It Should Be Like ’76 But…

Election night is always exciting and special for a political junkie like me. This campaign should be like 1976 with any Democrat winning easily; it won’t be. In many years the networks are able to call the winner at 11pm EST when the five last states close their polls. This year I not only guarantee that won’t be the case; we won’t know the final numbers in the Senate and possibly control of that chamber. It will look much more like 2000. Let’s explore why.

I’ll start with Georgia not that I think it will be the only problem state on the evening of November 3rd but it will be one of the most interesting. The official poll closing time in Georgia is 7pm. I will not be surprised if people are still in line at 11pm in certain precincts. The current regime, led by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, has proven especially incompetent (arguably intentionally) at running elections and when you add the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic there is no reason to expect November to be any better.

Since most poll workers are senior citizens there is every reason to expect states will have challenges staffing precincts which will lead to precinct consolidation, less places to vote, confusion and longer lines. (Not bad if your goal is voter suppression.) Georgia, in particular but not exclusively, appears to be challenged with processing by mail ballots which it is reasonable to assume will be cast at a record level in 2020. While Georgia with its early poll closing will get the most media attention, it will certainly not be alone in battleground states with problems reporting that night. It is likely that when the “West Coast Five” is projected at 11pm Georgia will be too incomplete to call. (Alaska will go Republican with California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington going to the Democrat.)

I expect similar scenarios to play out in multiple states. 2016 kept us up into the middle of the night; 2020 will be much worse. It will be much more like 2000 which wasn’t decided for weeks and until after the Supreme Court and the Republican Riot interceded.

It will not be the presidency alone. We may very well not know who controls the Senate and certainly will not know the numbers on November 4th. Again I go back to Georgia. While I anticipate several close Senate races I will all but guarantee that we will not know the winner of the Isakson/Loeffler seat on election night. It is currently a four way race between two Democrats and two Republicans. Georgia still has a Jim Crow-era law on the books that requires the winner to have 50% of the popular vote. If all four of those major candidates stay in the race – and at his point it appears they will – the odds are that we are headed to a January 5th runoff between the top two vote getters. (If recent tradition is followed the next Senate will be seated January 4th.) Unless by midnight it is apparent that the top two are both of the same party, the balance of the Senate will be very much in question as both hands go straight up on the clock.

I still expect (but am far from guaranteeing) that the Democrats will flip enough seats to take back the Senate but in any event I expect the outcome to be close. A 50-50 situation is very possible in which case the control of the chamber rests on the outcome of the presidential contest.

Trump has done such an abysmal job that the Democrats should be able to run anyone and still win. That was much the case in 1976 when Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford who inherited the presidency when Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. However we were not as polarized in ’76 as we are today. We also didn’t have two very different news streams or foreign interference in our election both of which we will have in 2020.

At this point I have absolutely no idea what the subject matter of my article on Wednesday November 4, 2020 will be but I sincerely doubt it will include the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

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One thought on “It Should Be Like ’76 But…”

  1. Your characterization of Brian Kemp was more generous than he deserves. I think he should be prosecuted.

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