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ND political science experts weigh in on election results throughout election night

| Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Associate News Editor Isabella Volmert talked to Notre Dame political science experts over the course of Tuesday night as the primary votes came in across the country.

6:44 p.m. — Joshua Kaplan, political science department’s director of undergraduate studies

Isabella Volmert: Looking to the rest of the night, this presidential election is very different than the ones that we’ve had the past decade. With the strong chance that we do not know the winner by the end of the night, how do you foresee the candidates and the country moving forward in the next couple of days?

Kaplan: We have to prepare ourselves for not knowing and not having a clear winner tonight. Now, the results are never complete on election night. Ballots always take longer and they’re generally not officially certified till later. But it’s not hard to imagine what President Trump will say, [and] it’s not hard to imagine what Vice President Biden might say. But this is an unusual election, but it’s not unheard of that we might not have a winner tonight by midnight, one or two o’clock.

7:45 p.m. — Dianne Pinderhughes, professor of political science and Africana studies

IV: President Trump won Pennsylvania 2016 by a margin of less than one percentage vote. If the state were to flip back to the Democrats, what in your opinion would be the cause of that shift?

Pinderhughes: Biden has campaigned very carefully there, as of course has Trump. You do have a strong Black vote in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. And I think the difference this time is the combination of “get out the vote” efforts and voter mobilization. And my understanding is turnout has been pretty high. And what the white turnout for Trump is going to be in the central part of the state. But I think that people have worked very hard in terms of a variety of different types of organizations and work quite hard to get the Black vote, but also the various labor vote categories. 

IV: Georgia and Texas have unconventionally been called battleground states this election. What has caused this tension for these traditionally red states? 

Pinderhughes: Georgia’s changing dramatically in migration from all over the Caribbean. They have more Latinos in Georgia than used to be the case, there’s a lot of Black voters migrating from the Caribbean, as I mentioned, but also people who, whose families had migrated to the north. In the early 20th century, returning to Georgia, Atlanta is a very large, very complicated metropolitan area, it’s attractive to lots of people of whatever race your ethnicity and young adults find it a great place to think about moving and living. I think the complexity of the state in general has changed a tremendous amount. 

Texas has many big cities. Lots of people migrating there from around the country, good numbers of people who move there to work with. So a state like Texas is where it might have been cattle and oil at some point, now it’s high tech, healthcare, education, and you have the long term, Latino population, which has been there, just before the country was founded, literally, and that population has also been being mobilized in. 

8:55 p.m. — Darren Davis, Professor of American Politics

IV: Donald Trump said on Twitter yesterday that the Supreme Court ruling on the extension of accepting absentee ballots in Pennsylvania will “induce violence.” The tweet was later flagged by Twitter as misleading information about the election. Could you explain what maybe is the political strategy around comments such as these? 

Davis: The current president is trying to cast doubt on the election results any way he can. He has been doing this for the past several weeks. And so this is just a continuation of Trump wanting to excuse and to perhaps challenge to election results if he loses.

IV: Early reports are indicating Biden is failing to garner needed support among Latino voters in southern Florida. Where in your opinion has Biden potentially fail to campaign to these voters?

Davis: I don’t think of it much as a failure. He needed to perhaps do better among Hispanics and Latinos. But, those groups in Florida are notorious for voting Republican anyway. So I don’t think [he] gained anything. I don’t think he failed either.

IV: This year we’ve seen a massive voter turnout already before election night. What in your opinion has been behind this flood of early voters but then potentially a flood of voters in person as well for this election? 

Davis: I think a couple things have happened. I think the talk about voter intimidation or harassment has actually has had an impact on mail-in voting and absentee voting. First of all, I don’t think we’ve seen the numbers on that yet, but just all of the discussion around voter intimidation targeted toward democrats and targeted toward minority voters, I think has increased
absentee voting and early voting and. And Trump was perhaps encouraging voter intimidation and harassment.

IV: How do you think the increased voter turnout this year will affect the end results of this election?

Davis: Well, you know, mobilization is everything. So, I think it is going to be incredible and have an incredible effect. Mobilization, trying to try to get your people registered and turn out, turn out to vote, that is always really really powerful and significant so I would say that is going to have a tremendous effect.

IV: What are your overall impressions at this time? 

Davis: We haven’t really seen anything out of the ordinary yet. We are waiting on Florida, we’re waiting on Ohio, North Carolina. Those two seem to be really important right now: Ohio and North Carolina, I think. I think if those were to trend toward blue, I think it’s over.

