As we have now arrived (finally!) at General Election Day 2020 itself here in the United States of America, one can see that it well promises to be a most unusual election (although whether or not this ultimately proves to actually be the case as the returns come in tonight and beyond is still to be seen); indeed, quite conceivably, one with which- with the obvious exception of that of 2000- most Americans of the early 21st Century are not all that familiar (although, as I myself at least implicitly suggested in my most recent Commentary for this website, it might well turn out to be your great-, or great-great, grandfather's Presidential Election!)...
therefore, and in the proverbial "spirit of the times", this will have to not be the more usual Election Preview I have heretofore created for this website over the past two decades.
I will start by stating that, absent something totally unexpected (itself the result of an aggregate of totally unexpected returns in some number of Congressional Districts), the Democrats should retain control of the United States House of Representatives. The only real question- that is, should my above prognostication prove correct- will then be: do the Dems pad their lead, hold serve, or even lose some seats (albeit not enough to not still hold onto at least 218- a majority of the House's total 435- seats once all the smoke has cleared, and dust has finally settled).
All eyes, then, on the races for the United States Senate!
Republicans, of course, currently have a majority of the seats in that august body: the current breakdown of 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats plus Independents caucusing with Democrats means that the Democrats will have to gain a net of at least 4 seats to take outright control of the Senate; and, since I myself expect the Alabama Class 2 Senate seat to flip from Democrat to Republican as a result of today's election, the Dems would therefore have to take at least 5 seats currently held by Republicans, without losing any that they currently hold (besides that in Alabama), in order to then gain control of the United States Senate as well...
which would otherwise seem a rather daunting task, but for the dynamics of the concomitant Presidential Election this year!
In any Presidential Election (and keeping in mind, as we all should know [certainly after 2016!], that the Electoral Vote coming out of the several States of the American Union, plus the District of Columbia- and not the Popular Vote for President nationwide- elects the President and Vice-President of the United States for the next four years), there are pretty much six possible overall outcomes- three for each Major Party presidential candidate in any given election:
1. the LANDSLIDE: think Ike 1952 & 1956 (with his 442 and 457 Electoral Votes, respectively); LBJ 1964 (with his 486); Nixon 1972 (with 520); or Reagan 1980 & 1984 (with 489 and 525, respectively);
2. the DECISIVE victory: think Bill Clinton 1992 & 1996 (with his 370 and 379 Electoral Votes, respectively); or Barack Obama 2008 & 2012 (365 and 332, respectively)-- with George H.W. Bush (#41)'s 426 (nearly 80% of the total) Electoral Votes in 1988 pretty much marking the cusp between a Decisive and a Landslide Electoral Victory.
3. Finally, there's the NARROW Electoral Victory: Truman's 303 in 1948 (despite the Chicago Tribune's [in?]famous DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN headline); JFK's own 303 in 1960; Nixon's 1968 total of 301 Electoral Votes; Carter's 297 in 1976; George W. Bush's 271 (only 1 more than needed to elect) in 2000, and 286 in 2004; even (despite his own claims otherwise) Donald Trump's 306 four years ago.
I can't say, for sure, where the demarcation between 'NARROW' and 'DECISIVE' might be-- but it is likely somewhere upwards of 320 (nearly 60% of the total Electoral Vote), one would think.
However, I do think we can say, for certain, that the Presidential Election of 2020 will not be producing a LANDSLIDE (as defined above) for either candidate- certainly, if it should turn out that it does, I would be most surprised (especially given the political division within the American electorate as seems so apparent right now). I also don't see- if the polling data currently to hand is even reasonably reliable (as well as even more so than it was back in 2016)- President Trump, for one, gaining a DECISIVE Electoral Vote win (I'll come back to Joe Biden's chances for just such a victory later in this piece).
