with Brent D. Griffiths

Happy Monday – err, Friday. 🍸We've got big plans to watch live streams of vote counting leading into this weekend, you? Thanks for waking up with us and tell your friends to sign up to follow along with us.

The campaign

TRENDING BLUE: The presidential election could come to an end today, but the legal challenges and conspiracy theories probably won't. 

President Trump last night unleashed a deluge of falsehoods from the White House briefing room, claiming he's the victim of a widespread Democratic plot aided by the media, pollsters and Big Tech to deny him a second term. He broke a two-day long spell of silence with reporters on the eve before the outcomes of two decisive states, Georgia and Pennsylvania, could be announced. To win, Trump needs to hold both. 

Where we're at: 

  • In Georgia, Joe Biden surpassed Trump's lead as of 4:21 a.m. He's now ahead by 1,096 votes in a state no Democratic presidential nominee has won since 1992. Georgia has just over 14,000 ballots left to be counted plus about 8,900 military and overseas ballots that were requested and have until today to arrive.
  • In Pennsylvania, Trump's lead over Biden has narrowed sharply to 18,229 votes with 94 percent of the vote counted. The state has about 50,000 outstanding votes to be counted, many of which are likely to favor Biden as Democrats disproportionately voted by mail.
  • In Arizona, Biden's edge is a little over 47,000 votes, though 10 percent of the vote has yet to be counted. While The Post has not called this race, some news organizations such as Fox News and the Associated Press already projected Biden's win. More results from Arizona are expected this morning and this evening, per county election officials. 
  • In Nevada: Biden is ahead by roughly 11,438 votes. An update from Clark County, where the majority of votes remain, is expected at noon Friday.
  • North Carolina, a state the president is also fighting to keep, has counted 94 percent of the vote and until Nov. 12 to count the remainder. Trump is leading by nearly 77,000 votes.

Some key things to watch: 

  • If Trump loses Pennsylvania, the race is over and Biden reaches 273 electoral votes.
  • If Biden wins Georgia, Trump will not be able to reach 270 electoral votes.
  • If Biden sweeps Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia, he'll reach 306 electoral votes even without knowing what happens in North Carolina.
  • If Biden wins Georgia but ends up losing Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, there would be a 269-269 electoral college tie, and the House would decide the presidency for just the third time in American history.

Correction: The text has been updated to state that the next update from Nevada will be at noon Friday, not on Saturday or Sunday.

At the White House

FACTIONS EMERGED AMONG REPUBLICANS. After Trump's attacks on the election system, there were those who defended his claims: 

  • “Trump’s loyalists, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), echoed Trump’s evidence-free claims of widespread fraud in Pennsylvania and other swing states that have been trending toward [Biden] as more votes are counted,” our colleague Katie Shepherd reports. 
  • “Philadelphia elections are crooked as a snake,” Graham told Fox’s Sean Hannity. “Why are they shutting people out? Because they don’t want people to see what they’re doing.”

Those who didn't: 

  • “America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in a tweet. “No election or person is more important than our Democracy.”
  • “A sitting president undermining our political process and questioning the legality of the voices of countless Americans without evidence is not only dangerous and wrong, it undermines the very foundation this nation was built upon,” Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), who will retire when his term ends in January, said in a tweet. “Every American should have his or her vote counted.”
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), the most prominent figure in Trump’s inner circle to denounce his premature claim of victory, said on ABC: “Show us the evidence. We heard nothing today about any evidence. This kind of thing — all it does is inflame without informing.”
  • “Reps. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) called for the president to present evidence of his claims and ‘respect the democratic process that makes America great,’” Katie writes.

And those who were silent, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The pressure's also on those who may be considering running in the next presidential election to take a firm side. 

The core of Trump's claims, per Philip Bump: “The president claimed that Democrats supported the use of mail-in ballots to alter vote totals after Election Day He spent some time on the polls, claiming they were efforts to ‘suppress’ Republican turnout. He complained the margins he enjoyed shortly after polls closed in some states had since eroded — something he suggested was suspicious — and insisted he had evidence of impropriety that would be upheld by the courts He suggested it was somehow suspicious that Biden was doing better with those votes [counted after Election Day]. But there’s a simple, obvious reason: Trump told his voters that mail-in voting couldn’t be trusted.” 

