The 3 Key Questions for Election Day

The 3 Key Questions for Election Day

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Plus, Pelosi's plan to pass a stimulus bill
Monday, November 2, 2020

The 3 Key Questions for Election Day

We’re almost there. After all the campaign drama, speeches, claims and counterclaims, we’re just hours away from Election Day, when the final votes will be cast — if not counted. We may not know the winner by the end of the night, but here’s what you need to know to get through the day.

Who’s going to win?
Forecasters say former vice president Joe Biden has the edge, with the FiveThirtyEight model giving him a roughly 90% chance of victory and The Economist giving him a better than 99% chance of winning the popular vote and a 96% chance of winning the Electoral College. But as FiveThirtyEight notes, those forecasts could still be wrong:
“What’s important to remember is that Biden is favored, but there is still a path for Trump. Trump might be the underdog, and he needs a big polling error in his favor, but bigger polling errors have happened in the past. A 10 percent chance of winning, which is what our forecast gives Trump, is roughly the same as the odds that it’s raining in downtown Los Angeles. And it does rain there.”

And Zeynep Tufecki, the University of North Carolina sociologist who The New York Times recently said “keeps getting the big things right,” warned in a Times op-ed this weekend that, given all the uncertainties around this year’s voting, from the pandemic to polls to questions about turnout and vote counting, the models used by these forecasters are less useful than in the past — “and may even be harmful if people take them too seriously.”

So if you haven’t done it yet, vote. And then, hard as it may be, don’t stress out about the results — or at least realize that your stress isn’t going to change anything.

When will we know the results?
We may know the winner by early Wednesday. Or we may not — and, despite what President Trump says, that’s ok. As Nicholas Riccardi of the Associated Press explains, that would not necessarily mean that anything is “broken, fraudulent, corrupted or wrong.”

As Maggie Astor writes at The New York Times, “No state ever reports final results on election night, and no state is legally expected to. Americans are accustomed to knowing who won on election night because news organizations project winners based on partial counts, not because the counting is actually completed that quickly.” This year, with millions more Americans having voted by mail, news organizations that track vote counts may need more time to be able to project a winner.

“In some states — like Colorado, which has been conducting elections by mail for years, or Florida, which allows officials to begin processing mail-in ballots before Election Day — it may still be possible to call winners on election night, depending on how close the races are,” Astor writes. “But in many other states — including the all-important Pennsylvania, where some counties will not begin counting mail-in ballots until Nov. 4 because of limited resources — it could take several days to get an accurate picture. If this happens, it will be evidence not of a conspiracy but of the electoral system working as it should, by counting every vote.”

What could go wrong?
Oh boy. Do you really want to know? The list of possible risks is long, with fears percolating about anything and everything from technological problems to legal disputes to violence in the streets. One candidate or the other (read: Trump) could declare victory before the results are known or challenge the legitimacy of certain votes or the outcome, potentially setting up even more extreme scenarios for how the election could be contested. Let’s all hope for the best, but if you want to mentally prepare for the worst, you can read more here, here or here.

Post-Election Gridlock Could Scar the Economy

Even after the election, the nation could face a prolonged stretch of political gridlock that further delays another coronavirus relief package even as the economy faces additional pain.

The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein reports that a number of economic sectors are preparing to be hit by the surge of Covid-19 cases and the arrival of winter, with some 40% of restaurant owners across the country saying in industry surveys that the expect to go out of business by March without more aid. The travel and hotel sectors also face severe strains.

At the same time, millions of Americans “are also at risk of having their power and water shut off with unpaid utility bills coming due, while protections for renters, student borrowers and jobless Americans will expire by the end of the year” unless Congress can pass additional relief legislation.

“I don’t think the biggest risks are common or national-level. The biggest risks are specific geographies and specific parts of the population,” said economist Ernie Tedeschi. “But the pain for those segments could be very deep.”

Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank, told the Post: “All signs suggest that we’re in for the worst of this at the same time the situation in Washington is also becoming its worst and most horrible.”

What will Trump do?
“Among the biggest mysteries hovering over this uncertainty is what Trump and his aides will do after Election Day, particularly if he loses to Democratic nominee Joe Biden,” Stein writes. “There are almost three months between the Nov. 3 election and the next inauguration on Jan. 20 — approximately the period of time when both public health experts and economists fear the coronavirus will strike the nation with renewed ferocity. As colder weather pushes people indoors, the Trump administration has not outlined a plan for how to deal with an expected surge of cases and hospitalizations. … Several former White House officials and numerous Republican aides on Capitol Hill said they believe it is possible the president loses interest in the stimulus package once it has no utility for his 2020 presidential campaign.”

