Commentary: GOP’s numbers means Biden will need some luck

By Reid K. Beveridge

Joe Biden had no coattails.

This election was about two things. And definitely not about a third thing. Hence, there was no “blue wave.” No Democratic landslide. And it’s questionable how much of a mandate President-elect Biden actually has.

Reid K. Beveridge

Perhaps the more interesting thing to watch in the next few weeks and months is how much drama there is in the Democratic Party. The Democrats were confidently predicting that they would pick up at least 10 seats in the House and take control of the Senate, gaining at least four seats there. Didn’t happen. Quite the contrary.

The Democrats were sure they would defeat U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in Maine. Sen. Collins was reelected easily. They thought they would defeat U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst in Iowa. Not close, either. All the polls showed U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis losing in North Carolina. He didn’t. Two predictions did come true: U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, the Democrat, lost in Alabama. And former Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado.

An interesting thing also happened in Arizona. Four years ago, Arizona had two Republican senators in John McCain and Jeff Flake. Today, Arizona has two Democratic senators with Mark Kelly’s defeat of U.S. Sen. Martha McSally. McSally was appointed to replace McCain after his death. This was her second defeat in two years. She also lost the Senate race in 2018. An admirable woman who is just a bad candidate.

So it seems unlikely the Democrats will gain a Senate majority. Two seats remain undecided, both in Georgia. Georgia has a law that requires the winner to get 50% of the vote. Both Republicans failed to reach that. There will be a runoff Jan. 5. However, it seems unlikely both incumbents could lose in that state.

But if both Democrats win, it will produce a 50-50 tie in the Senate. That tie would be broken by Vice President Kamala Harris in favor of the Democrats. The rub, though, is that while vice presidents are constitutionally president of the Senate, they rarely actually preside. With a tie, she would be connected to Washington in a really big way.

Given Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s track record, Vice President Harris would be required to be available for all big votes.

So let’s talk about what’s normal. What’s normal is for the incoming president to nominate his cabinet and other senior officials sometime in December for action as soon as the new Congress convenes in early January. Then, the Senate holds confirmation hearings and votes, so the new folks can take office on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

Even with a Republican majority in the Senate, that could still happen. But it depends on who President-elect Biden nominates. Normally, if the president-elect nominates a senator, he/she is confirmed easily. However, given the rancor these days, that isn’t a sure thing anymore.

Finally, President-elect Biden really had no coattails “down ballot.” Not one state legislative body was flipped Nov. 3. No Republican incumbents in the House were defeated, while the Republicans defeated 10 Democratic incumbents. That means Republicans will retain their enormous power next year when decennial redistricting of House and state legislative districts is mandated.

Not much change here in Delaware, of course. We remain blue as blue can be in Joe Biden’s home state. Only one statewide Republican even reached 40% of the vote.

As for Joe Biden himself, he reached 50% mainly because there were no significant third-party or fringe candidates this year. He won, but his party didn’t, not much at least.

That most likely is because of two things. The first is COVID-19. Its effect on President Donald Trump reminds of 2012, when Mitt Romney seemed poised to defeat President Barack Obama, only to have Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast the week before the election. Obama was able to look presidential. Romney was made to look irrelevant.

The second is the simple loathing of the president by Democrats universally and by almost all the mainstream media. Many would say that if one voted strictly on his record, Trump should win. But we also vote for the man. Millions loath the man Donald J. Trump.

So good luck to our Joe. He’ll need it.

Reid K. Beveridge has covered politics in Delaware, Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. He resides in Milton.