The Biden Won & it's OVER, Deep dish pizza is delicious, & Gilmore Girls is awesome thread

Here we go again. Just like four years ago, only this time hopefully with a better final chapter. And also, this time with a twist: this isn’t a Game Day thread, but more like a Game Week Thread.

So first things first: if you haven’t voted yet you should go do that. Is voting in person safe? Sure. Just be smart about it. Wear a mask. Take some hand-sanitizer if you can. When you’re indoors at your polling place, maintain social distance. Do what you can to research your local ballot so you know what you’re going to vote on before you get there, so that when you do get to vote you make your selections quickly and submit your ballot and leave. Easy peasy!

So, um, who’s gonna win?

No one knows. Seriously. You can look at the FiveThirtyEight prediction model, which currently has Joe Biden sitting at 89%. Or the Economist model, which shows Biden at 96%. All things being equal, you’d sure rather be Joe Biden than Donald Trump as things stand now.

But it’s important to realize: these are (sort of) probabilities and nothing else. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a gamer. You’ve rolled a 1 on an 8- or 10-sided die before. That’s the probability that Trump wins a second term. We’ve all missed that 89% point blank shot in a game of XCOM. That’s kind of where we are right now. (And to be fair to the FiveThirtyEight folks, they describe their prediction model as more of a map of an uncertain outcome than a probability.)

And the uncertainty on this race in 2020 isn’t just window-dressing for clicks. Well, most of it isn’t, anyway. The 2020 Presidential Election is taking place under extraordinary circumstances, as a pandemic’s third peak seems headed into full bore. As a country, we’ve never had more voting by mail, or early voting in person. As new polls went into the field in the final weeks of October, all the early and by-mail voting created an entirely new-ish set of variables for pollsters. And new variables is a fancy way of saying “New stuff that could make polls wrong again.” Especially if we hit 160 million votes cast. That would be 67% of the US voting eligible population – the most since William McKinley and his upstart running mate Teddy Roosevelt won in 1900.

The good news is that the polls have also held pretty stable, for months and months now. And most folks don’t generally change their views about whom to vote…too much. We think. The other thing to understand is that most of the folks running high-quality polling operations aren’t stupid. On social media you’ll see folks trying to dissect polls from reputable pollsters on some perceived flaw or another, and it happens constantly, as if the data scientists and communications experts who design polls just fell off the turnip truck. Occasionally, you will see terrible polling design (the incorrect framing of a Gallup question on Medicare For All at the end of 2018 pretty much derailed the presidential campaigns of Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirstin Gillibrand before they’d even started). More common is just opaque methodology that may be disguising more sinister intent. But you can take some assurance: the folks doing polls with highly rated non-partisan polling outfits have put some care into the design and methodology of their surveys.

Still, lots of us also remember the most awful 90 minutes ever, from 8:30 pm ET to 10:00 pm ET on Election Day 2016. That’s when rural votes in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin et al starting pouring in, with historically unprecedented wipeout margins for Candidate Trump being posted by these precincts. There’s likely to be some version of that happening again in 2020. The hope with Team Biden is that the margins won’t be quite what they were in 2016, and that they’ll be somewhat smoothed over by suburban counties that were toss-ups or even red in 2016 going more blue this year.

It’s not a vain hope; there’s a reason polling shows Biden with a lead right now. Although the breakout stars of the 2018 “Blue Wave” of congressional representatives elected that cycle were capital-L Left candidates in Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and “The Squad”, the real fuel of the wave were folks like Elissa Slotkin, Katie Porter, Elaine Luria, Joe Cunningham, Kendra Horn, Ben McAdams and Conor Lamb who all ran as somewhat more moderate Democrats and flipped their red suburban and exurban districts to blue. The congressional district-level polling we have supports the notion that 2020 is set to continue that trend.

Finally, there’s this: as it stands here, late on a Monday, President Trump is going to need a polling error in 2020 far greater than the polling error he got in 2016 in order to win. That doesn’t mean that can’t happen – ask Tom Dewey about that. And it should also be noted that polling error doesn’t always go one way; in 2012 many of the polling errors that were seen favored Barack Obama. And polling error isn’t necessarily uniform. Even in the debacle of 2016 with state-wide polling errors across the upper Midwest, there were also state polling miscues evidenced in the American southwest that favored Clinton a bit.

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So…when will we know who won?

Good one! Here’s the deal: we may not know for a few days. Seriously. Maybe even a week. And that’s just the vote count. If things are particularly close, it is within the realm of possibility that there could be a degree of uncertainty past that. It’s important to understand ALL of this.

