All along, it was the most excruciating election night scenario, if not the most disastrous from the perspective of MAGA harm reduction: Donald Trump holds onto the South, but Joe Biden does well enough in the Midwestern states that are counting ballots quickly that there’s reason to believe he’ll win the ones that aren’t counting ballots quickly … which means everyone has to wait until sometime later this week to know who won the Electoral College and the presidency.
And that is (almost) exactly what has happened. Donald Trump appears to have an insurmountable lead in Florida on the strength of Cuban support in Miami-Dade County and is comfortably ahead in North Carolina. He’s being projected to win Ohio and Texas as well. Joe Biden, meanwhile, is looking good in Arizona, is projected to flip one congressional district in Nebraska away from Trump, and has held on, so far, to the other close-ish states he definitely needed to win, like Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Virginia. If he does win Arizona and Nevada, here’s what the electoral map would look like (we’re also leaving an individual congressional district in Maine undecided, but it wouldn’t be a tipping point in this scenario)*:
That would put the election in the hands of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The first state in that list was presumed to be heading toward Trump for a good chunk of Tuesday night but then swung back into play as the scope of Biden’s advantage in the Atlanta area became more clear. The three Rust Belt states are the ones whose election officials were prevented, by Republican-controlled state legislatures, from “preprocessing” early ballots (opening the envelopes they’re placed in, basically) to make them easier to count. Wisconsin hopes to have unofficial results available by Wednesday afternoon; Michigan’s secretary of state has said its counting should be done by Friday; for Pennsylvania, Friday sounds more like an ambitious goal. (All three states have Democratic governors. Unofficial results, despite being unofficial, are what media outlets use to make their calls.)
Who will win those states? Well, who the hell knows? Biden led the polling averages in Michigan and Wisconsin by 8 points and in Pennsylvania by 5 points, and hasn’t yet lost (or been “called” to lose) any state he led by that much. On the other hand, polling wasn’t that accurate in, for example, Florida, which he was projected to win by 3 points but is in fact losing by 2 points with 96 percent of expected votes counted. In any case: If Biden completes his comeback in Georgia and wins Wisconsin, he’d have 270 electoral votes and the presidency by (maybe, probably) Wednesday night. If he wins Wisconsin but not Georgia he’d still need to pick up either Michigan or Pennsylvania but would probably feel fairly optimistic given that Michigan and Wisconsin have moved in tandem in the polls. If he loses both Wisconsin and Georgia to Trump, then, as far as we know, he’ll probably have lost the election, and there will be another four years of Trump.
Correction, Nov. 4, 2020: This post originally featured an Electoral College map projection in which Alaska’s votes went to Biden; they are expected to go to Trump.