The most likely scenarios, then, coming out of the returns that will begin coming in later this evening- as regards the Presidential Election- are either a NARROW Electoral Victory for President Trump, or a NARROW Electoral Victory for former Vice President Biden. And, because of the very oddity of an American Presidential Election being held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, either result is currently perceived as not only possible, but also even probable, because reading the Early Voting (whether via Mail-in Ballot [either sent by post, or placed in a secure "drop box"], Absentee ballot, or In Person) has been so difficult (as the more usual trends seen within comparing Early Voting to Day Of Election Voting- themselves of so recent vintage as both In Person Early and Mail-in Voting has increased throughout the country over recent Election Cycles- have become so skewed as to render them almost useless as predictive vehicles)...
thus, while we already know Early Voting this Fall has already exceeded the total Turnout in the 2016 Elections nationwide, we cannot know- until the votes themselves are counted- just how much Day of Election voting there will actually be (that is: how much more Turnout will there, in the end, be?) and to whom such additional 'Day of' turnout (once compared to votes already cast prior) will give most benefit. Indeed, in many ways, this is one's great-great grandparents' Election: one in which, despite all the prediction and punditry out there in favor of each side, we will not see real trends in voting overall until the returns can begin to be seen tonight.
However, even with this caveat, it is abundantly clear that the current elections for the United States Senate are at least as important as that for President of the United States: for, should President Trump be re-elected, those who oppose him would very much like to see a Democratic-controlled Senate in place as a further 'check' on his power; meanwhile, should Joe Biden be elected President, Republicans retaining control of the Senate would be that much more preferred by those who oppose the Biden/Harris ticket.
But, for the Senate as a whole to "flip"- as I've already said above- the Democrats would have to pretty much "run the table" of races in which the Grand Old Party's candidate for that chamber (whether incumbent, or not) is most vulnerable without losing the more vulnerable seats of their own (with the exception of Alabama's Class 2 seat, as aforesaid) and, even with a Biden victory in the Presidential race, this seems rather a steep hill (although not at all impossible) for the Party of the People to climb... that is, unless:
we see the one other outlying scenario possible this time round: a DECISIVE victory for the former Vice President-- not likely, but also not at all impossible. For, if Joe Biden can flip enough States in play ('battleground' States being the term of art) that President Trump had won in 2016, without (at the same time) losing any States that Hillary Clinton had won four years ago, then Biden might well- if only just- crack that '320 or so' barrier I mentioned earlier; and, if so, just as Ronald Reagan's victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980 pulled in at least a few Republican candidates for the Senate that otherwise might not have so easily won (giving the GOP its first control of the upper chamber of Congress since the early Eisenhower Administration), a DECISIVE Biden victory- as opposed to a NARROW one (or, for that matter, an outright Biden loss)- might well carry, along with it, votes for Senate that cause more key contests for that chamber go the Democrats' way, and not the Republicans'!
In any event, and regardless of the ultimate result of all the voting this General Election, it is already a given that this will- more likely than not- be a rather odd even-numbered year American election (at least as compared to the vast majority those within the lifetimes of those now living) to watch as the returns come in: for not all States will have complete returns available within even hours of their respective polls closing (simply because of the unusual crush of Early Voting in many States, combined with differing rules in each State as to when such votes can even first be opened for counting). Therefore, we can already discern that some States will "data dump" a whole boatload of Early Voting returns soon after polls close, the results from which will then be have to be resifted as more and more Day of Election returns are processed as Election Night wears on into the wee hours of the following morning; while other States will not even begin to count what are, in essence, equivalent to those old-fashioned "paper ballots" that, for example, had the country on tenterhooks for at least a couple days after Election Day back in 1916.
As I wrote last week: we on this website plan on treating next Tuesday evening into the wee hours of Wednesday morning (if not even, should it be necessary, beyond) as if this will be like any other of the four Presidential Elections we previously dealt with after 2000; one can certainly do no less. But beyond this, I suppose, "the Plan is that there is no plan"! Again, having undergone that proverbial "baptism under fire" two decades ago, I dare say we are at least somewhat better prepared should things thereafter become-- well-- weird!: however, we certainly can't yet know just what that "weird!" might be, assuming it yet even actually comes to be.
But we can know that, at some point, the result will (if only eventually) constitutionally determined and in any event, come Noon Eastern Time US [1700 GMT] on Wednesday 20 January 2021, someone will be beginning the new four-year term (#59 in the history of the American Republic) as President of the United States...
for, come what may, the very demands of the Constitution of the United States itself yet remain unrelenting.