And its especially important to understand that each state counts their votes a little bit differently. In Florida, for instance, most jurisdictions have been counting early votes and mail-in ballots for weeks. When the polls close in Florida, results will come in, fast and furious. North Carolina and Georgia have been counting early ballots, too. Same in Arizona, Nevada, and even Texas.

With that being said, three of the most important electoral vote states are Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. These important states will be among the slowest-counting states in the union. While other states have been tallying ballots for days and even weeks, in Michigan towns of over 25,000 people, today at 10:00 am local time is the first time that vote counters will be able to begin processing ballots – opening them and checking their validity. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin can’t do this vital step until tomorrow morning. Which is nuts. Allow me, if you will, a brief digression on the mechanics of voting and ballot counting.

(A brief digression on the mechanics of voting and ballot counting.)

Every place is a little bit different regarding the process of voting. But in general and especially in places that do a paper ballot (or paper backup), when you vote in person, either your ballot or your paper to use a touch screen has a bar code on it. That bar code is tied to you anonymously. You mark your ballot and turn it in (if you’re in a jurisdiction that doesn’t use the abomination of touch screen voting). When your ballot goes into the ballot box, the bar code is scanned, and your anonymized bar code shows that you have registered a vote. That’s it, done and dusted. You can no longer vote in that election; your ballot is in.

When those ballot boxes/receptacles go to the local election board later that day/evening, each ballot inside is scanned again, and compared to what the receptacle says should be inside. When they’re satisfied that this matches up, the actual ballot responses are scanned and tabulated.

The important thing there: these ballots are “naked”. There’s no envelope on them, and the ballot counters presume that poll workers made sure you were you when you showed up to vote. In an in-person election, they’re taking these naked ballots, scanning the bar codes to make sure the ballot count matches the receptacle, and then scanning them for the actual votes that are marked in the ovals.

With mail-in ballots, it’s different. An outside envelope is typically opened on receipt, and the inner ballot envelope is set aside until the counting begins. Once counting begins, the ballot counters will scan the envelope the way they would an in-person ballot. Then they check the signature(s) on the envelope, typically against your driver’s license. Then the envelope is opened, and the ballot inside is scanned. It’s a fast process, typically taking just seconds. BUT each of those seconds is a few seconds more than the process of just handling regular ballots from a polling place from in-person voting.

And now you multiply those extra seconds, maybe 20 or 30 or 40 ticks per ballot, times 1.5-3.5 million ballots per state in upper Midwest states. These states will be throwing raw manpower at this herculean task, but there it is.

Great. Pretend I don’t care about that crap. When will we know?

Ok, some of this is complicated. Some of it isn’t.

Here’s the uncomplicated part: If Donald Trump is going to get a second term, it’s going to be a couple of days before we know that for sure. He’s going to need Pennsylvania, which will be the slowest-counting state – other than California (but Biden’s expected margins in California should make that state an easy election-night call). Pennsylvania is unlikely to have a reasonable sample size to make a call before Wednesday or Thursday, and perhaps later than that if it’s really close.

If Biden should win, when will we know? Here’s the complicated part. Keep four states in mind on this one: Pennsylvania, obviously, but also North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Three of those states should count ballots pretty quickly – everyone but Pennsylvania. If the President loses any of those four states on election night (and we should know about those three southeastern states on election night) it’s pretty much over for him. There are two states where Biden is a bigger longshot, too: Ohio and Texas. Obviously the President needs both of those to win as well, and there should be enough vote counted in both that calls can be made in those states on election night. Probably.

(Late breaking news: North Carolina, Georgia and Florida will all report results by “means of voting”, meaning by-mail, in-person early, and election day. So we’ll have the NYT/Upshot needle to drink ourselves crazy to for those states.)

But if Trump should win those southeastern states and Pennsylvania is too close to call on election night, Biden has a plan B path, too. He doesn’t necessarily need Pennsylvania if he wins Michigan and Wisconsin in the north and then takes Arizona (which will count quickly) in the west. Again though – Michigan and Wisconsin may count ballots faster than Pennsylvania, but that’s sort of like saying turtles move faster than glaciers.

Holy crap! The guy I want to win is WAY up in this state! Holy crap! The guy I want to win is WAY down in this state! Help!

Here’s the thing: vote counting in the 2020 election is likely to be pretty weird. At the state level – heck, at the county and city and precinct levels – jurisdictions are going to count ballots differently. Some will count mail-in ballots and early votes first. Some will count them last. There’s at least one county in Pennsylvania that won’t even start with mail-in ballots until Wednesday morning.

