Pignanelli & Webb: “I would caution anybody: If you read the early vote, or small polling leads, and think that this race is over, you are mistaken.” — Anthony Salvanto (respected CBS political analyst with a very cool Italian name)
Finally! Election Day is upon us. Although some results may not be final for weeks, at least the disgusting television and radio commercials pummeling the candidates in the 4th Congressional District are over. As a service to our great readers, we provide a primer of what to look for on Tuesday, and discuss with your family and friends and while sounding like a real pro.
What makes this election different?
Consistent with everything in 2020, this campaign season is strange and unique. For the first time in history, a majority of ballots will be cast before election day. Part of this dynamic are concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the intensity in both political parties to influence the outcome. There are predictions of record-level voting in almost every state. Also, many Americans who did not vote previously are now registered, which could produce surprises.
Also, it’s important to look at the lessons of history. This is not the first election during a pandemic. In 1918, during a deadly, raging flu contagion and a world war, control of Congress changed in the November elections.
What state results will be indicators of where the country is going?
Keep your attention on Pennsylvania and Florida. The Keystone State of Pennsylvania will be key in this election. Pennyslvania cannot count mail ballots until Tuesday, so the evening results will be preliminary. But, if it’s even close, there’s a good chance Donald Trump is on a path to victory. Further, if Florida is marginal or possibly leaning towards Trump, then that means the Hispanic vote is supporting him there and possibly in other states. If Trump loses either of these two on election night — it’s over.
Also, watch Arizona. Deadlocks in other parts of the country may give this state the final say in who wins.
What to expect in Utah’s 4th Congressional District?
A mind-boggling and record-setting $20 million has been spent by both candidates and political parties in this contest. Some analysts believe incumbent Ben McAdams was helped by ballot proposals on the 2018 ballots that are not present this year. However, he has compensated by mounting a huge field operation.
The key to this race is south of Salt Lake County. The uber-competent Utah County Clerk Amelia Powers Gardner will not repeat the problems of her predecessor in preventing thousands from voting. The candidate with the best strategy for voter turnout across the district will prevail.
The polls have consistently revealed that this race is deadlocked and we may not know final results for several days.
What could happen with control of the U.S. Senate?
In recent history, the success of Senate candidates were tied to the support of their party’s nominee for president. But 2020 decimates old playbooks.
Maine may decide Senate control. The state uses the ranked choice voting system. So the Senate candidate initially receiving the highest number of first-place votes may not be the ultimate winter. It’s whoever has the most first and second place preferences. This race will dominate the airwaves Tuesday night and possibly into Wednesday.
Georgia requires a runoff election if one candidate does not receive 50% of the vote. The Peach State has two Senate elections (general and special), and polling indicates that both are likely headed to January runoffs. If this occurs on Tuesday, then the ultimate control of the Senate may not be determined until Jan. 5.
Other races to watch are North Carolina, South Carolina, Iowa, Michigan and Arizona. With likely unprecedented voter turnout, controversial presidential candidates and a pandemic in a struggling economy, it is essentially impossible to predict which party will control the Senate when the dust settles.
What other Utah elections should be followed?
Republican Spencer Cox is certain to win the governor’s race. If Democrat candidate Chris Peterson receives more than 30% of the vote, it will be a small victory of sorts, and will signal some interesting trends. Should Democrats pick up legislative seats, that could be revelation of potential Democrat victories in other Utah races, and even in other parts of the country.
Amendment G, amending the state Constitution to create more flexibility in using funding earmarked for public education, is likely to pass. But, a close contest will indicate voter support for education funding that may be reflected in future legislation.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson is facing the most aggressive challenge an incumbent in her position has faced for decades. How Republican Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs fares will be an important evaluation of the political dynamics in Utah’s largest county. Join with the rest of the political pundits and watch this one closely.
Please remember: Despite the intense feelings of partisans, whatever happens on election day, the country will go forward and be just fine.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: email@example.com.