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At the Races: What if 2020 was a mirage?

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

By Stephanie Akin, Bridget Bowman and Kate Ackley

Think the 2020 elections will be over when this year ends? Think again! They will keep going until 2021 (looking at you, Georgia). 

Here’s where things stand on Day Three: With ballots still being counted, five states are still in play in the presidential race. The Trump campaign is suing over ballot counts in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada. 

More than 35 congressional races have yet to be called. Democrats are still on track to win the House majority, but seven incumbents have lost, and more Democrats than Republicans are trailing in the outstanding races. And, as results in Georgia are still being tallied, it looks like the Senate majority could be decided in not one but two runoff elections there in January. 

These are not the results Democrats expected heading into the election, which they said would add to their House majority, flip the Senate and send a clear signal about the national rejection of Trumpism. 

Exit polls point to surprising rightward movement among Latino voters, Black men and white women, groups that widely rejected President Donald Trump during the midterms. It will take some time, however, to discern how those changes contributed to House and Senate results.

Starting gate

What happened? After a tumultuous election cycle, one thing is clear: Republicans had a much better election night than many, including some in the GOP, were expecting. The picture of what happened is still coming into focus as officials count ballots in competitive races, but we took an early look at the “red undertow” and how much the money mattered.

Cue the “Jaws” theme: Just when you thought it was safe, CQ Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales has a look at the 2022 Senate battlefield map.

Florida, Florida, Florida: The Cuban American voters who helped Donald Trump win Florida have very little in common politically with the Mexican Americans who helped defeat him in Arizona, CQ Roll Call’s Camila DeChalus writes.

Courting votes: The presidential race, with tight vote tallies in some states, had all the ingredients needed to potentially allow lawyers to push the election from the ballot box to courtrooms, CQ Roll Call’s Todd Ruger writes.

Fun facts: Although votes are still being counted, we do know a lot of the people who will be heading to the next Congress. CQ Roll Call’s Paul V. Fontelo and Ryan Kelly break down nine facts about the new members. And our Thomas McKinless has deeper dives on Kat Cammack, who’s replacing her old boss in the House, and Mondaire Jones, one of the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress. And Jessica Wehrman and Chris Cioffi looked at some of the diverse backgrounds of future members in open seats where one party dominates the district.

Uprooted: CQ Roll Call’s Ellyn Ferguson has the story on House Agriculture Chairman Collin C. Peterson losing his bid for a 16th term in Minnesota’s 7th District.

What’s next: Along with looking back at the election he described as “a weighty postmodern novel filled with lengthy digressions, pertinent footnotes and many unreliable narrators,” host Jason Dick’s latest Political Theater podcast examined the House and Senate dynamics to come with Rodell Mollineau, a former top aide to Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Tom Daschle, and Liesl Hickey, a former executive director of the NRCC.


Down to the wire in the House: When DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos said on Election Day that “our key races in the battleground are going to come down to the wire,” we wonder if she realized hers would be among them. The Associated Press called a win for the Illinois Democrat at 10:15 a.m. Eastern this morning. Still, several House and Senate races await the official AP call, including those of incumbent Rep. Lauren Underwood, another Illinois Democrat; New York Democrats Anthony Brindisi and Max Rose; California GOP Rep. Mike Garcia; and Jim Hagedorn, a Republican from Minnesota. 

Down to the wire in the Senate: In the Alaska Senate race, absentee ballots won’t even be counted until next week, and just half the projected totals are in with Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan leading his challenger Al Gross 62 percent to 32 percent as of midday. We’re also still waiting on a call in the North Carolina Senate race where GOP Sen. Thom Tillis has the lead, as well as whether Sen. David Perdue will face a Jan. 5 runoff in Georgia (just as fellow Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler will).

Taking initiative: CQ Roll Call’s health team breaks down what happened with ballot initiatives on abortion and drug legalization.

That was fast: Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock wasted no time launching his first ad of the runoff against Loeffler in the Senate special election. He warned Georgia voters, “The negative ads are coming.”

Win some, lose some: Some of the House Democratic freshmen that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed, amid controversy at the big-business lobby, lost on Election Day, including Oklahoma’s Kendra Horn and South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham. The Hill has a breakdown on how the group’s endorsed candidates fared (some races haven’t been called).

From Congress to council: Senate aide Christina Henderson’s election to the D.C. Council may represent a rebuke to left-wing activists, establishment Black moderate power and the rough politics of negative campaigning, The Washington Post writes

Not just Georgia: The race for Guam’s nonvoting House delegate is heading to a Nov. 17 runoff after no candidate took more than 50 percent, Pacific News Center reported. Incumbent Del. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas had a 46 percent to 33 percent lead over fellow Democrat Robert A. Underwood, who held the position from 1993 to 2003. San Nicolas, who is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, called on Underwood to “consider a gentleman’s withdrawal” from the runoff, citing coronavirus-related medical and financial strains on the island territory. Underwood declined.

What we’re reading

Stu needs a moment: The way Stu Rothenberg sees it, Tuesday’s election not only didn’t solve the nation’s problems, it made them worse.

Divisions galore: America was left with a message that was far from clear — “too early to call” or “too close to call,” the cable stations said about tight races in battleground states. CQ Roll Call columnist Mary C. Curtis asks: “What could be a better description of where we are right now?” 

‘The day that never ended’: With businesses boarded up and braced for impact, The Washington Post looks at this town on Election Day

GOP women coming to Washington: At least 13 women will join the ranks of House Republicans after a major recruitment effort this cycle, Politico reports.  

Behind the map: The Associated Press provided a state-by-state explanation of what went into decisions to make calls in the presidential race.

Drawing the lines: The Guardian breaks down the battles for state legislatures, where Democrats fell short, meaning Republicans will once again control redistricting in more states.

The count: 31

So far, Republicans have won 31 of the 63 House races that Inside Elections had rated as competitive, while Democrats have won nine (and that doesn’t include Republicans flipping Florida’s 27th District, which had been rated Solid Democratic). That means 23 of the races considered competitive have yet to be called. Inside Elections had initially rated more GOP House seats as competitive than Democratic ones, so the lopsided results show that Republican candidates held on to GOP districts. Republicans have also dominated the 15 races considered Toss-ups, carrying nine of them so far. Six remain uncalled.

Nathan’s notes

Nathan raises a question we’ll be thinking about for a while: Is polling fundamentally broken, or is it broken in elections with Trump on the ballot? He writes that the “significant underestimation of Trump’s support had a tremendous impact on down-ballot races and projections.”

Candidate concessions

We’re mixing it up this week with some “candidate concessions,” highlighting a few comments from candidates who lost. The two most vulnerable senators, Alabama Democrat Doug Jones and Colorado Republican Cory Gardner, both lost their races. In his concession speech, Gardner said he hopes former Gov. John Hickenlooper is successful, since that would mean success for the state. Jones invoked the words of the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis that “we are all one family.” He thanked his family and staff, and called out his social media staffer, quipping, “If you see anything I do on Twitter, it’s his damn fault.”

Coming up

Sleep. Lots. Maybe.

Photo finish

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Andrew Menezes contributed to this report.

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