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October 26, 2020

What to Expect in Washington (October 26)

With little more than a week to go before the election, prospects for victory by either President Trump or Democratic presidential nominee and former VP Joe Biden are largely focused on the Rust Belt battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that, along with Florida, were key to President Trump's victory in 2016.

  • "Some party strategists said Mr. Biden must secure Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin first to deny Mr. Trump a second term. The president can't afford to lose all three of those states and still win re-election if the remainder of the 2016 map remains constant." the Wall Street Journal reported October 24.
  • "[A]s Biden's team calculates the odds, the most logical strategy for securing victory still runs through Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin," the Washington Post reported October 24.

The effects of the pandemic are being felt hard in those states. A WSJ analysis found 12 Pennsylvania counties are in the top 20% nationally for increase in unemployment rate from a year earlier and deaths per capita linked to Covid-19. "The proportion of the state's counties in both categories is almost four times greater than the next-highest presidential battleground, Michigan," it said.

The Post also reported that President Trump admitted that it will be difficult for Republicans to retain control of the Senate, and that he was unable to get behind some GOP candidates. The story said the "'firewall,' is Sens. Joni Ernst in Iowa, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in Georgia, and Steve Daines in Montana. But even the GOP's 'firewall' has started to crumble, with Republicans all but sure that they'll be competing to win runoffs in Georgia in January, for example." Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) "is still expected to win, according to South Carolina political observers."

The President's home-stretch campaigning focuses on the economy. In New Hampshire October 25, he called Biden's platform a "missile aimed at the heart of the middle class."

CBS News polls reported October 25 showed Biden leading among likely voters in Florida 50%-48%; Biden leading in North Carolina 51%-47%; and the two candidates tied at 47% in Georgia. In the North Carolina Senate race, Democrat Cal Cunningham leads Senator Thom Tillis (D-NC) 49%-43%. In Georgia, Senator David Perdue (R-GA) leads Jon Ossoff 47%-46%.

The Wall Street Journal reported October 25: "[M]any business executives and their allies are greeting the prospect of a Biden presidency with either ambivalence or relief. Credit that not to who Mr. Biden is, but who he isn't: Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, senators with a much more adversarial approach to business who lost to Mr. Biden in the Democratic primary, or President Trump, whose administration has been marked by economic-policy unpredictability."

Election mechanics — A number of electoral vote projections reference Maine and Nebraska, which are the two states that don't allocate electoral votes in an all-or-nothing fashion to the statewide popular vote winner, and instead provide two votes for the overall winner plus votes for the winner of each congressional district (2 districts in ME, 3 in NE). An October 23 AP story said the Maine 2nd district and its electoral vote could be won by President Trump despite expectations he will lose the state overall; likewise, Biden could win Nebraska's 2nd district and its single electoral vote despite the state overall not supporting a Democratic candidate in more than 50 years.

Coronavirus — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) didn't rule out action on a coronavirus relief and stimulus deal prior the election, saying on CNN's State of the Union, "I will never give up hope. I'm optimistic. We put pen to paper and had been writing the bill, based on what we hope will be the outcome, what they said they would get back to us on … We're ready. We can change some words in the bill, should they come back with some modifications." She said she sent to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday "the list of the concerns that we still had … And my understanding is, he will be reviewing that over the weekend, and we will have some answers on Monday."

On the same program, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said, "We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas … " Challenged on the control part, Meadows said "Because it is a contagious virus. Just like the flu, it's contagious," but did allow, "We are making efforts to contain it."

SCOTUS — The Senate October 25 invoked cloture on the Barrett nomination to the Supreme Court by a vote of 51-48 (Senators Murkowski and Collins voted no; Senator Harris did not vote). The Senate then began 30 hours of post-cloture debate. The confirmation vote is set for today.


Contact Information
For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
   • Ray Beeman (
   • Gary Gasper (
   • Heather Meade (
   • Kurt Ritterpusch (