Election night has come and gone, but the White House and several Senate contests are still up for grabs. Democratic nominee Joe Biden is holding a tenuous lead over President Donald Trump in the Electoral College count, but it may be a while before a victor can be declared.
There are still millions of ballots that have to be counted, and more than enough to swing the results in some states that are too close to call.
Despite having the inside track to the presidency, Democrats are licking their wounds after vastly under-performing public polling up and down the ballot.
Here’s what we know and don’t know about the 2020 election:
What we know:
Both presidential candidates are pushing optimism
Joe Biden and Donald Trump each took to the stage early Wednesday morning to tell supporters they were on the road to victory. With victories in key Midwestern states on Wednesday, Biden is only one state away from reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the White House.
Both camps have stood firm they would not let shenanigans impede a sound win — but Trump went a step further by prematurely declaring himself the winner and calling for a halt to counting remaining ballots. The president threatened to take the tally to the Supreme Court, repeating his attacks intended to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.
Trump wins Florida and Ohio
Trump triumphed in Florida and Ohio, repeating his 2016 victory in the key battlegrounds. Florida is a crucial state for Trump’s reelection efforts, and he heavily invested in the state in the twilight of his campaign. Trump and Biden were also neck-and-neck in Ohio polls leading up to Election Day. Trump won in Iowa, while Biden repeated his party’s victory in Minnesota.
But Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin break for Biden
Biden became the first Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1996 to carry Arizona, taking a prize that eluded Hillary Clinton in 2016. However the Trump campaign was furious that the race was called for Democrats and insists that there are enough votes outstanding to pull the results back toward the GOP. Democrat Mark Kelly’s relatively breezy victory over GOP Sen. Martha McSally was also one of the party’s few Senate-race bright spots on Election Night.
Wisconsin and Michigan got called for Biden on Wednesday afternoon, flipping states that narrowly voted for Trump in 2016. The Trump campaign wasted little time in calling for a recount in Wisconsin, which under state law is available to candidates when the electoral margin is 1 percentage point or less.
At least one Georgia Senate race heads to runoff
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face Democrat Raphael Warnock in a runoff for a Georgia Senate seat in January. Neither candidate won 50 percent of the vote in the state’s special election primary. A runoff was a near certainty, with 20 names on the ballot. Rep. Doug Collins, an ardent Trump supporter, conceded to Loeffler on Tuesday night.
Incumbent Sen. David Purdue is currently a tick above the 50-percent demarcation line in his race against Democrat Jon Ossoff, but the race has not been called and remains close enough to potentially trigger a runoff as more votes are counted. Purdue avoided a runoff six years ago in his first Senate contest, winning with nearly 53 percent of the vote.
Democrats are poised to hold on to the House
Democrats appear set to gain three seats in the House, keeping hold of the majority they won in 2018. But the victory was hardly the formidable performance Democrats were hoping for, with not a single incumbent Republican ousted. Democrats were bragging before Election Day about expanding their majority in 2021, but instead they spent much of Wednesday morning taking stock of how they wound up losing ground.
Most states have been called in the presidential race, but key battlegrounds remain unknown
From Illinois to California, most states have been called in the presidential race. These states largely offered few surprises, and the crucial battlegrounds — including Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina — remain too close to call.
Trump’s margin in Georgia shrank dramatically, by well over half, throughout Wednesday to a lead of only 0.8 percentage points. In Pennsylvania, Trump’s lead has shrunk from 13 percentage points to less than 3.
The election ran pretty smoothly
Despite fears of election interference, technical failures and general chaos, Election Day was largely smooth sailing. There were a few reported snafus, including misinformation campaigns and equipment failures, but they have been exceedingly rare. There was also no evidence of a successful cyber hack, though there were a few reported technical glitches.
About 100 million Americans voted before Election Day
With a record number of mail-in ballots expected due to the coronavirus pandemic and a rush to early voting amid concerns over the Postal Service, a remarkable 100 million Americans already voted before Tuesday. For reference, about 138 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election in total.
What we don’t know:
When the next president will be declared
The election will likely stretch deep into the week. Still, both Trump and Biden have maintained their optimism about winning crucial states as the race remains in flux.
A series of challenges by Trump’s campaign in key battle states also complicate matters. In addition to a request for a recount in Wisconsin, the campaign has filed lawsuits in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania to halt ballot counting.
When key battlegrounds will finish counting ballots
Even before the Trump campaign’s legal challenges, ballots in Pennsylvania and Georgia were not expected to be counted until long after election night. More than 2.5 million absentee ballots received in Pennsylvania alone. Those results could drastically sway the course of the election in those states, particularly with Democrats sending in nearly three times as many absentee ballots in Pennsylvania than Republicans.
Nevada also remains in the balance, and the state secretary of state said the tally will not be updated until Thursday morning. Joe Biden holds a slim lead with tens of thousands of mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted.
Just how bad were the Postal Service problems
News of a sub-optimally functioning Postal Service caused serious fears about the efficacy of mail-in voting. And the drama carried into Election Day, when a federal judge ordered the Postal Service to send inspectors to check for any remaining ballots not yet delivered in a number of swing states as their deadlines for accepting ballots approached.
But the Postal Service ended up ignoring the order, deeming it unfeasible in the time crunch of Election Day. Judge Emmet Sullivan lambasted the service for tossing his order and hinted he might demand Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify.
How much misinformation has appeared to influence the election
Misinformation has only expanded in scale since the 2016 election, and the shenanigans seemed to target voters directly. Election officials and voters alike have reported robocalls across the country, telling them to either stay home or vote on the wrong day.
Will Trump concede if he loses
Trump has repeatedly refused to entertain the possibility of losing and famously declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should Biden win. And while Trump pledged Tuesday morning that he’d declare himself winner “only when there’s a victory,” he struck a different tone early Wednesday morning.
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country,” Trump said. “We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”
Balance of power in the Senate
Democrats came in needing to net three Senate seats if Joe Biden won the presidential election — giving a then-Vice President Kamala Harris the potential tie-breaking vote — but saw those hopes dim as their candidates came up short across the map, including in Maine where GOP Sen. Susan Collins pulled off a victory despite being substantially outspent.
Beyond Maine, Democrats failed to hit pay dirt in Iowa, Montana, South Carolina and possibly North Carolina, leaving them to hang their hats on the Georgia runoffs — a dicey proposition in a state where Republicans still have many advantages.