  • “If you count the legal votes I easily win,” Trump claimed. “If you count the illegal votes they can try to steal the election from us.”
  • It was a “speech so riddled with false and unfounded claims that many major news networks, including MSNBC, CBS and ABC, cut away to fact-check the Republican incumbent in real-time,” Katie writes. 

Outside the Beltway

GEORGIA ON MY MIND: “The battle for control of the Senate headed into a two-month overtime as Georgia prepares to host two runoff elections Jan. 5 that are likely to determine which party controls the chamber, with the potential to dramatically alter the arc of a new Democratic administration if Joe Biden wins the presidency,” per our colleague Paul Kane.

  • “As the dust settled on almost every race, Republicans have secured 48 seats in next year’s Senate and hold steady leads in two other contests but need to win at least one of the two races in Georgia to land a clear majority of 51 seats.”
  • “That leaves Democrats, with a caucus of 48 senators so far, one last chance to reclaim the majority by trying to secure a double victory in what used to be a conservative Republican stronghold. If successful, and if Biden secures the White House, the 50-50 Senate would tilt to the Democrats once Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) is sworn in as vice president.”
  • And there's this detail:

WHY THE VOTE TALLY IS TICKING BIDEN'S WAY IN PENNSYLVANIA: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Lai broke down the trends in the Keystone State that led us to this point where Biden is expected to surpass Trump in the vote count in short order earlier this week: 

  • Of the many uncertainties this election, one thing was fairly predictable: President Donald Trump would look like he was coasting to victory in Pennsylvania on election night, but then there would be what’s known as a ‘blue shift’ toward Joe Biden as votes were counted in the hours and days afterward,” per Lai. “It was the direct outcome of three simple facts: Pennsylvania has way more mail ballots than ever before. Counting those mail ballots takes a long time. Democrats are much more likely to vote by mail than Republicans are.”
  • And a reminder: officials in Pennsylvania were bound by state law (from a Republican legislature) that prevented the count of mail-in ballots until Election Day.

What to expect today: 

A DAY OF CONTRASTS: Hours before Trump's appearance in Washington, Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) held a coronavirus briefing with a team of health and economic advisers in Wilmington, Del. Biden also delivered brief remarks echoing his confidence in the state of the race, our colleagues Matt Viser and Toluse Olorunnipa report. 

  • "Democracy is sometimes messy. Sometimes it requires a little patience, as well,” Biden said Thursday afternoon.
  • “We continue to feel very good about where things stand. And we have no doubt that when the count is finished, Senator Harris and I will be declared the winners,” he added. “So I ask everyone to stay calm — all people to stay calm. The process is working. The count is being completed. And we’ll know very soon.”

From the courts

TRUMP LEGAL FIGHT BEGINS WITH DEFEATS: “Trump and his allies pressed their claims Thursday that election officials have allowed ballot fraud to infect the counting process in the battleground states poised to decide the presidency, but they offered no evidence of irregularities and met with two immediate defeats in court,” Amy Gardner, Jon Swaine, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Emma Brown report.

  • In Georgia, a local judge in Chatham County, home of Savannah, denied the Trump campaign’s effort to disqualify about 50 ballots that a Republican poll watcher claimed may have arrived after the 7 p.m. deadline on Election Day. In court, the poll watcher offered no evidence that the ballots had arrived late, and county election officials testified that they had arrived on time.”
  • And in Michigan, a Court of Claims judge said she would deny the campaign’s request for an emergency halt to the counting of votes in the state. She noted that the request made little sense, given that the counting has essentially been finished in the state, with former vice president Joe Biden ahead by about 150,000 votes. 

There were other issues. In one lawsuit Trump's team was forced to admit that their argument was factually incorrect. “In Pennsylvania, U.S. District Court Judge Paul S. Diamond on Thursday denied the Trump campaign’s request to halt the count in Philadelphia, after a deal was struck to have 60 observers from each party observe the process,” Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Elise Viebeck report

  • “Diamond sighed several times during the hearing and appeared exasperated when the Trump campaign, which claimed all Republican observers were being barred from the count, conceded that they had ‘a nonzero number of people in the room’ where votes were being processed,” our colleagues write of an unsuccessful effort in Pennsylvania. (Diamond is a George W. Bush-appointee.)

