Ed Dover, a retired political science professor, gives a Salem City Club talk after every election -- providing well-informed commentary on the results. I always look forward to hearing Dover speak. Today's talk was another interesting tour of the 2020 election landscape.
Dover started off by stating the obvious: the presidential election was a referendum on the president.
Obviously Trump didn't win that battle, since almost certainly he will end up losing to Biden by exactly the same electoral vote margin Trump beat Clinton by in 2016, 306 to 232. Incumbents usually win, but Trump became the first president to fail at re-election in 28 years.
A key reason is that Trump didn't try to expand his base, which represented a typical share of the electorate. In 2016 Trump got 46% of the vote. Likely 46% will be his percentage in 2020 also (currently Trump is at 47%, but New York and California have many votes left to count). McCain got 45% and Romney 47%.
Through the four years of his presidency Trump focused on that 46%. He gave them what they wanted. He denigrated people they didn't like. He alienated and angered the other 54% which, in retrospect, wasn't a brilliant re-election strategy.
Plus, in 2016 20% of Bernie Sanders voters didn't vote for Clinton. That's one reason she lost the three mid-West states that Biden flipped this year -- Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania.
Looking at Oregon, Dover said the Republican Party demonstrated a high level of party unity. Meaning, all of the GOP statewide candidates got about the same number of votes, though some were less appealing than others.
Jo Rae Perkins, the QAnon fan who lost her Senate race to Jeff Merkley, got 900,000 votes. Kim Thatcher, who did the best in the statewide races lost by every Republican, got 975,000 votes in her bid to be Secretary of State. Other candidates got about the same number of votes as Trump.
This shows that Trump didn't head the Republican ticket, vote-wise, but rather was right in the middle of it.
Dover then discussed the two major political parties, each of which has existed since before the Civil War. Today the Democratic party is the party of urban America, while the Republican party is the party of small towns and rural America.
In Oregon, Biden won urban Multnomah County handily, while having a narrower margin in Marion County, a mix of urban and rural voters. Salem went for Biden, while the rest of Marion County tilted toward Trump.
So urban states gave Biden an expected win while rural states gave Trump an expected win. This focused attention on ten battleground states whose urban/rural mix makes them competitive. Biden ended up winning Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia (along with Nevada; not sure if this was a battleground state, but it seems like it was).
A primary reason Biden won Arizona and Georgia is that Phoenix and Atlanta are rapidly growing urban/suburban areas. These lean Democratic by reason of the three D's Dover mentioned: density, diversity, degrees.
Regarding the latter, an exit poll showed that in Oregon 62% of voters with a high school education or less went for Trump; 57% of voters with some college went for Biden; 67% of voters with a bachelor's degree went for Biden; 78% of those with an advanced degree went for Biden.
(I'm tempted to say that smarter people vote Democratic, and just gave in to that temptation.)
Dover didn't talk a whole lot about Oregon legislature races. He did discuss some history about how Democrats came to enjoy a majority in the state House of Representatives, which has 60 seats.
From 1987 to 2000, the House was almost evenly split. In fact, in 2010 it was exactly split with 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans.
Then Democrats started to gain seats. Over the last 10 years Democrats gained 10 urban House seats and lost three rural seats, for a net gain of seven.
So based on current election results, Democrats will have a 37-23 majority in the state House. Dover said that Democrats should have a 18-12 majority in the state Senate, assuming Deb Patterson holds on to her 505 vote lead over Denyc Boles in the SD 10 race.
In the Q&A part of the City Club program, Dover said he wasn't worried about Trump's refusal to accept Biden's victory being a threat to democracy. Trump can't accept defeat. He couldn't imagine that he would lose. Trump looked at his crowds and figured "they all love me." But he'll have to accept the reality of his defeat eventually.
When asked about supposed non-partisan races, Dover said that in Monmouth there were three City Council seats up for election. Though nominally non-partisan, he noticed that if someone had Biden-Harris and other Democrat lawn signs up in their yard, they'd also have certain City Council signs up.
The same would apply to people who had Trump-Pence and other Republican lawn signs up. They'd have different City Council signs in their yard. This shows that people know who is progressive or conservative, even if they are running in a non-partisan race.