Making sense of the Presidential endgame – With insights from Wall Street Journal. UPDATE

Joe Biden has won the US election, gaining more than the 270 electoral college votes needed to secure the presidency, says Bloomberg. However Donald Trump is fighting to the end, with accusations of voter fraud. The first piece is an update from Bloomberg. In the second piece, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal sets out why the story is more complicated than Trump being belligerent.

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Joe Biden wins US presidency after bitter contest with Trump

By Jordan Fabian and Tyler Pager

Nov 7, 2020, 4:26 PM – Updated on Nov 7, 2020, 5:47 PM

(Bloomberg) — Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has defeated Donald Trump to become the 46th U.S. president, unseating the incumbent with a pledge to unify and mend a nation reeling from a worsening pandemic, faltering economy and deep political divisions.Biden’s victory came after the Associated Press, CNN and NBC showed him winning Pennsylvania and Nevada and gaining more than the 270 Electoral College votes needed to secure the presidency.“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris,” Biden said in a statement. “In the face of unprecedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again, that democracy beats deep in the heart of America.”Biden was at home with his family when he learned he’d won the election, a campaign aide said. The president-elect planned an 8 p.m. New York time address to the nation.Trump rejected the outcome, saying in a statement immediately after the race was called that the election is “far from over.” He was at Trump National Golf Club Washington, D.C, in Sterling, Virginia, when the networks called the race for Biden.

Biden’s running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, 56, becomes the first Black and Indian-American woman to serve as vice president, a glimpse at a coming generational shift in the party.

Biden, 77, will become the oldest president-elect in U.S. history and the first to oust a sitting commander-in-chief after one term since Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Biden won 290 Electoral College votes, according to the AP, which earlier had called Arizona for the Democrat. Several other networks have yet to call Arizona or Nevada, but Biden still has the Electoral College votes to claim the presidency.

Spontaneous celebrations broke out in front of the White House, in New York City’s Times Square and in Philadelphia as news of the election results were released.

But the incoming president’s goal of uniting the country will be made more difficult by Trump’s unfounded allegations of fraud and with control of the U.S. Senate up in the air, awaiting two runoffs in Georgia in January.

If Republicans hold the Senate, Biden’s agenda of tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations and climate-friendly energy policies could be stymied in Congress. Democrats maintained control of the House of Representatives.

Biden won back the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — the so-called Blue Wall that delivered the presidency to Trump in 2016. Buoyed by historic turnout, Biden reaped 4 million more votes than Trump nationwide, as of Saturday morning, winning nearly 75 million votes to Trump’s 71 million.

Trump Contests the Results

Trump cast doubt on the outcome throughout the count, claiming widespread voting irregularities without evidence and filing lawsuits to contest the ballot count in some key states where he was behind.

So far, none of Trump’s lawsuits have gained traction or demonstrated that the results of the election can be overturned.

Biden pulled together enough support to sweep aside one of the most unconventional and polarizing presidents in U.S. history, a man who cultivated a fierce loyalty among his supporters — they had taken to chanting, “We love you!” at his campaign rallies — while equating his political rivals and the media to enemies of the state.

Given how close Biden’s margins were, Trump might have won a second term if not for his widely criticized response to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout. The president routinely mused at rallies how he had the election won before the virus reached the U.S. earlier this year.

Trump consistently downplayed the threat of the virus and discouraged even the simplest public health measures to curb its spread, turning mask-wearing into a political issue. For voters, seeing Trump, his wife and his youngest son infected with Covid-19 in early October punctuated his failure to protect the nation as a whole.

Biden has promised that combating the U.S. outbreak will be his highest priority, along with repairing a battered economy. He has proposed a $3.5 trillion plan that relies heavily on deficit spending to create jobs, though a plan that size likely would face resistance in a Republican-led Senate. More than 9.7 million Americans have been sickened and more than 236,000 have died since February.

The president-elect has said he can erase some of Trump’s most controversial decisions on his own, without congressional approval. He plans to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization and reverse Trump’s rollbacks of environmental regulations. He says he will also end the ban on immigration from several predominantly Muslim nations and restore rights for asylum seekers.

