Editorial: Races To Watch On Election Night

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There is a lot of speculation about what’s going to happen on November 3. After the polls close at 8 p.m., there will be plenty of news personalities talking about the results as they come in. With every House seat on the ballot, plus control of the Senate, White House, and (eventually) the Supreme Court, it’s enough to make you dizzy.

  The problem with a lot of political commentary is that they expect people to vote with their minds, and not their hearts. They’ll say something like “Iowa farmers were hurt by Trump’s trade policies so they won’t vote for him,” or “White voters in the Texas counties won’t vote for Biden.” In reality, very few people really understand the complex issues. Instead, they’ll just vote for whoever their Facebook bubble has promoted more than the other.

  I spent a weekend researching the elections because I’m curious about it. And now I’m going to let you copy my notes. This list I made is by no means an exhaustive list. I selected the important ones that interested me the most. Some people will say that if Pennsylvania and Florida get called for Biden, you can go to bed early.

  For the purpose of this editorial, I will only be focusing on Republicans and Democrats, and not independent candidates.

  Republicans currently control the Senate. Democrats need to gain four senators (three if they also take the White House) to take control of the Senate. Democrats have the majority in the House 232-197, and Republicans need to land 18 seats to take it.

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  I’m going to start with New Jersey because New Jersey is the best state.

  New Jersey’s 14 electoral votes are predicted to go to Biden. What’s more interesting are the races down ballot.

  For most of this election cycle, pundits and predictors have rated the House elections in the 2nd and 3rd Districts as toss-ups. Sometimes they lean one way or the other, but that’s the nature of toss-ups. Websites have also named both of these races among the closest in the nation.

  Starting with the 2nd District, the incumbent is Republican Jeff Van Drew. He’s being challenged by Democrat Amy Kennedy. Polls show her with a slight lead, but I’ve never really liked polls. They call 500 registered voters and count them up. That’s hardly scientific. It’s one thing to look at, but not the be-all, end-all.

  In the 3rd District, incumbent Andy Kim, a Democrat, is being challenged by David Richter, a Republican. This will be Richter’s second fight of the year. The first was against Kate Gibbs in the primary. It was messy and expensive. It left the incumbent relatively unscathed with a huge lead in funding. Kim unseated Republican Tom MacArthur for the job. The race was so close that it wasn’t called until almost two weeks later. I imagine the same thing will happen this time around, even moreso because of mail-in ballot reasons.

  In the 4th District, incumbent Republican Chris Smith is favored to win reelection. He is being challenged by Democrat Stephanie Schmid. Smith has been in the position for a few decades, and has name recognition and staying power. His pro-life sentiment will likely win him continual support in the very religious communities he represents. Schmid’s chance is if there is another blue wave, and she converts independents who are coming out to vote against anyone with an R after their name.

  On a lesser note, New Jersey’s 5th, 7th, and 11th Congressional Districts are not slam dunks for the incumbent Democrats, and might have surprises.

  Arizona has 11 electoral votes. It has been historically Republican. Currently, Biden has a slight lead. Also, you should watch the Senate race there. Martha McSally is up for election. She is a Republican who was chosen to fulfill the remainder of John McCain’s term. She is being challenged by Democrat Mark Kelly, an astronaut married to Gabby Giffords. The other senator in Arizona is a Democrat who won the spot by narrowly beating McSally in 2018. So, this is a vulnerable spot that should be watched. However, since the mail-in voting might slow down how long it takes to tally votes, Arizona might be decided past your bedtime.

  Florida has 29 electoral votes and is a big target in presidential elections. The last three presidential elections have been very close. Trump won Florida in 2016 by 2.2%, with only about 100,000 votes more than Hillary Clinton. Obama won it in 2012 and 2008 with similarly narrow margins. Before that, George W. Bush won both of his elections in that state by even closer margins. Bill Clinton won it one year but not the other.

  Georgia’s 16 electoral votes are believed to be in play this year. The state has routinely been safe for Republicans, and Trump won it easily before. However, Democrats have been investing a lot of time and money getting inner city people registered to vote. This might not impact the presidency, but might mean more blue in House races. Both Republican Senators are on the ballot. Kelly Loeffler, in particular, got bad press earlier this year for dumping stocks when she knew COVID was about to hit.

  Somehow, a lot of news came out of Michigan recently. Trump won it narrowly in 2016. It had been such a Democrat stronghold that the Democrats didn’t put a lot of work into keeping it. With all the turmoil, it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

  Clinton won Minnesota narrowly in 2016 and the Trump campaign has targeted it as a vulnerable pick-up state for 2020. The Republicans have been outspending and out-visiting this year to earn its 10 electoral votes.

  North Carolina has 15 electoral votes. Obama won it with 1 point in 2008; Romney won it with 2 points in 2012 and Trump won it with a 4 point margin in 2016. Their Republican first-term Senator Thom Tillis is up for re-election and pundits say it could go either way. So, this state is important to watch for control of the Senate as well.

  You knew that Ohio would wind up on this list, right? One stat I saw said that no Republican ever ascended to the presidency without Ohio. That sounds like a baseball stat – something to ramble off while you’re waiting for the pitch but it doesn’t really matter. It has 18 electoral votes. Trump won it by 8 points. Obama won the state both times, but by smaller margins.

  South Carolina’s 9 electoral votes traditionally go to Republicans. But this year, it’s not about the electoral votes. It’s about Lindsey Graham. Once critical of Trump, he has had a change in tune, and the nation noticed. He faces Jaime Harrison who has set fundraising records.

  Pennsylvania is worth 20 electoral votes. It voted for Trump very narrowly. However, it voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Expect pundits to be watching Pennsylvania closely on election night.

  Texas has 38 electoral votes and hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Carter. A lot of pundits are talking about Texas moving slowly to the left over the years, and some websites are only listing it as “lean right,” but I personally feel that’s making a mountain out of a mole hill just to get clicks.

  Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes. And interestingly, Wisconsin residents voted on their 10 electoral voters earlier this year. Trump won it narrowly in 2016, and Obama won it his two terms, making this a true swing state. All the polls point to Trump losing Wisconsin this year. However, all the polls pointed to Trump losing Wisconsin in 2016, but he won it despite predictions.

Chris Lundy
News Editor