(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")
SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:
Hey, there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: I'm Scott Detrow. I cover the presidential campaign.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.
JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: I'm Juana Summers. I also cover the presidential campaign.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.
DAVIS: And it is 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, November 7. And Joe Biden has defeated President Trump and will become the next president of the United States. The Associated Press made the official call late Saturday morning. Trump is still contesting the election results, and we will get to that.
But first, Scott, you have spent the last two years or more covering the presidential race. You've been up close with Biden for the past year now. What is this moment for Joe Biden? This is a guy who's been in public office longer than any of us has even been alive.
DETROW: He becomes the oldest person to ever be elected president of the United States. And he was one of the youngest U.S. senators in the history of the country, elected at the bare minimum age for the U.S. Senate. He's a man who has run for president in the 1980s, in the 2000s and now, again, in 2020. And he finally reaches this capstone and in a moment of real crisis for this country, I think it's fair to say. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is getting worse as we speak. The economy is shaking. And partisan tension is through the roof.
And now Joe Biden will get what he's worked for for decades, and he will be the president of the United States. And I think it's really important in the coming days to look at the ways that he has repeatedly promised to try and heal this country, to try and bring down the partisan tension. One thing that he said last night that really stuck out to me was that he said the purpose of politics is to try to solve problems, not total, unrelenting warfare. And that's really going to be tested.
DAVIS: Juana, I think about this campaign year, it's been so long. It's been so ugly. The two candidates, especially, you know, President Trump, has run a really negative campaign. But today is also a historic day in this country. Kamala Harris is going to be the next vice president of the United States.
SUMMERS: It is a historic day in so many ways. This is a woman that, throughout her career, has embodied a series of firsts. And now we can say that she is a daughter of immigrants, a - the first woman, the first Black person, the first Indian American and the first Asian-American to ascend to the vice presidency upon her inauguration. And if you just think back over the arc of this year and the arc of this campaign, this comes after a Democratic primary in which we saw the historic diversity among the candidates who run. Then Joe Biden was nominated by his party, and he picked Harris. And to see this ticket ascend after this year and after a year in which - I guess I keep coming back to, the country has been grappling with these crises between the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, the reckoning that we've seen over race and justice and policing. And in that moment, to see a woman, but not just a woman, a woman of color ascend to that job is something that holds meaning for so many people that I've talked to across this country, as I've been covering her for some time now. It is historic.
RASCOE: And Juana, I have to mention that this is a first. And not only is Kamala Harris, you know, the first woman, first Black woman, first Asian American to hold this spot. She's also the first graduate of a historically black college or university, Howard University, which is my alma mater. So I just had to throw that in there.
SUMMERS: I knew that was coming. I knew that was coming. I can't imagine what the...
RASCOE: Because you did report on that...
SUMMERS: ...Howard campus must sound like.
RASCOE: So I just had to throw it in there. But Domenico, the - I was saying earlier this was like - you know, this election, getting the results, was almost like having a baby. It's taken so long.
RASCOE: You think it's close. And then you don't know. And then, all of a sudden, it seems like the calls came. How did Biden pull this off?
MONTANARO: Well, speaking of alma maters, I'm a University of Delaware Blue Hen. So there you go.
MONTANARO: Since everything comes around. Yeah. It was the AP that called Pennsylvania that wound up putting Joe Biden over the top with - now he stands at 290 electoral votes and could get up to 306.
But yeah. I mean, look, the thing here was that this was a very close election in the Electoral College states. Overall, it may not wind up being, by the way, a very close election. I did a little bit of math. And it seems like at current rates, Biden will wind up with more than 81 million votes and beat Trump by more than 6.9 million. That's a - you know, like a 52-47 margin. We're talking about five points. Right now, it's closer to 3 1/2. But California - only two-thirds of California is in - not all of Washington state, not all of New York. So that is a very large margin overall. And I think it speaks to the divide that we have between the national popular vote and the Electoral College. Because when you look around the Electoral College - while it's fascinating that Biden was able to pull off what he did, they were still squeakers in many ways across, you know, those former blue-wall states between Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Joe Biden - as he noted last night - he rebuilt.
Then he expanded into the Sunbelt, which - everyone has been looking at the diversity there and how things have changed. By winning Arizona it appears - the AP has still called it for Biden, even though Trump continues to shrink the margin there. But at the end of the day, Democrats think he will win there. Biden has also won Nevada, according to The Associated Press. And in Georgia, you know, Biden has a more than 7,000-vote lead. And while that race is headed to a recount, anyone who's covered recounts knows that that is a very large margin. Most of the time, if recounts change anything, they change by a few hundred votes, not several thousand.
