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Dems won the race but the GOP will control the presidency

While Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are headed to the White House, Democrats who were hoping to increase their margins in the House and take control of the Senate, failed to strengthen their position in Congress. Jeff Greenfield joins to discuss the election results and how the Senate runoff in Georgia will determine the future of Biden’s presidency.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    President Trump says the fight over the election will go on, but by most measures — including the popular vote tally — Joe Biden is now president-elect.

    But the shape of his victory and the political climate he'll face turned out to be different from what the polls and pundits predicted.

    Here to put this into perspective is Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield who joins us from Santa Barbara.

    Jeff, let's hold ourselves accountable here, last week when we spoke, you said there's a decent chance that Joe Biden wins the popular vote, but struggles in the electoral count. What happened?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    That was pretty close. I mean, Biden is going to get about a seven million vote plurality when all is said and done. That's about five or six points. But the projections, pre-election where he could get a 10 or 12 point lead at the rate he came in, it put the Electoral College right on the margins.

    He's going to wind up, if every state holds, with 306 electoral votes. But it's amazing how close these states are. You know, one percent or less in Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, they'll even be recounts. So he avoided the fate of Hillary Clinton, but it was a close call.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    He also said that he's going to have to do well in inner cities. Was that the key?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    It was a mixed bag.

    The interesting thing was in a state like Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia turnout wasn't particularly greater than it was for Clinton. But he did better not only in the suburbs, but he did slightly better than Clinton in the small town and rural areas. That was true in Wisconsin, just well enough to push him over the edge in both of those states.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You know, the Democrats right now seem to be celebrating Biden and rightfully, they should. This is a victory lap for them. But the Senate's a whole different scenario.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    We talked last week about the optimism the Democrats had that in all of these red states, six or seven of them that were Democratic contenders vastly outspending their Republican incumbents, they all lost and some of them by enormous margins. And it turns out that except for Arizona and Colorado, those are the only states the Democrats picked up, and they lost Alabama. So it's 50 to 48 right now, assuming Alaska and North Carolina hold, and there were two Georgia Senate seats going to a runoff that will decide which party controls the Senate.

    And so if you have some spare money, buy a TV station in Georgia, there's going to be a lot of money spent.

    One addition, why did this happen? Partisanship. It turns out ticket-splitting is something that's all but disappeared in America. In every state but Maine, where Susan Collins won, the winning Senate candidate was from the same party as the presidential candidate who won that state.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Even if the Democrats get the Senate or get control of the Senate, which again is up in the air, that doesn't mean it's a slam dunk for Joe Biden and, let's say, a more progressive agenda.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Not hardly. I mean, if you're talking about a 50-50 Senate with Kamala Harris breaking the tie, we know that there are Democrats who oppose a lot of the more bold moves that some progressives want: they're against court expansion, they don't like abolishing the legislative filibuster, they're a little skeptical about massive spending. And as said, if the Republicans keep the Senate, Mitch McConnell effectively has veto power over judges and even cabinet appointments.

    And one more point. When Obama won 12 years ago, he had 60 senators — Democrats — and he had a really tough problem getting his agenda through.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Now we're still waiting for any semblance of a concession from the president, but other Republicans are already looking forward to 2024 maybe 2022.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Well, you're talking about the House of Representatives, we talked about a possible 10 seat gain for Democrats, they lost eight seats. They may lose more. Their margins are going to be, margins in the House, may be 10 or 15 votes and the state legislatures, the Democrats had a total failure there. So Republicans will be in charge of redistricting in Texas, Ohio, Florida, many other states. And that's going to be a problem for the Democrats to hold the House.

    Having said all that Hari, not just Democrats, but I think for a lot of people, there's going to be quite a moment in January when the new President Biden goes before Congress and his first words will be, Madam Vice President, Madam Speaker. So even with the disappointment on the, on the congressional side, there's some cause for Democrats to be celebrating.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Jeff Greenfield joining us from Santa Barbara, thanks so much.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Okay.

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