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Week In Politics: Joe Biden Leads In Key States As Votes Continue To Be Counted


Joe Biden said last night that he and his running mate, Kamala Harris, are not waiting to get to work on the country's urgent public health and economic crisis. And once again, he urged Americans to be patient as they wait for final election results.


JOE BIDEN: You know, we're proving again what we've proved for 244 years in this country. Democracy works. Your vote will be counted. I don't care how hard people try to stop it. I will not let it happen. People will be heard.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, good to have you here, as always.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Wouldn't be anywhere else this morning, Scott.

SIMON: Well, we are now in the fifth day of counting votes. How much doubt is there about who won the election?

ELVING: We're not hearing much doubt from officials counting votes. What we're hearing is a call for patience while they deal with an overwhelming flood of mail-in ballots.

The outcome is questioned by the president's campaign and members of his immediate family and a few allies among Senate Republicans, but strikingly few, Scott. Mostly, we're hearing Republicans say that votes should be counted. And after all, in at least one state - Arizona, as we just heard from Domenico - the later counting has improved the president's showing and reduced Biden's lead.

SIMON: The way this period has unfolded and, I must say, the president's attempts to spin it - they were predicted, weren't they?

ELVING: Oh, we certainly knew this much. The president said that the pandemic should not alter people's voting plans. That was in keeping with his general attitude toward the virus. He said people should vote in person, just like always. And most of his voters seem to have followed this advice. But many Democrats and independents and some Republicans took the safer route and voted by mail, which meant, of course, that their votes were counted largely after the same-day ballots. And in some states, that's required by law. So that allowed the president to claim victory on election night based on partial vote totals.

It also made it inevitable that we would have this inexorable march of Biden ballots as we went through the week. So we've seen state after state opening the ballots that were cast by mail - totally legal votes, legally counted - but the president decided to attack this process as something corrupt and fraudulent.

SIMON: I think it's safe to say that the results, as we look at them so far, were not what either party was really hoping for in their fondest dreams. And it, of course, sets off some self-examination. Let's begin with Democrats.

ELVING: Democrats have always believed that if more people voted, more Democrats would win. But here we had a record turnout and the apparent defeat of an incumbent Republican president, and yet the benefits of that did not seem to extend down the ballot at all for Democrats.

Let's be clear; they're pleased to say goodbye to Donald Trump. But they had been expecting also to take over the Senate, which has not happened and will await the results of runoff elections. And Democrats are also expected or had also expected to expand their majority in the House, which is actually a shrinking majority instead. We're still counting ballots for that as well. So some of the more moderate Democrats who won seats in previously Republican districts in 2018 had a hard time in this cycle. And some of them are blaming that on the more aggressive progressives in the Democrats' ranks.

SIMON: And Republicans, of course, they gained seats in the House and in state legislatures, but the head of their party, so far, has lost the popular vote by more than 4 million.

ELVING: And in the main, Republicans are relieved to think that whatever backlash there might have been from the Trump era mostly harmed the president and not the party. And Republican candidates for the Senate and the House mostly avoided the damage. So did candidates at the state legislature level. And that will mean that Republicans are still largely in the driver's seat as they draw the new maps for the voting districts of the next decade based on the new census. That's a big deal. That's a big deal. Maybe not a voting issue for most people, but it is going to make a great deal of difference to our political world going forward.

The challenge will be to decide, for Republicans, whether this is still the party of Donald Trump, perhaps the vehicle for his comeback, or whether it will be a party that's ready to move on.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much. And I hope you don't have big plans for today because I think (laughter) - I think we might speak again.

ELVING: I hope we speak again soon, Scott.

SIMON: I hope so, too. Thanks very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
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