Another wave of job losses:
“We are about to see a second wave of job losses — this one more likely to permanently push millions out of the labor force, lower wages and leave long-lasting scars on the economy,” writes Dion Rabouin at Axios. Rabouin notes that a number of large corporations have announced thousands of layoffs recently. “Rather than a panic-driven effort to cut costs and stay above water, these job losses are largely a result of companies reducing headcount after mergers and acquisitions or as part of a longer-term strategy,” he adds.

The bottom line:
As Axios’s Dan Primack sums it up, “With less than 24 hours until Election Day, there's one truth that applies to every federal elected official running for re-election, from President Trump to the furthest backbencher in Congress: They failed to produce the economic stimulus that almost everyone agrees is needed, including a second wave of PPP loans.”

Pelosi’s Plan to Pass a Coronavirus Relief Bill — and More

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Monday that Democrats may seek to use budget reconciliation to provide more funds for coronavirus relief and economic stimulus, as well as to enhance Obamacare.

“We’ll almost certainly be passing a reconciliation bill, not only for the Affordable Care Act, but for what we may want to do further on the pandemic and some other issues that relate to the well-being of the American people,” Pelosi said in a meeting with a progressive group, Politico reported.

Democrats could proceed with budget reconciliation if they were to win control of the White House and both houses of Congress. Legislative rules allow for the passage of a spending package through the Senate once a year with a simple majority vote, avoiding the potential snare of a filibuster, which requires 60 votes to end.

Judge Blocks ‘Public Charge’ Rule for Immigrants

A federal judge has halted an effort by the Trump administration to deny green cards to immigrants who use public benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman on Monday struck down the rule, saying that, among other issues, it violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the process for creating new rules at federal agencies.

The Trump administration’s rule change was the subject of numerous legal challenges. Officials in Chicago said the new rule would result in some immigrants avoiding necessary medical care for fear of being branded “public charges” and thereby losing access to residency.

“As we all continue to be impacted by COVID-19, it is vital that no one is fearful of accessing health care,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement. “The court’s decision to block enforcement of the Public Charge Rule re-opens doors for immigrants to access vital services like health care.”

Officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services have not indicated whether they will appeal the ruling.

Joe Biden’s Economy Czar

Joe Biden has a vast team of advisers working on plans to boost the economy in the event that the former vice president wins the presidential election. While some are big names who served in the Obama administration, a report in The New York Times Monday says a relatively young and little-known tax and budget expert named Ben Harris is coordinating the Biden campaign’s economic platform, and the policies he is crafting could play an important role in managing the economy starting early next year.

Finding compromise: The challenge for Harris, who serves as the Biden campaign’s senior economic adviser, is to balance two important but divergent interest groups in the Democratic Party: progressives, many of whom think President Barack Obama was too timid when it came to combating the Great Recession, and business-oriented centrists who worry that left wing of the party will be too aggressive in its efforts to repair a pandemic-ravaged economy in 2021 and beyond.

According to the Times’ Jim Tankersley, Harris has successfully threaded the needle between the groups, crafting proposals for the tax hikes and increased spending progressives want in ways that centrists can accept and even embrace.

“The economic agenda Mr. Harris helped craft includes income and investment tax increases on top earners, higher taxes for corporations and a variety of spending increases in areas like clean energy, infrastructure and higher education,” Tankersley writes. “While those plans remain far less aggressive than the tax-and-spending ideas of Mr. Biden’s more liberal primary campaign rivals, he has managed to avoid sharp criticism from the left-leaning economists who have pushed for historically large tax increases on corporations and the rich.”

Gathering support: In addition to pleasing the progressive wing, the compromises Harris has wrought have been embraced by Wall Street, which has poured money in the Biden campaign, and the general public, which generally approves of higher taxes on the wealthy and increased spending on public goods.

Harris’s policies also tend to play well with the budget models that can make or break a policy proposal in Washington. The personal income tax hikes Biden has proposed, for example, are similar to those proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but are structured within the existing tax code and come at a lower economic cost. That could help a potential Biden administration get its agenda through Congress as it takes up the fight against the coronavirus early next year.

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