This Is a Blog: Numbers Time: Election Results 2020

Friday, December 18, 2020

Numbers Time: Election Results 2020

In 2016, I was quick to post something because there was a reason. The results were confusing, and I wanted to address a false narrative. This election was a lot more straight forward. One candidate clearly won, and there weren’t any serious third party candidates. Don’t let the numbers fool you, though. Looking forward to 2024, I want to look backwards to 2016. We have a President doing things I would consider unambiguously unpresidential, and he lost re-election big time. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.

State by state, the president actually made some serious gains. If you’re a Democrat, even this landslide election isn't great news. If you think Americans will fight against the rise of a dictator, this isn’t great news. If you’re like me, the moment they called Pennsylvania, a massive weight lifted from your shoulders. I don’t want to take that away from anyone, but the fight is far from over. Step one is admitting the problem. Here are a few things you may not know:

Blue States are Getting More Red

In 51 races (including DC), the president’s percentage of the vote changed 2% or less from 2016 in all but four races. To be clear, that means almost everything I’m about to say is within the margin of error. I rounded all results to the nearest percentage (.1-.4 round down, .5-.9 round up), so in 17 states there was basically no change. In 5 blue states (and one red we’ll get into later), he went down 1%. In 3 blue states, he went down 2%

On the other hand, in 9 red and blue states, he gained 1%. This includes New York state, so keep in mind in a state with that many people, 1% represents tens of thousands of people. In 12 red and blue states, he gained 2%. This includes blue strongholds with huge populations, California and Illinois. Of course, I’m not at all concerned New York, California, and Illinois are going red any time soon, but if you think about the left-leaning voters mobilizing to take down the president, you also have to think about even more right-leaning voters turning out to stop them. It wasn’t enough to overcome huge democratic majorities, but they’re there, and there are a lot of them.

The Other Swing State Story

I’m defining swing states as states where the president won 52%-48%. All the focus is on Georgia, where the president lost 1%. In all the other 8 swing states, he maintained or gained. North Carolina went for Obama, but now two elections in a row, the president won 50%. Early on Election Day, Google called Texas for Biden, but of course Texas didn’t flip, no matter what prognosticators were saying. It’s of course a good sign Texas isn’t getting MORE red, but all the supposed gains in democratic voters are being canceled out by Republican voters. Most troubling is that in formerly solid swing state Florida, the president gained 2%.

Nevada stayed blue, but the president gained 2%. If I were to write this four years ago, Nevada wouldn’t even be a swing state, with 46%.

The other 4 swing states, like Georgia, flipped blue, and in our system, that’s what turned the election. It’s a minor miracle Arizona flipped, but he gained 1%. Pennsylvania is now the swing state Ohio once was, and it’s definitely good that it flipped, but the president gained 1%.

In 2016, many were shocked that Michigan and Wisconsin went red, and I assume those same people were relieved both flipped back. But in Michigan, the president gained 1%, and in Wisconsin, the president gained 2%. I’m assuming Gary Johnson accounts for that change, but that means the president could potentially have won by even more in 2016.

We liked to consider Gary Johnson as the safe alternative in 2016, but it would seem a lot of those voters would have voted for the president instead. Perhaps, the right isn’t as against him as some of us want to believe they are.

Red Shift

The largest negative shift was -2% in Maryland and Delaware, of course. Biden’s backyard went all in on him. Connecticut also went -2%, but that’s it, only 3 states moved away from the president more than 1%.

On the other end of the spectrum, Idaho dug in their heels. They went from 59% to 64%, a gain of 5%. There is not a single state where he lost by that much.

Even more alarming are a 3% increase in New Mexico and a 4% increase in Hawaii. New Mexico has been blue for a while, but it’s hardly a democratic stronghold. This is a trend in the wrong direction. Obama’s home state went even further in on the guy whose purpose in life seems to be undermining and discrediting their state’s favorite son.

Red states are getting redder, and blue states are also getting redder.

The Curious Case of Utah

I have absolutely no idea how to interpret Utah. In 2016, they were the only state with Evan McMullin on the ballot. He is every Democrat’s worst nightmare. He’s smart, compassionate, well-spoken, and very likable. Utah rewarded him with 21% of the vote, a lot more than Johnson and Stein combined in any given state.

This leaves me with numbers I don’t know what to do with. Looking just at the president, he gained 13% in Utah, 45% up to 58%, a minority victory to a landslide. On its face, it would seem the state of Mitt Romney, the presidents harshest critic from his own party, is going all in on the president.

On the other hand, if you combine his 46% with McMullin’s 21%, then in 2016 Republicans won 66%, meaning they lost 8% this go round. What does that mean for Utah republicans?

Maybe it just means democratic voters turned out in greater numbers this time. It could also mean that about Utah republicans that these McMullin voters are an untapped resource. Maybe it means a majority of them would vote for a centrist democrat over a Republican ideologue. Maybe next time, we shouldn’t fear a candidate worse than this president. We should be worried about an Evan McMullin.

