Waking up to uncertainty [UPDATED]

UPDATE: Decision Desk HQ is one of the many news sites that follow the elections with their own analysts and call state results. They are the first to state that they think Joe Biden is the president.

While I am repeating their claim, it should be treated with great caution because the AP, the one that I most rely on, has made no such call, and neither have Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post.]

Waking up in the morning these days is an exercise in anticipation and dread. Being on the west coast, I know that a lot of stuff has already happened by the time I wake up so I turn on the news with some degree of apprehension.

I went to bed Tuesday night fearing that I would wake up on Wednesday to the news that Trump had won the election. But Wednesday morning produced no such news which was a relief, though the election was still not called. The fact that Arizona (which went for Trump in 2016) had been awarded by AP to Biden during the night meant that he had 264 electoral votes and needed only Nevada, where he was leading and which Democrats had won in 2016, to get to the target of 270 EVs.

Nothing really changed during the day and I went to bed Wednesday night more hopeful than the previous night because there were some positive signs for Joe Biden but Thursday morning had nothing different from Wednesday night. Nothing definitive occurred during the day either and by Thursday evening, Biden was still behind in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, though he was gaining in the first two states and was still leading in Nevada.

There were some worrying signs, though. The AP had called Arizona for Biden at 2:50am ET Wednesday morning but only Fox News had joined them in making that call and other outlets said that they were holding off. On Thursday, there were worrying reports that Biden’s lead there was narrowing. The AP said that they were monitoring the situation but did not revoke their call.

That brings us to now, Friday morning. North Carolina still has Trump leading and I expect him win it along with Alaska (which for some inexplicable reason has still not been called) which would give him 232 EVs. Then with Biden’s 253 EVs (excluding Arizona), that leaves 53 EVs to be decided between Arizona (11), Nevada (6), Pennsylvania (20), and Georgia (16).

The news headlines this morning said that Biden had taken the lead in Pennsylvania by just 9,000 votes and had a much narrower lead in Georgia by just 1,500 voters. His lead in Nevada has also increased. Winning Pennsylvania would put him over the top even if he lost Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia. If Biden wins Nevada, then winning any of the remaining three would make him the president.

Meanwhile, winning Georgia and losing the other three would put us in the nightmare scenario of a tie at 269-269. If you already thought the US system for electing a president was crazy, your mind would explode at all the scenarios of what could happen in the event of a tie.

Today we should finally see the end to this dragged out process and I can finally go to sleep without a cloud of uncertainty hanging over me.


  1. marner says

    Waking up in the morning these days is an exercise in anticipation and dread.

    On the way to work I was flipping through the radio and came across Christmas music. It was oddly very relaxing.

  2. anat says

    Nathaniel Rakich explains the Alaska and North Carolina situation on fivethirtyeight’s livefeed:

    You might be wondering about North Carolina and Alaska, two unprojected states that we haven’t heard a peep from in days. Well, there’s a good reason for that: Both states accept absentee ballots that arrive as late as next week, and they won’t provide any updates until Nov. 10 (in Alaska) and Nov. 12 or 13 (in North Carolina). In fact, Alaska hasn’t released any absentee-ballot results yet, so that state (and its surprisingly competitive Senate race) is still up in the air.

  3. Mano Singham says

    Thanks, anat!

    But with 56% of the estimated votes counted in Alaska, Trump leads 63-33%. Do they think that the uncounted votes could change that? Similarly in NC, Trump leads by 77,000 votes with about 95% counted.

    I think that while it is mathematically possible for Trump to lose either or both, the odds must be pretty low.

  4. DrVanNostrand says


    I’d say NC definitely leans Trump, but it’s not at all implausible for Biden to catch up. The remaining ballots will be a lot of late arriving mail-in votes and provisional ballots, which lean heavily in Biden’s direction. AK is much, much less likely to go Biden, but they just haven’t counted enough to call it. The reason Trump leads by so much right now is that they haven’t counted mail in votes at all yet. The final margin won’t be anywhere near 30 points, but Biden is extremely unlikely to actually win.

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    Mano @3:

    in NC, Trump leads by 77,000 votes with about 95% counted.

    If 95% are counted, and they add up to 5.4M, that means Biden needs about 65% of the uncounted ballots. Seems quite possible.

  6. Bruce says

    While what you say here is almost all true, Decision Desk was actually beaten by Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, the largest and oldest news place on the internet. Cenk has called GA, PA, AZ, and NV for Biden, giving him 306 electoral votes projected. Along with their website, you can also watch The Young Turks news shows for free on YouTube, anywhere in the world. Thanks.

  7. DrVanNostrand says

    I agree that 306 is by far the most likely outcome right now, and if I had a blog or something, I’d happily put that prediction in writing. But I strongly support major media outlets being conservative about their calls. The threshold most of them are going for is 99.5% certain or better, and their decision to hold out for more votes to be counted is very reasonable. Fox was probably premature with AZ, even though they’ll probably end up being right.

  8. Holms says

    Race called at 11-06 08:50 AM EST

    Is it a race to be the one that ‘calls’ a state first? Sigh.

  9. Ridana says

    I think all the major media outlets are coyly waiting to force Fox to be the one to have to break the news. 😀

  10. lorn says

    I was profoundly disappointed that there was no immediate blue wave on the third. I was, in the depth of despair, imagining a red haze that might have been a red wave in the distance. By the 4th my eyes had adjusted and I realized that while it wasn’t a huge blue wave, or (God forbid) a red wave, there was still a substantial victory to be appreciated.

    One up side of it is that a blue victory that takes three days to unfold, and a full week for the full story to be known, has to be like three days of fingernails on a chalkboard for Trump and company.

    I kind of like the idea of Trump suffering. The mental picture of him sweating it out over the last few days brings a smile. The man leaves a trail of suffering behind him so I have few qualms about him experiencing some pain.

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