The Peach State prepares for a political frenzy as a pair of January runoffs determine the balance of the Senate—and the shape of the presidency
Former Vice President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Saturday night as the presumptive president-elect, saying he pledged to be a leader who “does not seek to divide, but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, but only sees the United States.”
The prime-time address with running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., came eight hours after the Associated Press and other major news networks projected Biden had won the election and would be the 46th president of the United States.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump didn’t concede. The president says his legal team will continue to file challenges in swing states with close margins. On Sunday afternoon, the president tweeted: “This was a stolen election.”
That’s a massive assertion the Trump campaign would have to prove with specific, credible evidence. Judges would decide if any evidence is compelling and clear, and whether it could change the outcome of the race.
One thing was clear: The contest was razor-thin in Pennsylvania, the state that propelled Biden past the 270 votes needed to secure the Electoral College, by AP’s calculations.
When AP called the race Saturday morning, Biden led by 0.51 percent in Pennsylvania. The state’s law requires an automatic recount if the margin is 0.5 percent or less. Some wondered why AP called Pennsylvania with such a tight margin.
The news agency said it concluded Biden’s lead would stay above the 0.5 percent margin as the final votes are counted: “There are roughly 62,000 mail ballots remaining to be counted. Biden has won the overwhelming majority of mail ballots cast in the state.”
The news agency also estimated an additional 100,000 provisional ballots remained to be counted in Pennsylvania.
AP said that its analysis of “a small set of provisional ballots from Trump-leaning counties showed Trump was winning them by a smaller margin than his Election Day vote totals in those counties. The analysis led AP to conclude Trump could not gain enough votes from provisional ballots to overcome Biden’s margin.”
By Monday morning, Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania had increased to 0.67 percent, according to AP.
Even if Pennsylvania somehow ended up in a recount, it’s relatively rare for a recount of a statewide race to change the outcome of an election. But even if the chances are slim, the Trump team may continue to cite ultra-slim margins as a reason to continue with challenges.
Most major news networks followed AP’s lead in declaring Biden the winner. And some Republicans did congratulate Biden, including President George W. Bush, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and retiring Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas. Others urged Trump to continue the legal process and said that voters should wait for the outcome.
“The media do not get to determine who the president is. The people do,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted on Saturday. “When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., tweeted: “There are still serious legal challenges that have been made, and until that process is resolved, the election is not final. The American people deserve a fair and transparent process.”
But a slate of high-level Republicans remained quiet over the weekend: Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., hadn’t commented—either way—by early Monday.
While many believe the current math makes a Biden win inevitable, the week ahead will reveal if Trump’s team makes headway in courts. It will also reveal whether the president continues to reject calls to concede before the litigation is complete. Whatever the case, the clock is ticking: Members of the Electoral College are set to cast their states’ votes for president on Dec. 14.
In the meantime, Biden and Harris began to build their transition teams and lay the groundwork for taking control of the White House in January, as another major question remains: Who will control the Senate?
The legal wrangling in the presidential race may have drawn attention away from the enormously consequential question of whether Republicans will retain their majority in the Senate, along with their ability to thwart at least some ambitions of Democrats.
Those ambitions are big: Biden and Harris have spoken of expanding Obamacare, investing aggressively in climate change legislation, rolling back some of the provisions of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, and passing the Equality Act—a measure that could pose direct challenges to religious liberties.
How much of that agenda they can accomplish depends largely on whether Democrats control the Senate. And that likely depends on what happens in two Senate races in Georgia headed to runoffs in January.
At the moment, it appears Republicans are likely to control 50 seats in the Senate, and Democrats will control 48. The two run-off races in Georgia will determine whether Democrats can pick up two more Senate seats and bring them to a 50-50 tie.
If Democrats prevail in both races, a presumptive Vice President Kamala Harris would break any tie in the Senate. That means the shape of the next presidency is still very much up in the air. For the next couple of months, Georgia will be on our minds.