What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

How the GOP unexpectedly gained ground in the House

What shifts in the electoral map drove results in the 2020 presidential and congressional races? Amna Nawaz and Lisa Desjardins review the data behind outcomes for President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden and party control of the House and Senate.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, in this critical moment, context matters.

    Thankfully, our Amna Nawaz and Lisa Desjardins are here to offer some clarity — Amna.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Thanks, Judy.

    We're going to pick up now and zoom back out to the national picture for a second, take a look at where we are across the country in the electoral votes. You see there Vice President Biden with 264, President Trump with 214. Still a few states yet to be called.

    But, Lisa, let's talk about one that has been called today, the state of Wisconsin. It went to Vice President Biden. He won it back from President Trump.

    How did he do it?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Not long ago.

    Look at this map. If you compare this to the 2016 map of Wisconsin, it's exactly the same, except for two counties. One of the counties that switched is Door County right here, known for its cherries and its lakeside front.

    (LAUGHTER)

    But the other one is one of the counties we have been focusing on. It is a county right outside here in the middle.

    There we go to — we're going to go to Sauk County right now. Let's talk a little bit about this place that Joe Biden took away from Donald Trump in Wisconsin.

    First of all, Donald Trump barely won it, just by 0.4, just by 109 votes in the small county. And it is a rural place. We're talking here about white working-class voters. This is where he won. And let's look at what happened in Sauk County. Let's look at the map of the results from Sauk County, as we have them right now.

    Over there by you, look at that, Joe Biden 50 percent to 48. It is 614 votes that Joe Biden is winning this pivot county by. This county keeps flipping back and forth. But it's an example of a rural working-class county that Joe Biden won. And it helped him swing the state.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Illustrative in so many ways.

    Lisa, he's also been tracking the 35 Senate races across the country in this election cycle, Republicans obviously fighting to keep their Senate majority.

    When we take a look at those races across the country…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    … what stands out to you?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, first of all, the path for Democrats to take over the Senate has gotten very narrow.

    Right now, we need — Democrats essentially need to pick up two or three seats, depending on whether Joe Biden wins the presidency. And there really are only two states they can draw from, Georgia and North Carolina. Why is that?

    Let's look at a big race that was called today. We had in Maine Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, survived a very, very rigorous challenge from Sara Gideon, the House speaker in Maine. But look at this. This is a big win. Talking to her campaign, they're incredibly pleased. No one thought that she would — a lot of people didn't think she would win. They didn't think that she would win by this much.

    This is a very big deal for Republicans, Mitch McConnell breathing a big sigh of relief that she won.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And what does this mean for the balance of power in the Senate right now, if we take a look at where that is right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Exactly.

    So, right, going back to that, exactly.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yes. Yes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So, this is — this takes a seat off the board for Democrats that they were trying to get.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And this is actually now looking at the House.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yes. Let's talk about that now, too, because a number of races still yet to be called in the House.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, great. Let's do it.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Democrats there hoped they could open up their majority, expand it even more. How are they doing?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes. OK, here we are.

    There are 435 members of Congress. Sometimes, they are a big blur to me, but there are, each one important and individual; 203 right now Democrats have won their races; 188 Republicans have won their races.

    So, if you look at this right now, Amna, we have got 44 races left in the House. And, as the night was going on, the presidential race so pivotal, I think what was getting lost last night is something, a very big headline in the House, which is Democrats expected — Nancy Pelosi even said on our air she thought she would win five, 15, 20 seats.

    They're going to lose seats, it looks like. And let's look at one of the places where there is still a possibility for a Democratic win or loss. This is Abigail Spanberger. We have been focusing on her, freshman Democrat from the central stripe of Virginia, includes the Richmond suburbs.

    She is someone. She's a former CIA operative, national security kind of Democrat. Last night, our viewers might remember this race, Spanberger was down by 20 points. And it appeared that most of the voting was in. But, in fact, it turned out that hundreds of thousands of mail-in votes had not been counted at all.

    This is the story of our election. We're trying to figure out which votes are in. Those mail-in votes have gone for Spanberger so much, she has made up 20 points. And now her campaign is feeling good. She's within striking distance of retaining this seat in basically a Republican district.

    So let's talk about the House in general. Let's summarize it all up.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let's do it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Here we go.

    House of Representatives, this is for your friends and family. You can tell them this is what's going on. Democrats will likely keep control, Nancy Pelosi very likely to be speaker of the House, unless something unexpected happens.

    And then let's look at the Republican gain. Right now, it looks like five to 12 seats. There's about half-a-dozen Democratic incumbents who have been unseated in this election, at least, still more on the board.

    And then, finally, how did the Republicans do it? Well, a lot of those gains, Amna, are Republican women, who were a very small minority of the Republican House membership, but Republican women have added 12 to their numbers. It looks like we're going to see a record number of Republican women in the House this year.

    Still, that's far fewer than Democrats have. But it's something. Republicans are working on it. And it helped Republicans gain by putting those women on the ballot.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It did, indeed. And we have heard Republican officials selling that number, saying, this is how we did it, not the way the Democrats thought it would go or they wanted it to go out, but still…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    A lot of people scratching their head, not sure what happened.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Both sides say they didn't see this in the data.

    And both sides are surprised by this.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And still a number of races as yet to be called.

    So, Judy, election 2020 continues.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as you say, a lot of surprises.

    Amna, Lisa, thank you both.

Listen to this Segment