DAVIS: I think it's worth noting, Scott, there's a certain poignancy that Pennsylvania is the state that put Biden over the 270 threshold.
DETROW: Absolutely. I have, of course, been thinking a lot about that the last few days, mostly because I spent the last couple of days - Monday and Tuesday, - traveling with the - I'll be the first one to say it on the podcast - traveling with the president-elect, Joe Biden. And he focused on Pennsylvania. He went to Pittsburgh. He went in and around western Pennsylvania. And then on Tuesday, he took a trip to his hometown, Scranton. And he really lingered in the house where he grew up. I asked him what he was thinking about. And he said, I was thinking about my mom.
Pennsylvania - you know, of course, he's the first president to call Delaware home. He's been a Delaware senator for decades. But Pennsylvania was Biden's home. It means a lot to him. He campaigned there more than any other state. And his entire campaign was premised on the idea that he would have this message that would rebuild the so-called blue wall, the three states Trump took from the Democratic column to put him in the White House. And he did just that, you know, Wisconsin in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Michigan a few hours after that. And now Pennsylvania is the state that puts him over the top, over 270.
DAVIS: Juana, those are the states that got him there. But who were the voters? What was the Biden coalition in the end?
SUMMERS: Yeah. So speaking broadly about that, we saw President-elect Biden amass a sizable and diverse coalition that included young people who turned out in droves this year, women, college-educated folks, urban voters, Black voters - similar to the constituencies that we saw power the Democratic Party's sweeping victories in the 2018 midterms. It's important to note that a big chunk of the support that we saw Biden get came from voters of color.
And that stands in contrast to the coalition that the president assembled, which, again, as we saw in his 2016 campaign, involved bringing together overwhelmingly white and rural supporters to turn out voters in the types of places that anchored his victory four years ago. Biden had suggested that he could peel off large numbers of white voters without a college degree. And we did not see that to an overwhelming degree this year, despite the fact that Biden and Harris have claimed victory. And I think it's important to note that President Trump did peel off some support among Latinos. Though, overwhelmingly, Latinos do still support him. But that did have an impact in some of the competitive states on the map.
DAVIS: So Ayesha, how's President Trump and his campaign taking this news?
RASCOE: Well, they dispute it completely. President Trump put out a fiery statement and - you know, saying that Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner. And they - he is arguing that - you know, which is true. He has - Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of these states. But that's - that always takes time. And generally, you know, people do not wait until all the votes are certified. But what the campaign is saying is they are contesting the results in Pennsylvania and other places. They say that they have legitimate legal challenges, that they are going to continue to prosecute their case to make sure that election laws are fully upheld.
And they - you know, President Trump says he will not rest until the American people have the honest vote count they deserve and democracy demands. And this morning, President Trump tweeted that he won the election, and he won it by a lot. So that is what he is saying. Now, they are not offering evidence, so we have to stress that. They're not offering evidence of this malfeasance that they're talking about or this - that would overturn the votes or the number of votes that they would have to overturn. But they are saying that they're going to move ahead and - with these lawsuits.
DAVIS: So we shouldn't accept a - we shouldn't expect a concession speech anytime soon?
RASCOE: No, it's not looking like it at all.
DAVIS: OK. Ayesha, I know you have to get on the live radio, so we're going to let you go. Thanks so much.
RASCOE: Thank you, guys. I'm sure we'll be - have lots to talk about as these days go forward.
DAVIS: All right. Let's take a quick break. And when we get back, more on the 2020 presidential race.
And we're back. And as Ayesha just outlined, you know, President Trump isn't going to concede this election easily or quietly. And I was listening to our special coverage today. And I heard Chris Coons, who's a senator from Delaware, on the radio say that he thought that Joe Biden was elected to sort of heal the nation. And I know that Joe Biden has talked a lot about that, Scott. But has he illuminated exactly how he might try to go about doing that?
DETROW: I think a lot of it is tone and what he chooses to focus on and what he chooses to attack or not attack and how he frames things. I mean, you've seen President Trump - we could - we filled four years of podcasts, so I won't fill that much of the podcast here.
DETROW: We have seen how he he picks fights and attacks and frames things as Democrat this, Democrat that. Joe Biden has repeatedly said, you know, kind of channeling Barack Obama just a little bit if you remember that speech - repeatedly said, I am a proud Democrat. I am running for president as someone who will govern for the entire country. I will govern for Republicans. You know, at times when he would be heckled by Trump supporters, he would say, I'm going to be a president who cares about those people, who works for those people. So I think you're going to see it in the way that he talks about things, first and foremost. You have heard that in these kind of semi-victory speeches that he has given over the last few days as things have been murky. But it was clear he was pulling into a lead. And I expect that to be a big theme tonight.
