2020 Election Recap
FAIR Take | November 2020
On November 3, 2020 millions of Americans headed to the polls to cast ballots for president, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and statewide contests. Before the 3rd, millions had already mailed in ballots or voted early, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. There are a number of takeaways from the election already, with multiple implications for immigration policy.
Joe Biden Defeats Donald Trump
At the time of this writing, former Vice President Joe Biden has enough electoral votes to defeat President Donald Trump for the office of the presidency. Despite close races in the swing states, Biden earned over 270 electoral votes even with outstanding results in Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia. Although the president and his team have filed multiple lawsuits alleging voter fraud and a litany of other complaints, it does not appear at this time that there will be enough legal victories to overturn multiple state tallies. Despite accusations of voter suppression and fear that the COVID-19 pandemic would keep voters from the polls, more than 149 million Americans voted.
That said, Donald Trump overperformed in many polls and won key battleground states such as Florida and Ohio, throwing cold water on the idea that Biden would defeat him in an electoral landslide. Trump won the most votes of any GOP candidate in history in addition to winning more than 5 million more votes than he did in 2016.
The GOP Increases its Share of Minority Voters
Donald Trump continued to prove incorrect the opinion that he could not attract minority voters to the Republican Party. Josh Hammer wrote in the New York Post that Trump won a higher share of minority votes than any Republican in 60 years. Even if he narrowly wins the electoral college, Democratic nominee Joe Biden failed to decisively convince minority voters in a number of swing states – including Ohio and Florida – that he was a better choice than Trump. Hammer reports that Trump won the support of 32 to 35 percent of Hispanic voters. The Washington Post reports that 31 percent of Asians backed President Trump. Ultimately, over a fourth of Trump’s support came from non-white voters.
These results fly in the face of the idea that only non-college educated whites embrace Trump’s populist and conservative message. Even if Trump ultimately fails to capture a second term, his increased support from these groups prove that an America-First agenda, including an emphasis on border security and reducing overall immigration, has widespread support from voters not traditionally aligned with the Republican Party before 2016.
The Senate Will Likely Remain in the Control of the GOP
While the final tally is not available, the chances of the Democrats taking control of the Senate is extraordinarily slim. Against record-setting fundraising, Republican incumbents and candidates fought off Democrats in multiple races. Commenting on the 2020 outlook, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wy.) remarked to Politico that “Democrats have a staggering ability to raise money and a stunning ability to waste it.”
Democrats wasted over $90 million to topple Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who defeated Democratic opponent Amy McGrath by nearly 20 points. Jaime Harrison raised over $100 million to defeat Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) only to lose by over 10 points. Democrats failed to beat Susan Collins in Maine and Joni Ernst in Iowa, in two races that looked grim for the GOP in October. And while the North Carolina race remains up in the air, Republican Thom Tillis remains ahead of his Democratic challenger.
Republican control of the upper chamber is crucial to stopping many of Joe Biden’s most radical proposals – including his promise to amnesty more than 11 million illegal aliens through legislative action. If elected, Joe Biden could and will overturn many of President Trump’s executive actions on immigration and would halt construction of the border wall. But a Republican-controlled Senate will halt many of Biden’s more extreme positions. Better yet, Senate Republicans will have no appetite to negotiate with the Democratic House and a President Biden on any kind of sweeping “comprehensive immigration reform,” a shorthand term for amnesty.
The fate of the Senate lies in Georgia, where both Republican incumbent Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will face off against their Democratic challengers in January run-off elections. These elections could quickly turn into the most expensive in history as the national parties pour resources into what both the Republican and Democratic parties see as must-win elections. FAIR will continue to monitor these two runoff contests closely.
Democratic Majority Weakened in the House of Representatives
It looks like the Democrats will retain control of the House of Representatives, but Republican candidates defied polling and low expectations on election day. Instead of a second blue wave reminiscent of the 2018 midterms, Democrats lost a number of seats and elections to GOP challengers. Instead of adding to their majority, House Democrats must grapple with a reduced majority and an emboldened GOP minority. Barring some sort of internal civil war, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will remain Speaker of the House. The 117th Congress could look similar to the 116th in terms of legislative accomplishments – with a divided Congress, the House will pass largely partisan legislation that the Senate will refuse to consider. With Biden as president, Speaker Pelosi could try to pass legislation to put political pressure on leader McConnell in the Senate, but he’s still unlikely to pass any of the liberal wish-list items that come to the Senate as House-passed legislation, including on immigration.
Until the conclusion of the two runoff races in Georgia, we will not know who ultimately controls the U.S. Senate, and consequently, the federal government. If Democrats win both of those runoff races, then they will have enough votes to form a razor-thin majority in the Senate to complement their control of the White House and the House of Representatives.
If Republicans win just one of those races, there will be a divided government with Joe Biden in the White House, the Democrats holding the House, and the Republicans retaining control of the Senate. A divided government will prevent Biden from implementing some of his more extreme promises, but still allows him to overturn much of what Trump did at the executive level. But even in his loss, President Trump showed that he was able to attract a diverse swath of voters with his America-First message, and particularly won voters with his message on immigration.