Nevada could be the next focus: “At a news conference Thursday morning at the Clark County elections department headquarters, Adam Laxalt, a former Nevada attorney general and co-chair of the Trump campaign in the state, claimed without providing evidence that ballots from deceased people had been counted, and that ‘thousands’ of people had voted despite moving out of Clark County during the pandemic. Laxalt ignored reporters’ questions asking for examples of the fraud he described.”

  • “Later Thursday, the Nevada Republican Party announced that it had sent a criminal referral to Attorney General William P. Barr alleging that at least 3,062 people voted in Nevada after moving out of state. The party’s lawyers sent to Barr a list of voters identified by cross-checking voter registration names and addresses with the National Change of Address database.
  • Note: “Nevada law allows residents to vote after moving out of state if they are serving in the military, married to someone in the military or going to school.” 

Recounts may be revving: So far, the campaign has said they would ask for a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden leads by roughly 20,000 votes — thought it “will likely be up to two weeks before he is able to make such a request,” the New York Times's Reid Epstein reports. 

  • Wisconsin law allows for a recount if the margin of victory is 1 percent or less once all of the state’s 72 counties have reported results to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. But the request must be made during the window between when the last of the state’s 72 counties has submitted its results to the state elections commission and 5 p.m. Central time the next business day,” per Epstein.
  • $$$: “The Trump campaign would have to pay for a statewide recount, which is expected to cost about $3 million, unless the margin between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump is less than one quarter of one percent.”

It's likely the campaign could also ask for recounts in Georgia and Nevada though it could come at a cost: 

  • “In Nevada, the loser of the election may request a recount within three working days of the final canvass of votes, no matter the margin — but they must be willing to put down a deposit to cover the estimated cost of the recount,” our colleagues Brittany Shammas, Emma Brown, and Jon Swaine report.  “If the candidate who requests the recount ends up winning the race after a recount, that deposit would be returned. But if the recount shows that they did indeed lose the race, then they would have to foot the bill.” 
  • In Georgia,a candidate can request a recount if the margin is less than 0.5 percent of votes cast. That request must be made within two days of results being certified.” 

TBD: It remains to be seen whether recounts will be triggered in Arizona and Pennsylvania right now:

  • Arizona requires a recount under state law “when the margin between the top two candidates is equal to or lesser than one-tenth of 1 percent of the total number of votes cast, our colleagues note.  
  • Pennsylvania is required by law to order a recount “if the winning margin is 0.5 percent or less. The recount would need to be ordered by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 and completed by Nov. 24, or it can be “triggered in each county if requested by three voters.” 

TL;DR on recounts: In the past 50 years, few recounts have led to changes in the winners. And in the handful of still-uncalled battleground states, there hasn't been a flip following a recount in at least the last two decades,” NBC News's Allan Smith reports. 

  • “In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada and Arizona — all states that NBC News says are too close to call — no statewide recount has led to a change in the winner for at least 20 years.” 

WILL THIS STRATEGY WORK?: Biden campaign attorney Bob Bauer told reporters that the Trump campaign's lawsuits will fail and are designed to “create an opportunity for them to message falsely what is happening in the election process, per USA Today's Donovan Slack. 

  • “The current legal maneuvering is mainly a way for the Trump campaign to try to extend the ballgame in the long-shot hope that some serious anomaly will emerge,” Robert Yablon, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, told Reuters's Tom Hals. “As of now, we haven’t seen any indication of systematic irregularities in the vote count.”
  • What strategy?: I have a real difficulty discerning what the legal strategy is,” Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a longtime Republican lawyer who helped lead the GOP’s 2000 recount effort, told our colleagues Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Elise Viebeck. “The most plausible one is that they’re responding to the president’s order, ‘Do something, do something, do something.’ These suits, taken in and of themselves, are not going to come close to changing the results of the election in any state. They’re small ball.” 
The Post's Amy Gardner analyzes President Trump's multifarious legal challenges across swing states questioning the integrity of the 2020 election. (The Washington Post)

NOT A JAMES BAKER'S DOZEN: The Bush v. Gore 2000 recount fight was waged by a high-power Republican Party legal team and helmed by the party's premier strategist of the time, former secretary of state James Baker, Rosalind, Josh and Elise report. This time many of the GOP's preeminent election-law litigators remain on the sidelines.