Voters responded to Biden’s relative humility and his conventional approach to the campaign, which reflected his 47 years in public life. Biden surrounded himself with many of the same advisers from his past campaigns, and his administration likely would include at least some veterans of Barack Obama’s White House, where Biden was vice president.

On the airwaves, Americans saw a one-sided contest: In August and September, Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee outraised Trump’s team by more than $289 million, fueling a massive advertising effort.

Biden Faces GOP Senate

Facing a likely Republican majority in the Senate, Biden would have to draw on longstanding relationships with top Republicans in Congress in order to have any shot of passing major legislation or getting his preferred cabinet confirmed. That could prove difficult in a Washington that looks little like it did when Biden first entered politics in 1972.

The presidency marks an unexpected capstone for Biden’s five-decade political career. The former Delaware senator’s two previous presidential bids in 1988 and 2008 collapsed in the primaries. After serving as Obama’s vice president, he passed up a chance to run again in 2016 following the death of his son Beau Biden and as Democrats coalesced around Hillary Clinton.

Biden entered the Democratic primary in April 2019 as the front-runner. He ran on a message of unity, often saying he ran because of Trump’s response to the 2017 White supremacist rally and counter-protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the president said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Until Biden’s victory was assured, Democrats feared he might fall short — much like Clinton in 2016. Public polls once again appeared to overstate Biden’s strength in closely contested states, as Biden was forced to eke out narrow wins in battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Party operatives fretted about Biden’s light travel schedule during the campaign’s final stretch. Some aides feared Biden’s operation did not excite Black and Latino voters enough to get them to the polls.

Harris to Be Key Adviser

Biden’s choice of Harris seemed designed to counter the criticism that he was a throwback candidate in a party pointed toward the future. A California senator and that state’s former attorney general, Harris drew younger and minority voters to the campaign. Biden promised her that she would have the same access to the Oval Office that he did as vice president, and would be the last one to offer advice after a meeting.

Harris challenged Biden in the primaries after gaining national fame through her questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General William Barr at their confirmation hearings. If Biden, who will turn 82 in 2024, decides not to seek a second term, she is almost certain to run again.

Ultimately, it was the coronavirus that sunk Trump’s chance of a second term. Even after recovering from his bout with the virus, Trump attacked leading infectious disease experts, such as Anthony Fauci, a member of his own coronavirus task force. Polls routinely showed that voters rated Trump’s pandemic response poorly.

While Trump held a series of rallies packed with unmasked supporters, Biden urged Americans to heed the warnings of scientists and medical experts to maintain social distancing and wear face coverings in public.

After canceling all in-person campaign events as the coronavirus swept across the U.S. in March, Biden later resumed travel after Labor Day and made a point of wearing a mask in public. His events were small and socially distant, and he held drive-in rallies of hundreds of people honking their support.

Biden made the race into a referendum on Trump, and the president tried to caricature Biden as a corrupt, past-his-prime politician who was too weak to hold off the far left wing of his party. The president coined a derisive nickname for Biden — “Sleepy Joe” — just like his “Crooked Hillary” moniker in 2016.

Trump was better able to define Clinton, whose campaign was overshadowed by controversy over her handling of her emails while secretary of State. A late October letter from then-FBI Director James Comey may have cemented Trump’s win.

But attempts by Trump’s associates to smear Biden as corrupt fell flat. A week before the election, 55% of voters surveyed in a CNN poll said they viewed the former vice president favorably.

Still, many of the same challenges that sunk Trump’s presidency — namely a resurgent pandemic that is slowing the U.S. economic recovery — could overwhelm the rest of Biden’s agenda.

He will be confronted with a cascading set of crises even beyond the pandemic: racial unrest, accelerating climate change and a possible Supreme Court ruling that could gut Obamacare, a policy he has promised to build on.

Biden likely will have to continue to contend with Trump, who is showing no sign of going quietly from the White House.

(Updates with Nevada race call in second paragraph)

–With assistance from Jennifer Epstein.

