By Tom Hance
The 2020 U.S. presidential election was closer than many polls showed, but it appears Joe Biden will become the next president. Contrary to pre-election projections, Republicans look likely to gain a few seats in the House of Representatives. Democrats will maintain the House majority but with a smaller margin. Senate control will come down to run-off elections on Jan. 5 in Georgia. Historical trends suggest Republicans will be favored to win these run-offs and maintain majority in the Senate, but a lot of money will be spent by both parties and trends can be broken.
The U.S. media called the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden over Donald Trump. When all states finalize votes, the electoral count is projected to be 306 Biden and 232 Trump. Key dates for the outcome to become official are:
- Dec. 8: States certify results
- Dec. 14: Electoral College casts votes
- Jan. 6, 2021: Congress approves electoral votes (can be challenged)
Voter turnout was high this year (roughly 45%) – accounting for more than 150 million Americans of about 331 million – especially among black and young voters compared to 2016. Once again, polls underestimated Trump support, but Biden was able to get more votes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin than Hillary Clinton in the last election. Biden also did better than Clinton with blue-collar voters in Rust Belt suburbs.
Republicans currently hold a 50-48 advantage pending the Georgia run-off. Democrats flipped Arizona and Colorado, but the GOP flipped Alabama and maintained seats in Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) remains Senate majority leader, John Thune (R-SD) majority whip, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Democrat leader and Dick Durbin (D-IL) Democrat whip. Senate committee leaders are expected to be as follows:
- Agriculture: John Boozman (R-AR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
- Budget: Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
- Appropriations: Richard Shelby (R-AL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
- Finance: Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ron Wyden (D-OR)
- Environment and Public Works: Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Tom Carper (D-DE)
- Energy and Natural Resources: John Barrasso (R-WY), Joe Manchin (D-WV)
- Commerce: Roger Wicker (R-MS), Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
House of Representatives
House elections were a bigger surprise with Republicans picking up more seats than expected, totaling 202 to date. Still, Democrats maintain the majority. Fifteen seats are yet to be called. Notable Democrat incumbent losses included Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL), Abby Finkenauer (IA), Kendra Horn (OK), Joe Cunningham (SC), Torres Small (NM) and Collin Peterson (MN).
With the loss of Peterson, rural Democrats are endangered species nowadays as most rural districts have gone Republican in the past 20 years. The only Democrats left in the Heartland are Cheri Bustos (IL) and Cynthia Axne (IA). Democrats with rural or semi-rural districts include Jim Costa (CA), Mike Thompson (MS), Rob Bishop (GA), Tom O’Halloren (AZ), Kim Schrier (WA), Angie Craig (MN), Abigail Spanberger (VA).
Regarding House leadership, no changes are expected at the very top. Democratic leadership elections are scheduled for Nov. 18 and committee chair selections Nov. 30. Nancy Pelosi (CA) is expected to remain speaker of the House. Up for House Agriculture Committee chair are Jim Costa (CA), David Scott (GA) and Marcia Fudge (OH) and for ranking member GT Thompson (PA), Rick Crawford (AR) and Austin Scott (GA). Decision-making factors are seniority, party politics and policy expertise.
Tom Hance is a policy expert with Gordley Associates in Washington, D.C.