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Blogger Nulla Lex Ink. said...

Excellent write up as always Adam :) Before I get into my own take on some things, lemme just respond to what you said back in November. I meant to earlier but unfortunately I got very sick around that time. Anyways, I think you deserve to have many more fans, but if I'm the only one, well, I'm happy to be :)

This election was a sort of odd one, all things considered. On election night, I thought for sure Trump would end up winning, despite it being said he'd likely lead on election night and gradually lose it as time went on. I thought the Rust Belt states would end up being much closer than they were in that moment, but it seemed they were safely in his column. I also thought the same thing about the senate race in Michigan - which ended up being one of the closest its had in awhile. Because of that, despite Biden winning PA, WI and MI, I do believe they're all still swing states, and I also believe Nevada has gained that status as well, or at the very least is inching ever closer to it.

That being said, I think Arizona and Georgia were just flukes for Biden. In Arizona I truly believe there was a sort of reverse downballot effect - that is, a lot of people voted for Biden because they were voting for the very popular Mark Kelly. And of course he leaned into his friendship with the also very popular deceased senator John McCain, which certainly helped. He also benefited from Georgia being in focus so much due to its status as a "Senate swing state," so to speak. I think, in an alternate universe with no Mark Kelly and no focus on Georgia (for example, either Isaakson doesn't retire or a more substantial candidate than Loeffler is picked by the Republicans), we would have seen Trump hold onto both of these states.

Taking all this into account, I think the Democrats should enjoy their victory, but they shouldn't get cocky in it, because it's not so much that Joe Biden won the election, it's that Trump lost it. You know how people said Bernie performed worse in 2020 because in 2016 they weren't voting for him, they were voting against Clinton? I think that applies 100% to the 2020 general election. Under the Biden-Harris ticket, the Democratic party saw record turnout, seeing the man get over 80 million votes, well over the previous record, and yet he still only narrowly beat Trump in many states. And as you pointed out, Trump GAINED in a lot of states. Imagine a world where Trump hadn't outraged the Democratic base as much as he had, or if he had been a more traditional Republican candidate.

January 20, 2021 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Nulla Lex Ink. said...

Apparently Bush said today that Biden was the only person who could have beaten Trump, but once again I find myself disagreeing with the former president. I think Biden only won because he was running against Trump. Biden, in my opinion, ran a uniquely horrible presidential campaign. I realize part of that was because of precautions related to the pandemic, and I respect that, but gods honest truth, I see him as just a redux of Dukakis and Kerry, but somehow even more lethargic and uncharismatic. I'm not kidding when I say I thought at some points he didn't even want to win. And lets be honest, its a miracle he even bounced back and won the nomination. If either Buttigieg or Sanders had better appeal among African Americans, one of the key Democratic demographics, or if Buttigieg had been stubborn and stayed in the race, it would have been one of them heading the ticket.

So what does all of this mean? Well, if Biden decides to run in 2024 and the Republicans nominate a candidate in the same vein as previous ones, I think he's gonna have a hard time winning again, and if they nominate someone like McMullin (young, charismatic, presidential), he won't have a snowball's chance. Either way, he won't have the benefit of running against an unpopular incumbent. In fact, I think the Republicans will do all they can to shed the Trump association. I could potentially see them even use some of Biden's antics from this election against him (ie his "aggressive" behavior at debates, telling a voter during the primaries he was "full of shit") by painting him as the more Trumpier of the two candidates, if only in behavior. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but I don't rank anything as being too ridiculous for modern politics.

As for if its Harris, I think she'd probably receive a strong primary challenger regardless of if she is just running or ascended, since people really seem to dislike her, and the one time we had a VP ascend since the McGovern-Fraser primary reforms, they received a challenger. Granted, that was Ford and he was unelected entirely, but still, I think it's an indication of a modern reaction to any ascended president. Even Al Gore, a pretty popular VP, received a primary challenger when he ran, and although Bill Bradley's campaign didn't get far, it still shows that the notion of "clearing the way" isn't really there now.

Unless the base stays as devoted after Trump's ousting, I believe 2022 will be a wake up call for 2024. Can the party win without outrage AND with an uncharismatic candidate? Well, I think the Democratic party needs to look at Doug Jones and take him as a warning. He too was a fairly milquetoast and unexciting candidate, but he pulled off an upset because people were angry about the Republican candidate (rightly so). Then 2020 came along, a year where the Republicans put up a traditional, likeable candidate, and he lost by 30%.

Now I'm not saying Biden is at risk of losing 30% on a nationwide scale, and I realize Alabama is a deeply Republican state. But as you said, a lot of states trended more Republican in 2020, and that's in spite of the unpopular man heading the ticket. It potentially bodes ill is all I'm saying.

Regardless of all that, a new administration came into office today, so I have a couple of new names to add to my lists and a few new fun facts to come up with. Plus, I want to live to see the inauguration of the 50th individual to president, so I'm only five off now :)

January 20, 2021 at 8:48 PM  

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