The anxiety from watching America’s electoral sense of itself trickle in was nearly unbearable.
But all the electoral map readers are saying the election boils down to four battleground states: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and possibly Arizona.
Still, the first important count of sorts came earlier on Election Day. The Trump campaign cut down the victory party guest list at the White House from 400 — which exceeded D.C. standards but not federal ones — to 250.
250! Not the night’s magic electoral number of 270 — but perhaps that number’s first denial.
Could it be an omen that the gas light to which we’ve been subjected to these last four years is flickering out soon?
There was also the matter of the White House barricade count — actually a non-scalable fence from an administration that loves walls. Add to that the boarded shop windows in cities across the country. But who was protecting whom from what? Exactly what are we fearful of on Election Day? The voice of the American people?
Trump tweeted something this week about the potential for angry protests. But from what side? Or was he just fueling the fear? My hope is that all his talk failed to intimidate people from voting on the last day. People just want to save our democracy, not tear anything down.
While waiting for results, the media teased us with exit polls. CNN said the No. 1 issue with voters was the economy (34%). Diversity watchers will note at No. 2 was racial inequality at 21%. It was actually ahead of coronavirus (18%) and even crime (11%) and health care (11%).
Could it be there were just more people of color voting? The exit polling showed the trend toward diversity.
CNN reported that there were fewer White voters this year — 65% — down from 2016’s 71%.
Latino voters were at 13%, Blacks were at 12%. There was also a “Something Else” category at 6%. Was that mixed race? Native American? There were more in that category than in the category for “Asians,” who were at 3%. This is the reason the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund does specific targeted exit polls to counter traditional pollsters’ lack of a significant sample size.
The exit polling demonstrated a trend that even the GOP identified prior to 2016, before it was romanced by Trump.
On this presidential election night in 2020, we had the look of the new America: a shrinking White electorate compared to a growing diverse one that sees racial inequality as an issue more important than health care.
The other key exit poll fact that should be meaningful is the increase in educated voters. College-educated voters were at 45%, up 5% from 2016. Non-college educated were still the majority at 55%. Why isn’t that number flipped?
Still, the small increase in the college-educated, especially in the suburbs, could be significant once all the votes are counted.
THE VOTE COUNT
Finally, at 7 p.m. (EST) the first states started to release projections. CNN gave Indiana and its 11 electoral votes to Trump. That was expected.
But the four states to watch again are Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona.
If Biden wins just one of those four, he glides to 270 electoral votes.
That made Florida and its faster count a nail-biter. In the first batch of votes, Florida and its 29 electoral votes flashed blue with Biden in the lead in Trump’s home state. In minutes, Florida was at 75% of the vote, and Biden was still up, 50.3% to Trump’s 48.7%. By 8 p.m. EST, with 81% of the vote, Trump and Biden were trading razor thin leads. At 92% of the vote, Trump was ahead by less than 2%.
Conservative Hispanics buoying up Trump? Diversity!
Biden fans who hoped for a quick night may be disappointed by Florida. But remember it was all based on the assumption that Biden wins Wisconsin and Michigan — which have been leaning blue. He’s doing better in the states Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.
And then there’s North Carolina. With more than 70% of the vote, Biden was up 51.4 % to 47.5% for Trump.
Trump can lose the so-called blue wall in the North. But he needs to hold steady the red wall of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona. All four states.
Even if Trump wins Florida, he can’t lose North Carolina and expect to get to 270.
If he does, it makes whatever post-election legal battle over the votes in Pennsylvania moot.
But hope springs eternal until someone amasses the needed electoral votes. And if things continue to see-saw as all the votes are counted, and/or litigated, that may not happen until December.
No one has 270 now. And at this rate, the race won’t be settled before both candidates’ bedtimes.
The only thing certain is the number on Trump’s White House election party guest list. It’s capped at 250. Let’s hope they’re masked.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. You can follow him on Twitter @emilamok.