Instead Trump loyalists and personal attorneys are filing the void: Among them: Jay Sekulow, the conservative lawyer who defended the president during the special counsel probe and the impeachment process, and William Consovoy, an experienced Supreme Court litigator who has led the efforts in New York courts to withhold the president’s tax returns from investigators,” our colleagues write.

  • And the message is being echoed by some of the most combative Trump-world figures: New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Richard Grenell, Trump’s former acting director of national intelligence, as well as by Trump’s son Eric, an executive at his father’s development company, and former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi” are all part of the team.

As for the real James Baker:

On the Hill

HOUSE DEMS LASH OUT AT EACH OTHER: “An angry dispute erupted among House Democrats with centrist members blasting their liberal colleagues during a private conference call for pushing far-left views that cost the party seats in Tuesday’s election that they had worked hard to win two years ago,” Rachael Bade and Erica Werner report.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) criticized her party's strategy during a Democratic caucus call, saying the election "was a failure" for House Democrats. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

The bitter exchange lasted more than three hours: “The explanation laid out by centrists is that Republicans were easily able to paint them all as socialists and radical leftists who endorse far-left positions such as defunding the police,” our colleagues write.

  • Key quote: “We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again … We lost good members because of that,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who narrowly leads in her reelection bid, said heatedly. “If we are classifying Tuesday as a success … we will get f---ing torn apart in 2022.” (You can listen to audio from the call here.)

Some lawmakers were just mad all of this was leaking out:

Liberals fired back: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, argued that Democrats shouldn’t single out people and ideas that energize the party base. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a self-described Democratic socialist, grew angry, accusing her colleagues of only being interested in appealing to White people in suburbia,” our colleagues write.

  • Another jaw-dropping quote: “To be real, it sounds like you are saying stop pushing for what Black folks want,” Tlaib said.

TENSIONS ARE ALSO BREWING IN THE SENATE: “During Barack Obama’s presidency, Biden’s propensity for cutting deals with Mitch McConnell became a running source of aggravation for liberals. Now it will be the key to getting anything done at all,” Politico's Burgess Everett, Alex Thompson and Marianne LeVine report.

Some centrist Democrats welcome the return to a wheeling, dealing Washington: “Some of the Democrats would say, ‘Joe always wants to make a deal. Joe always wants to make a deal.’ And I’m thinking: ‘Hell, yeah, that’s his job.’” Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) told Politico. “Why wouldn’t he want to make a deal?”

  • Other lawmakers are far less optimistic: “Mitch McConnell will force Joe Biden to negotiate every single Cabinet secretary, every single district court judge, every single U.S. attorney with him,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Politico. “My guess is we’ll have a constitutional crisis pretty immediately.” 

The people

POLLS FALL SHORT AGAIN: “The underestimation of Trump’s turnout and support in many places, after similar issues in 2016, has raised again questions about the reliance of campaigns, the press and the public on surveys to shape the race. That in turn has prompted new questioning of the bedrock principle among political strategists that campaigns can divine public opinion before the votes are counted with enough money and talent,” Michael Scherer reports.

The extent of misses is not entirely clear yet: “But a review of polling in 10 key states with more than 85 percent of the vote counted finds that public polls underestimated Trump’s vote margin by about 4.5 percentage points on average, similar to the size of errors in key states four years ago,” our colleague writes.

  • Trump and others have pointed to a Post-ABC News poll in Wisconsin that had Biden winning by 17 in late October: “We are taking time after the election to review all our polling, including why our October Wisconsin poll overestimated Biden’s support, and will use the findings to strengthen future polling,” Molly Gannon Conway, communications manager at The Post, wrote in an emailed statement to our colleague, adding that the overall polling done this cycle “contributed to our reputation for rigor.”

Party strategists say poor polling greatly affects their candidates: “The Biden campaign appeared to place big bets late in the campaign in the hopes that the public polling would be right, expanding its television buy to states Trump would win easily,” our colleague writes.

  • Key quotes: “We were operating in a reality that wasn’t reality, and we were operating off numbers that just were clearly not reflecting what turnout would be,” one Democratic consultant told our colleague. Jesse Hunt, the communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said that surveys that consistently underestimated their candidates' chances “can have a major effect on candidate fundraising and the trajectory of the race."