As the final votes of Nov. 3 are tallied, it has become clear that Joe Biden is our president-elect, regardless of President Donald Trump’s unsurprising, stubborn defiance. He is the first president to lose re-election since President Bush Sr. in 1992.
Polls largely predicted the outcome - quite unlike four years ago - but similarly to 2016, it came down to nailbiter contests in a handful of battleground states. Nevertheless, Biden won a majority of the popular vote, with a lead exceeding 6 million raw votes.
Biden won the Electoral College 306 to 232, the exact tally by which Trump had initially prevailed in 2016, by flipping seventy-four electoral votes from five states and Nebraska’s second congressional district. Trump didn’t win any states or districts Hillary Clinton had carried, but did retain an electoral vote in Maine (his margin of victory slid from 10.3% to 6.7%).
If not for 66,024 votes between Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and the Nebraska district, however, Trump could have won with the minimum 270 electoral votes. Some have pointed this out to argue against our electoral system.
Of the five flipped states, two are from the Sun Belt: Arizona and Georgia. The others are the Rust Belt states Trump famously claimed by under one percent each in 2016: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Many believed the latter group to be the Democrat’s most feasible path to the White House, whereas the incumbent stood little chance without their combined 46 electoral votes. Indeed, no part of the trio had voted Republican for president since the 1980s, and in the 2018 midterms, all three elected both Democratic governors and U.S. senators. Biden would win each by only narrow margins, which suggests they will remain hotly-contested battlegrounds in the future.
Fun fact: Iowa and Ohio are two other Midwestern states which had backed both of Obama’s victories. However, they respectively delivered Trump larger margins of victory and a larger share of the vote than Texas had, in both 2016 and 2020.
Arizona and Georgia, however, are fresh battlegrounds as the minority, college-educated, and youth shares of the vote - all of whom trend left - are increasing. From 1952 onward, the Grand Canyon State had only voted Democratic for Bill Clinton in 1996; that year, he also became the last Democrat to win the Peach State since native son Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Many pundits thought it was a matter of when, not if, both would flip. In the presidential races from 2000 to 2012, Republicans won Arizona by 6.3%; 10.5%; 8.5% and 9%, but four years ago, Trump carried its eleven electoral votes by merely 3.5% and failed to win a majority.
For Georgia, those same statistics are 11.7%; 16.6%; 5.2% and 7.8%. Trump won here by just 5.1% in 2016, though he did win 50.44% of the overall vote.
Both states have also garnered more attention in down-ballot races, however. Arizona elected a Democrat to the Senate in 2018 for the first time in thirty years and would oust GOP incumbent Martha McSally this cycle. (Coincidentally, a slim 2.4% margin decided both races). Five of the state’s nine congressional districts went blue this year.
Governor Brian Kemp won in Georgia by under 55,000 votes in 2018, with many blaming voter suppression for his victory. This year, both the state’s Senate seats were up for grabs. As no candidate won a majority in either, both races now head to a January runoff, enjoying intense publicity as they will determine which party controls the chamber for the next two years.
Ultimately, the Biden-Harris ticket carried these states and their combined twenty-seven electoral votes by a slender 10,457 and 12,670 votes, respectively.
Two other large Sun Belt states, Texas and Florida, would deliver results of particular interest this year, showing rare instances of Clinton-turned-Trump voters. As such, both would remain in the GOP column this year, although many believed them to be potential battlegrounds (particularly the latter, as it has perennially held such status).
The Lone Star State last voted Democratic for president in 1976. From 2000 to 2012, GOP nominees carried Texas by 21.3%; 22.9%; 11.8% and 15.8%. While the margins have noticeably decreased, the state continues to vote far more Republican than the country at-large.
Trump would carry Texas by just 9% in 2016, winning 52.2% of the total vote, and in 2018, Beto O’Rourke came within 2.6 points of unseating Senator Cruz. This year, Trump won a similar 52.0% of the state’s vote, with a marginal difference of 5.7% over Biden. GOP Senator John Cornyn won a fourth term by 9.7%. Numerous heavily Latino counties in western and southern Texas voted up to forty to sixty percent more Republican than in 2016, notably.
Florida was one of few battlegrounds Trump secured this year, by a healthy 51.2% to 47.9% spread. Miami-Dade, the state’s largest county wherein two-thirds of residents are Hispanic or Latino, voted Democratic by a 29.6% margin in 2016, but Biden carried the county by a paltry 7.3%. Trump made smaller gains in several other South Florida counties of similar demographics.
All in all, the people have spoken and another election has come and gone. On Jan. 20, 2021, a new chapter of American history will begin.