And based on some really high-quality surveys we know that mail-in ballots especially are likely to be heavily tilted towards Democrats, and election day voting is likely to be tilted strongly towards Republicans…with early in-person balloting basically split here and there. Because of this skew, results are likely to be a rollercoaster on election night. States where mail-in ballots are reported first will show a heavy blue skew…but as the wave of election day Republican votes comes in, that’ll start rapidly moving things the other way. And similarly, in states that count election day ballots first, it’s likely that you’ll see a wave of red showing up…but then as mail-in ballots and early vote is counted, that too will move things back.

Most notably, in Pennsylvania where election day ballots are likely to be counted first, you’ll see some crazy swings over the next 72 hours. Per FiveThirtyEight, it’s possible that Trump will enjoy a 15 point lead on election night’s earliest returns, only to see that subsumed by mailed-in and early vote ballots that swing the race 20 points back to Biden. I’m going to clip and save this part for election night. :)

Realize too that this dichotomy of Democrats voting by mail and Republicans voting on election day creates a massive mess for the decision desks at reputable news networks. As returns come in, it’s likely that there will be great uncertainty as to whether networks are seeing mail-in ballots or election day ballots in the returns, or a mix of both. That means that decision desks at networks are going to be very slow to call a race in comparison to a more “normal” election year.

With that in mind, however, take solace that these folks are really good at what they do, and they have various voter turn-out models that sometimes go to precinct levels in certain states…and those models will be cranked to a voter turn-out volume of 11 for this particular election night. So as vote totals come in, they’ll have some idea of how things are playing out, regardless of whether those votes are from mail ballots or not. In other words, decision desks won’t necessarily be flying blind on election night…but they will have many more variables to consider that will make them act with caution.

OK. So give me a primer. I should be watching Waukesha county again, right?

Ah, the beauty of election day is that every cycle brings a new Waukesha County or Stark County to watch. Courtesy of Dave “I’ve Seen Enough” Wasserman at the Cook Political Report, keep your eyes on….https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/06/opinion/biden-trump-bellwether-counties-.html (For the click-averse, I’ll try to summarize here. )

  • Kent County, MI (this is Grand Rapids; Trump won it by 3 in 2016. It may lean Biden or tossup this time.)
  • Wood County, OH (Just south of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, etc……Trump won this county by 8 points in 2016.)
  • Erie County, PA (Northwest PA, Erie is the county seat, and Trump won here by +2 in 2016.)
  • Sauk County, WI (Sits just northwest of Dane county, which is Madison, UW, etc….Trump eked out a win by half a percent in 2016 here.)
  • Marshall County, IA (If the Selzer/DMR poll was wrong, this will give us an early hint of that. Small county compared to the others in this list, but Wasserman notes that they’ve been hit hard by COVID this year; Trump was +8 here in 2016.
  • Maricopa County, AZ (Seriously, this place is kinda the whole shootin’ match in Arizona with 62% of the state’s population; Trump won here by 3 points in 2016…in 2020 he’ll have to keep it close-ish and hope the smaller counties that are more rural are kinder to him.)
  • Pinellas County, FL (This was a county that went from Obama +6 to Trump +1 in 2016; if Biden is winning here by a margin of 6 or 7 or more, that puts real pressure on Trump to make it up elsewhere in the state.)
  • Peach County, GA (Wasserman notes that this county is 52% white, 44% black, and the vote here is polarized along racial lines; Obama won this county in 2012 by +7, but Trump carried it by +3 in 2016…so you’d think Biden would need at least something close to Obama’s 2012 number here.)
  • New Hanover County, NC (This is Wilmington, and along with Brunswick County are among the fastest-growing in the Tarheel state; Trump won this county by +4 in 2016…and he’ll probably need to duplicate that in 2020, and it could be tough.
  • Collin County TX (Ok, this one is crazy; 32% population increase since just 2010…that’s a boom! In 2012, it voted Romney by +32; in 2016 it was Trump +17; But the Texas 3rd CD is most of Collin County, and polling there shows Biden running neck and neck with Trump.)
  • One that Wasserman hasn’t listed, but is worth watching: Sumter County, FL. In 2016 Trump carried this county 69-29 over Hillary. This is the county that is home to The Villages; the median age in Sumter County is 67 years old, making it easily the oldest county in Florida by a large margin. Trump will win Sumter County in 2020…but keep an eye on the margin. Is he winning by 25? 30? It sounds weird to say that a result of 60-35 for Trump is bad news for him…but it is. There will be over 100,000 votes cast here, and the margin in Sumter will tell us some things about whether Biden’s support with older voters is a mirage or not. And if the margin is less than 40%, it puts pressure on Trump to run up the score in his strongholds in the panhandle.

Here are the poll closing times:


Whew. That’s a lot. Anything else?