The Presidential endgame

Trump has the right to fight in court, but he needs evidence to prove voter fraud.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Donald Trump’s re-election campaign would end as his Presidency began: with the President claiming victory and his frenzied antagonists denouncing him as a would-be fascist. The reality is that the U.S. can and probably will have a normal election outcome regardless of the shouting between now and then.

Mr. Biden is leading in enough states to win the Presidency, and if those votes survive recounts and legal challenges, he will be the next President. But whoever wins needs the other to concede to be able to govern. The result Americans on both political sides should want is one that most people think was decided fairly.

***

Mr. Trump has every right to demand recounts if state votes are close, and to go to the courts for relief if there is evidence of fraud. Joe Biden’s lawyers are also in court, and they were for weeks before the election trying to ease mail-in ballot rules. Mr. Biden should also want the recounts and legal process to play out for the sake of his call to heal political rancor.

As for fraud, the Trump campaign will have to prove it to prevail in court. It won’t be enough to charge that Philadelphia is historically corrupt, though it is, or that state election officials are partisan. The Georgia secretary of state is a Republican, by the way, contrary to Mr. Trump’s remarks Thursday night. The vote counting in Arizona and Georgia has seemed professional and transparent.

The Democratic Pennsylvania Supreme Court also contributed to the mistrust by rewriting state election law to let mailed ballots be counted until Nov. 6. We warned multiple times that this mess could happen, and the U.S. Supreme Court could have helped by intervening. Chief Justice John Roberts refused.

But it’s also important to note that Pat Toomey, the GOP Senator from the Keystone State, says he has seen no evidence of fraud in his state’s counting. We’ve also seen no concrete evidence. The delivery of a batch of votes all for Mr. Biden at one time can be explained by the practice of some jurisdictions to divide and report the votes of each candidate at different times.

The Trump campaign has made a substantive claim that thousands of votes in Nevada failed to meet the state’s residency requirement. That ought to be provable one way or another. If the campaign has other evidence, bring it on and test it in court.

The suspicions of Trump supporters about all this are fed by the behavior of his opponents over the last four years. Democrats still spread the voter suppression myth about Stacey Abrams’s defeat in Georgia in 2018. Democrats never accepted Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016, and Hillary Clinton still prattles on that the Russians did it.

So do the media partisans who promoted the Steele dossier and served as an echo chamber for the Russia collusion farce. The FBI’s abuses in 2016 were a genuine scandal that the media would have called out had it been aimed at a Democrat. Instead they treated Rep. Adam Schiff’s lies as gospel. And then New York Times sages puzzle in public about why 70 million Americans again voted for Donald Trump? Look in the mirror, folks.

***

If Mr. Biden has 270 Electoral College votes at the end of the counting and litigation, President Trump will have a decision to make. We hope in that event he would concede gracefully. He has accomplished a great deal since descending on that Trump Tower escalator in 2015, including his historic first victory and a strong re-election performance when he was supposed to lose in a rout. We’d hate to see that legacy ruined by a refusal to accept the normal transfer of power.

Mr. Trump can rightly say that he helped the GOP save its Senate majority, gain seats in the House, and save the country from a radical progressive agenda. The election results show he has also broadened the GOP appeal to minorities and across middle-class America. His policies broadened prosperity to a forgotten group of Americans, and his willingness to buck conventional wisdom led to a diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East. His judicial appointments have reshaped the federal courts and will echo through the law for years.

This is a considerable achievement, and it may look even better once Mr. Biden attempts to govern with an angry, impatient left. But Mr. Trump’s legacy will be diminished greatly if his final act is a bitter refusal to accept a legitimate defeat. Republican officials will turn away, and eventually so will the American public that wants to see the election resolved.

Mr. Trump hates to lose, and no doubt he will fight to the end. But if defeat comes, he will serve himself and his country best by honoring America’s democratic traditions and leaving office with dignity.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Appeared in the November 7, 2020, print edition.

Also see:

Why US election results are taking so long – With insights from Wall Street Journal

US presidential contest down to wire – With insights from the Wall Street Journal

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