Members of Wisconsin’s Electoral College cast their votes at the state capitol in Madison, Wis., December 14, 2020. (Morry Gash/Pool via Reuters)

The 2020 election was decided for Biden by just 43,000 individual votes in three states.The Electoral College formally convened in the 50 states and the District of Columbia on Monday and elected Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States by a vote of 306 to 232.

Biden beat President Trump by 4.3 percentage points in the national popular vote, but if you want to understand how close the election really was, you need to look at the states that put him over the top in the Electoral College: Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia.

Biden carried each state by a fraction of one percentage point: 0.63 points in Wisconsin, 0.3 points in Arizona, and 0.24 points in Georgia. If Biden had lost all three states, the result would have been a 269-269 Electoral College tie. This would have thrown the presidential election to the House of Representatives where each state delegation would get one vote. And House Republicans will hold a majority in the delegations of a majority of the states, so tossing the election to the House would have resulted in Trump’s re-election.

The results in 2020 are almost a mirror image of 2016, when Trump won enough states to defeat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College 306 to 232 — but “faithless electors” resulted in a formal 304–227 Electoral College victory. (There weren’t any “faithless electors” in 2020.)

Trump owed his 2016 majority in the Electoral College to three states he carried by a fraction of one percentage point: 0.77 points in Wisconsin, 0.72 points in Pennsylvania, and 0.23 points in Michigan. In both elections, then, Wisconsin was the tipping-point state — that is, the state that gave the president-elect his 270th vote in the Electoral College if you stacked up all the states by the president-elect’s margin of victory in each, from biggest to smallest.

In terms of raw votes, Biden’s 2020 victory was narrower than Trump’s 2016 victory, which depended on 77,744 votes spread across Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Biden’s victory in 2020 came down to 42,918 votes spread across Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia. (Biden’s raw-vote margin of victory in each state was 20,682 votes in Wisconsin, 10,457 votes in Arizona, and 11,779 votes in Georgia.)

Just how tight were these margins? Here’s how Ed Kilgore described the “crazy close” 2016 election for New York magazine:

In the end, Trump won by taking three key battleground states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) by a combined margin of 77,744 votes. That, my friends, is crazy close in an election where more than 136 million votes were cast: just over one-twentieth of one percent of the vote. And that is why the debate over the reasons for the electoral-vote outcome may never end: It’s the kind of swing-state margin that could have been caused by any of the big things we have all been talking about, such as James Comey’s reminders of the email “scandal,” strategic leaks from Russian hacks, or a strategic error by the Clinton campaign about where its resources were committed. But it’s also small enough to be caused by tiny and remote things, like tactical decisions on the very last day, the weather, election-law decisions made years ago, or the tides of the moon. The calendar could also have been a factor: As the University of Pennsylvania’s Dan Hopkins points out, the fact that the 2016 election happened to be held on the latest possible date may have given Trump the opportunity to nail down just enough late-deciding votes.

It’s obviously speculative — and Kilgore may have overstated a thing or two — but it’s easy to imagine at least several issues that could have swung the 2016 election or the 2020 election in the other direction. In 2020, I think it’s likely that if Trump hadn’t had a bad debate performance and been diagnosed with COVID in early October — right when early voting began — he would have been reelected. If Trump had simply appeared more responsible about the pandemic and hadn’t spent time sharing tweets comparing the temporary wearing of masks to “slavery” and “social death,” he probably would have been reelected. I’m sure readers can think about other issues that might have tipped the election back to Biden.

What about voter fraud? No, the election was close, but not so close that voter fraud could have played a decisive role. As Andy McCarthy points out, the Trump campaign legal team dropped fraud charges in Pennsylvania and declined to present any evidence in court of voter fraud in Wisconsin when given the opportunity to do so. In 2018, the Trump Department of Justice launched an investigation of voter fraud in the state of North Carolina in 2016, and it discovered that 19 out of nearly 5 million votes were illegally cast by non-citizens. Sidney Powell’s wackier conspiracy theories about Dominion voting machines changing votes were definitively disproved by the statewide hand recount in Georgia where human beings examined and counted each ballot (as well as by the canvassing or auditing process in other states).

So Biden’s 2020 victory is legitimate, just as Trump’s 2016 victory was legitimate. It was also remarkably close: Out of more than 158 million ballots cast nationwide, the 2020 election came down to fewer than 43,000 votes cast in three states.

John McCormack – www.nationalreview.com

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