Senate races. Right now the Senate is divided 53 Republican, 47 Democrats

Likely Democratic pickups, in order:

Arizona (Mark Kelly)

Colorado (John Hickenlooper)

Maine (Sara Gideon)

North Carolina (Cal Cunningham)

Likely Republican pickups:

Tommy Tuberville (Alabama)

Tossups:

Georgia….but Georgia is a special case. Georgia is a run-off state, meaning that any candidate for a statewide office must win with 50% of the vote.

It’s easy to see Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel acting as a spoiler between Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff and David Perdue and preventing either from getting to 50% and forcing a run-off there.

In the Georgia special election, Raphael Warnock is beating BOTH Republican challengers, sort-of incumbent Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins. This race is almost sure to go to a run-off in December.

Finally, there’s the House. Suffice to say, the GOP knows that it’s going to be a few years to undo the damage of Trump for these seats. Democrats retook the House resoundingly in 2018. They could expand that lead in 2020.

Finally….

Some of you probably know that I’m kind of a music nerd, so permit me this digression.

After a disastrous 1965 tour, the English band The Kinks were effectively banned from playing shows in America. The band fought onstage throughout their gigs. The US tour promoter ran out of money and stopped paying the band’s guarantees, resulting in the band playing 15 minute sets and leaving the stage mid-song. Taping a performance for Dick Clark’s other TV dance show, there was a backstage fistfight with a television producer. This all resulted with a grievance being filed with the biggest US musicians union, and they blacklisted the group from being able to play any union venues in the States…which meant pretty much everywhere here.

Finally, in 1969 the group’s ban was lifted, and their management quickly scheduled a US tour. Kinks frontman Ray Davies had seen what changes had affected “Swinging London” by the late 1960s firsthand…but for him the US was an unknown. It was October of that year. He’d seen all the coverage of the assassinations of 1968. The riots. And Woodstock had happened. There was a new president. A man had landed on the moon. Manson was still in the news. For a homebody who often hated to venture past the pubs in his own neighborhood….this was chaos looming. He knew 1965 America, but not this new 1969 sea change version.

And so he wrote a song about the anxieties and trepidation that he’d felt while on that long transatlantic flight from Heathrow, into the chaos and brutality and craziness…and maybe even promise of an America he wouldn’t recognize. And as my own mood swings wildly from hopeful to dread to despair and back, this song has provided a touch of comfort. If you’re in that same boat, maybe it will for you, too.

May this thread bestow blessings upon us all.

Thank you for putting all this together, it’s very much appreciated for political novices such as myself.

Huzzah! Huzzah!

The one thing that gives me hope, is the huge turnout we are seeing in places like Texas.

Part of me believes that there is a limit to how many assholes support Trump, and that we already saw that in 2016… So seeing a huge number of other people come out this year seems like it means we have a bunch of people coming out to vote against Trump.

I don’t know this is the case, but i feel like it is, and it’s largely based on my belief that America, as a whole, is better than Trump.

But part of me still doubts, and is afraid that we aren’t.

That’s what I believe is happening too.

I really hope you guys are right.

Time for a confession that I haven’t even told a therapist: In 2016 I was quite confident that Clinton was going to win, but I love experiencing the suspense of a long election night, so part of me was hoping that it wouldn’t be a total wipeout. In hindsight such a thought elicits a shudder.

This time around, there is not one neuron in my brain that hopes this election night lasts longer than a couple of hours and that Biden wins Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida convincingly.

Damn Trig. You fucking rock.

2016 is finding out a test you aced is a test you bombed… and it was the one test that will change your life.

After four years of flipping burgers and waiting to take the MCAT again, 2020 is the PTSD fear that the no matter how well you know the material, you don’t know it well enough.

I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this day for four years.

I am unprepared.

The day after the 2016 election I had a doctor’s appointment. When she came into the room I broke down and cried like a baby. Yeah, Trump got this lib to cry. She prescribed Buspar. I sucked down three of them before I left the office.

I’m counting on that shit tomorrow. Big time.

I told my boss I would be distracted all day. Will do my best. We’re in a build freeze anyway, Go-Live on Friday late evening.

This is what i think my theme song for tomorrow will be.

A story from the 1980’s, about a kid who was good at video games and went off to save the galaxy.

I know I’m getting old when someone has to explain the plot of The Last Starfighter because some might not know it.

Just a friendly reminder here that:

  • I love you all, take care of yourselves mentally the next few days. It doesn’t matter if it’s best case or worst case, we can get through it.

  • @triggercut , as always, I’m looking forward to all the news you’ll help us wade through the next 48-72 hours. YOU GET SOME SLEEP TOO, man.