non-apocalyptic thought: We haven’t seen reports of intimidation at polling sites, have we? There have been some suspicious robocalls, but that’s about it. It was only a few weeks ago that pundits were exercised about the prospect of groups showing up to prevent Americans from voting and all the precautions that should be in place to stop it. Now, we barely remember that that was an issue. It’s almost as if it…never was.
6:41 PM, CHRISTINE ROSEN: In Washington, D.C., the area around the White House, which was fortified with no-scale fencing and other precautions overnight, had a few hundred people milling around and dancing to a go-go band in the late afternoon. A little after 5pm, as it started to get dark, there was an arrest, although it’s not clear for what. The large crowds raise the question, yet again, about why no one seems concerned about the pandemic tonight (even as it is one of the major issues for voters).
One bit of good news amid all the election anxiety: Estimates put voter turnout around 67 percent. That’s the highest it has been in a century.
6:30 PM, JOHN PODHORETZ: Hi, everybody. So once again everyone is freaking out about Florida, which has allowed all of social media to freak out because it’s reporting numbers on the party affiliations of everyone who has voted in real time. So we know, at this point, that Republican-registered voters are 200,000 more in number than Democratic-registered voters. But that’s out of 8 million votes between the two parties, and there’s a running debate among election nerds about whether this is better or worse than expected for whomever you want. Basically…it’s going to be close. Is all we know.