I think, secondly, and this is something, Sue, you have reported on. And it will be the story that you spend all your time on over the next year or so. Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell...
DETROW: ...Have worked together for decades. They know each other. They have both promised they could work together. And Biden has claimed, I am a guy who knows Congress. I can work with Republicans. I will get things done that are bipartisan.
MONTANARO: And let's not lose sight of the coronavirus. I mean, we've had a couple days now with the highest number of cases the entire year in the United States. And this has become a political issue when it's not the kind of thing that should be political. You know, public health has not been political historically. And, you know, part of the issue here has been President Trump wanting to win reelection, feeling like if he didn't go around and do his rallies and get out his voters, then he was almost certainly going to lose.
Well, now I wonder what the tone is going to be from the president-elect, Biden, Mitch McConnell - are we going to see some kind of relief package that had been held up that Democrats had been working with Republicans on? Will that get passed in this lame duck? And how quickly do people start to look at Biden for his advice on how things should go with public health? Does Trump change his tone at all on mask wearing, et cetera? Because there are people's lives at stake.
DAVIS: Juana, how hard do you think this is going to be for Biden to sort of extend a hand across the aisle but not alienate the voters that got him there? I think, in particular, like, youth turnout in this election was really notable, especially young Latinos, young Black voters. And the risk of alienating them seems pretty high, too, if they don't deliver on some of these big, progressive promises that they made people to get them so excited to show up in the first place.
SUMMERS: Yeah. You know, Sue, you have to think - if you think back to that crowded field of Democrats that ran for the White House, Joe Biden had to be about the last Democrat that progressives wanted as their nominee.
DAVIS: Right (laughter).
SUMMERS: But now he's the one who took on President Trump. He's the one who won. He is the one who will be in the Oval Office next year. And they pushed hard to put him over the line. And I think, frankly, they're planning to give him hell the minute he is inaugurated, and they're going...
SUMMERS: ...To expect that he will work with them for some of their priorities, despite the fact that Joe Biden is more moderate than they would have hoped. I think that they will expect that they will have a seat at the table. A lot of progressives that I spoke to spoke about this somewhat hopefully because of the role that former Bernie Sanders aides and allies played in pushing Biden over the top, the working groups that they had following the close of the Democratic primary. But it's certainly clear that they expect to be heard in a way that they did not feel like they were heard four years ago. And they expect that to turn into not just promises but actual policies.
DAVIS: Yeah. But the problem that I think progressives are going to face is that we don't fully know the outcome of Congress yet. But it's looking like it's on track to be a divided Congress. We're going to have two Georgia runoffs for the Senate next year. But I think Republicans are sort of favored to win both. And that would keep Mitch McConnell as the majority leader. And, you know, Democrats lost seats in the House. They're going to have a narrower majority over there. And I wonder how much that's going to temper what Joe Biden or what the Biden agenda's going to be. It seems like it could be very different than if Democrats had had the election they were hoping for, which was a big, blue wave that didn't really materialize.
DETROW: And just to add one more quick thing here - and we're going to talk about this a lot going forward. The dragged-out, strange, surreal process of this vote count I think has kind of clouded out something really important. It is so rare for an incumbent president to lose. This is the first time in nearly 30 years. It's only happened a handful of times in the past century. Joe Biden has won the three most important swing states. The Associated Press has called Arizona for him as well. He is ahead in Georgia. This is a decisive win for somebody trying to oust an incumbent president.
And I'm just thinking a lot about the fact that President Trump's entire 2016 run was based on trying to reject the Obama administration. So much of his governing was based on trying to undo President Obama's accomplishments. And now President Obama's vice president is going to be the one who puts Donald Trump out of the White House.
DAVIS: Well, I think that's all for today. And, you know, before we go, I just want to say on a personal note, I - you know, 2020 was a long election to cover. But I had a lot of fun covering it with you guys. And it's been quite a year. And I don't think any of us are ever going to forget this one.
DETROW: We got a few months left, but...
MONTANARO: Yeah. There's a whole transition to cover. We've got, by the way, another couple months of President Trump as president. So I don't think we're gonna have any shortage of news, Sue.
DAVIS: That's fair. Fair enough. Our executive producer is Shirley Henry. Our editors are Muthoni Muturi and Eric McDaniel. Our producers are Barton Girdwood and Chloee Weiner. Thanks to Lexie Schapitl, Elena Moore, Dana Farrington and Brandon Carter. Our intern is Kalyani Saxena. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.
DETROW: I'm Scott Detrow. Since December 31, 2018, I've been saying I cover the presidential campaign. And now I guess I'll put that in past tense. I covered the presidential campaign.
SUMMERS: I'm Juana Summers. I also covered the campaign.
MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.
DAVIS: And thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")
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