10:56 p.m. — David Campbell, Packey J. Dee professor of American democracy, and chairperson in the department of political science

IV: Where do you think each of the candidates stands right now? 

Campbell: Well, one way is to look at the map. On one hand, Trump is doing, thus far, a little better than many of the polls that suggested. However, that should be tempered by the fact that we also see Joe Biden over-performing from Hillary Clinton in 2016. So, it’s a cliche, but we truly are at a point where it is too close to call and too many very important states are just, you know, too far away from announcing their results.

IV: Joe Biden is counting on the “blue wall” which would be Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and such. Within those states, where do you think that support would come from?

Campbell: In all of those states, Biden will be looking for the suburban women that we’ve heard so much about in this election. And from what I understand the exit polls suggest that nationally Biden is doing very well with suburban women. He also needs to ensure that there is a very large turnout in the African American vote and you know that’s a sizable share of the vote in both Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania as well. You know, that was a critical part of Clinton’s loss in those states that she didn’t get the turnout among the African-American vote that Obama had.

IV: It looks like Democrats will maintain the house. Where do you think the Senate will end up?

Campbell: I actually do think that the Senate will end up in Democratic hands. We’ve already seen a couple of Senate seats flipped so we know Colorado will go Democratic it looks almost certain that Arizona will. It’s still too early to say anything, but the polling suggests that Susan Collins was in a lot of trouble in Maine and if Susan Collins goes down, I think that’s a pretty bad sign for Republicans across the country, but again a little too early.

12:30 a.m. — Kaplan

IV: What are your final impressions of the night? 

Kaplan: For a while, it looked like we might get an early resolution for the election, but now it’s clear what we suspected all along. We’re not going to have a clear and early outcome for the election. Doesn’t look like a landslide. It looks like President Trump is doing fine. It looks like Joe Biden is looking fine. And the trouble is we just don’t know how many of the early votes and absentee votes remain to be counted. We know there are a lot of them but we don’t know how many are counted at this point. So, we’re not going to have a final result tonight. On Wednesday, maybe we’ll have something on Thursday. That would be my guess.

IV: Where does President Trump’s path to victory lie? 

Kaplan: It looks like he’s gonna lose a couple of states that he won in 2016, which is trouble for him. And I don’t think it looks like Biden has lost any state Hillary Clinton won. So he can’t really afford to lose any of the swing states now. I’ve been watching and the earliest estimates, in North Carolina, for example [are] just going back and forth. Even Ohio and Texas, they’re going back and forth, back and forth. We don’t even know if it’s going to be close but we know we’ll get there, [we’re] just not done counting.

It’s closer than a lot of people expected, and it means that President Trump’s support hasn’t eroded dramatically. Now again, we don’t know the outcome in a lot of states. But, you know, people might have expected that Trump isn’t going to get anywhere near the support that he got four years ago with the test, it doesn’t look like a landslide at this point. So, I find that that that really interesting, just how much support President Trump still has recovered, despite all the things that have gone wrong.

IV: Why do you think these President Trump supporters have stayed with him throughout this year? 

Kaplan: The simple answer is polarization. There are some people who just this kind of shows are going to vote Republican, no matter what. There are some senators, Republican senators, who are doing better than he’s doing. There are still some people who just can’t bring themselves to vote for a Democrat. And there’s no question that Donald Trump has the ability to tap into people’s psychology, in my opinion. And people will say well despite this, despite that, I still support him.

And I guess the other thing that I’ll be looking for will be the percentage of the popular vote that President Trump in particular gets. Will we have a situation where the winner of the popular vote doesn’t win the Electoral College? But, it’s too early to be talking about that.

1:01 a.m. — Pinderhughes

IV: What are your final impressions? Where do you think voters should be looking to in the next couple of days?

Pinderhughes: Results from North Carolina, Arizona, the Omaha district in Nebraska, Arizona, Texas hasn’t been called yet, but it looks like it’s gonna go for Trump. I don’t think Maine has been called yet either. So there are a number of, you know, there’s relatively small, but some important states, still left. Well, yes, of course, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, are the big ones that are left.

I was impressed with the way in which Biden, you know, conducted himself tonight — he was in a mellow mood, perfectly willing to speak to the public, but not seeming to be disappointed at all with where things are tonight. Lots of people are very upset, but he’s not one of them. So, you know, he served in office for so long, he served as a member of the Senate for so long. He has judgment, he has gravitas [that] you want a political leader to have.

Claire Rafford | The Observer
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