Why Republicans Shouldn’t Fret Over the Election Results

For the GOP, the election results are not nearly as frightening as they appear.

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Whether or not Donald Trump is willing to admit it, he has lost the election. Despite holding a comfortable lead in many key swing states on Election Night, President Trump’s lead slowly eroded over the following days as mail-in and absentee votes that heavily favored former Vice President Joe Biden continued to be counted to the President’s dismay.
The result? Joe Biden is now poised to become the 46th President of the United States after securing 306 Electoral votes — the exact amount Donald Trump received in 2016 when he defeated Hillary Clinton despite losing the popular vote by nearly three million votes.
Across the GOP moods towards the results range from fear and despair over the results to outright denial. After nearly four tumultuous years of controversy and relative unpopularity, many Republicans fear that the long foreseen electoral rebuke of Donald Trump and the Republican Party has finally arrived. On the surface that conclusion appears rock solid, however, as you read deeper into the results it easily deduced that it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Going into the election Republicans had every reason to be worried. Bolstered by polls that predicted a popular vote lead of up to ten points for Vice President Biden and expectations of historic voter turnout, Democrats were bullish. They foresaw Biden winning the swing states of Florida and North Carolina while easily reclaiming the three Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that were crucial to President Trump’s victory in 2016. Democratic ambitions were even more optimistic, with polls suggesting that that the longtime Republican strongholds of Georgia, Arizona, and even Texas were in play. In the Senate, confident Democrats supported by favorable polls believed that Trump’s unpopularity would negatively impact down-ballot Republicans and result in Democratic victories in key Senate races in Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and Montana and deliver them control of the chamber. The House had a much gloomier outlook for Republicans, with Democrats expected to retain and expand their majority after taking control of the chamber two years previously.
When Election Day finally arrived and the votes were counted over the following days, Vice President Biden became President-Elect Biden, seemingly validating the anxieties held by many Republicans. Although victorious, Biden’s margin of victory was far from the monumental landslide victory that had been predicted by many on both sides of the aisle. With 306 Electoral Votes, Biden reclaimed the formerly reliable Democratic Rust Belt states that Trump won in 2016 and edged out victories in Georgia and Arizona. Despite winning by a relatively comfortable margin in the Electoral College, Biden won several key states by less than one percent of the vote, suggesting that if Trump had made fewer mistakes and missteps during the final stretch of the campaign — such as not botching his performance at the First Presidential Debate — it is quite possible he could have managed to eke out a victory in the Electoral College. Nationwide, Biden won the popular vote by four points, A margin that although comfortable falls well short of the ten plus point margin that many had anticipated.
Looking past the Presidential race, the outcome is much gloomier for the Democrats. Outperforming expectations, Republicans won Senate races in nearly all closely contested races, including a stunning upset in Maine where incumbent Republican Susan Collins was reelected to her 5th term by a margin of around nine points despite the fact that Trump lost the popular vote in state by nearly ten points. Initially fearing that they would lose control of the Senate to an energized and enthusiastic Democratic Party, the GOP is now poised to hold at least 50 seats in the Senate, with control of the chamber now resting on two runoff races in Georgia that will occur just over two weeks before Biden’s inauguration. To secure control of the chamber, the GOP needs to win one of these races. Democrats will need to win both races to evenly divide the chamber and ensure that neither party secures a majority.
In the event of a divided Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris would have the opportunity to break any tie votes that arise in favor of the Democrats, giving them control — albeit narrow and fragile — of the Presidency, Senate, and House and the ability to pursue their agenda without significant legislative opposition from the Republicans. The silver lining of this outcome, however, is that it would only take a single moderate Democrat in the Senate opposing some of the more radical components of the Democratic agenda such as increasing the size of the Supreme Court and admitting states to the Union to prevent them from gaining the required approval of Congress. A much more likely outcome in the Senate due to Georgia’s political status as a somewhat red sate and a history of impressive performances by the GOP in state runoff elections is that the GOP manages to secure at least one of the remaining seat, ensuring that they maintain control of the Senate until at least 2022 barring the death, resignation, or party affiliation switch of a Republican Senator.
The House of Representatives was largely overshadowed on Election Night. Already holding a majority in the House, Democrats expected that it would expand. Instead, Republicans have so far achieved a net gain of  eight seats, with that number likely to increase as the remaining House races continue to be called in the coming days and weeks. Although the gains made by Republicans are likely to make little difference on the outcome of future votes in the House, they are now well-positioned to take the House in 2022 due to the fact that the incumbent President’s party typically performs poorly in midterm elections.
Although initially concerning to Republicans on the surface, the Election was hardly the crushing defeat of the GOP that Democrats had hoped for. The most important message that the GOP should learn from the Election given the over-performance of congressional Republican candidates relative to the President is that voters rejected Donald Trump, not the Republican Party and its agenda. Additionally, the party’s stronger than anticipated performance in the face of high minority and overall turnout dispels the long-held belief by many that high voter turnout and changing demographics will ensure Democratic victory in future elections.
The GOP is now presented with a unique opportunity. Without Donald Trump as president, Republicans now have the chance to pursue his agenda without being confined by an unpopular and controversial man as the head of the party. Many Republicans believe that pursuing this option is the recipe for electoral success in the future, and within the party the battle to be the new face of the party has already begun. Whomever the face of the party may be, they will be faced with the pivotal decision of whether or not to pursue the Trump agenda, and whatever course they decide to take will fundamentally change the GOP — an American politics — for years to come.