Opinion: Semifinal thoughts on Election 2020
Joe Biden won the White House, we are reminded almost daily, on his third try, having run unsuccessfully in both 1988 and 2008.
It’s funny; I can’t recall, having covered the 1980 presidential race, much ever being made of the fact that that year’s winner, Republican Ronald Reagan, also won on his third White House run.
The Gipper had mounted a doomed, too-late challenge to Richard M. Nixon in 1968 and then challenged fellow Republican President Gerald R. Ford in the 1976 primaries all the way to the Kansas City, Mo., convention (where, when defeated, he made a gracious, off-the-cuff concession speech to the convention and undoubtedly helped himself for 1980).
Joe Biden, who will be 78, our oldest president ever elected, was elected by the nation’s youngest voters. According to two national surveys of 1,600 actual voters conducted on Nov. 3 by the respected Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, Biden won voters between the ages of 18 and 29 (18% of the electorate) by 65% to 23% and voters between the ages of 30 and 44 (22% of the electorate) by 53% to 38%. But the older voters between the ages of 45 and 59 preferred the younger Donald Trump, 74, over Biden by 54% to 43%.
Peter D. Hart, the dean of public opinion and co-founder of the NBC-Wall Street Journal Poll, found that 9% of 2020 voters were going to the polls for the first time, and they voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 57% to 40%. In such a close race, those newcomers made a difference, especially in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Political junkies (in whose ranks I can be found) are always looking for the bellwether county that, in every election, votes for the winning candidate. Going into Nov. 3, there were 19 counties in 11 states that have voted for the winning presidential candidate in every election since 1980. Now, according to Hart, there is only one that has voted for the winner in the last 10 presidential contests: Clallam County in Washington state, in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. The other 18 “bellwether” counties all voted for Trump.
Former George W. Bush political adviser, Karl Rove, gets credit for reminding us of how highly unlikely it is that a recount overturns the Election Day results. He points out that there have been a grand total of three statewide contests in the last half-century when recounts changed the initial outcome. They were the 1974 U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire, the 2004 gubernatorial race in the state of Washington and the 2008 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota. Here’s the kicker: The margins in those statewide races were, respectively, 355, 261 and 215 votes after Election Day.
I dislike repeating gossip, but what else are you going to do with it? A melancholy and plaintive Donald Trump, upset by the huge and spontaneous celebration outside the White House when Joe Biden’s victory was announced, “reportedly” asked, “Why do people take such an instant dislike to me?” only to be answered candidly by a soon-to-be former White House staffer, “Because, Mr. President, it saves them time.”
— Mark Shields is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.