2020 election reflection | In Focus

Several of my predictions missed the mark.

Rich Elfers, “In Focus”

Rich Elfers, “In Focus”

I was wrong.

My columns in the past three weeks were about the presidential election. One column dealt with COVID-19 and character, another with the Latino vote, and the last one with the polls. Reflecting on what I wrote over those three weeks will help bring more clarity to where we are now.

Three weeks ago, my thesis was this: “Two major issues will determine the winner of this election: COVID-19 and the question of character.” I realize now that, based upon election results, those two issues appear to have mattered little to supporters of President Donald J. Trump. Their concerns seem to have been law and order, protecting individual rights, the economy, and avoiding socialism. Many of Trump’s religious right supporters were as deeply concerned about the radical left’s stands on abortion and LGBTQ rights as moderates and progressives were about Trump leading America into a dictatorship.

I was right, though, with the column of two weeks ago about Latino voters. I said that they should not be considered as a group that would vote as a bloc. For many Latinos, their views actually differed little from those of white voters. About 66 percent of the Latino vote went to Biden in Arizona. Cuban-Americans in Florida, however, are far more conservative than in Arizona, and they voted for Trump.

In Arizona, Latino voters are mainly from Mexico and Central American nations. Like all races, they were not pleased that Trump called the late Arizona Senator John McCain “a loser” because he had been taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam conflict. Many Latinos there are also veterans, and Trump’s statements must have angered them.

Latinos have also suffered more COVID-19-related sicknesses, deaths, and job loss. Blame can be arguably be placed at the feet of President Trump. Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio even though he carried out a campaign while sheriff to harass Hispanics. A great number of young Hispanic voters who voted early helped Biden to win in Arizona. The number of voters aged 18-29 rose from 41,000 votes in 2016 to almost 78,000 in 2020 according to the AP.

My election-day column dealt with polling. I told my readers that this election would reveal how accurate polling was in predicting outcomes. I began the column by describing the Democratic nightmare that they would wake up to another Trump upset win with the polls being wrong. Based upon polls, Democrats were pretty confident that Florida would fall into their hands. That didn’t happen.

What the pollsters and the Democrats didn’t realize was that Trump was more clever than they imagined. Rather than trying to expand his base by appealing to college-educated whites, Trump worked for the last two years trying to deepen his support among non-college educated whites. His approach was successful. Trump increased the number of supporters from 63 million in 2016 to 71 million in 2020.

Here’s why the race was so close and why the polls were wrong. My source is from the Israeli National News from 7/24/20:

Many Trump supporters were coy with pollsters and were unwilling to express their opinions openly. Four years ago, they were labeled as “deplorables” by Hillary Clinton. They were sensitive to criticism that was far worse than “deplorable”. (Ironically, they supported a president who criticizes others constantly.)

Trump supporters did what people often do: They gave pollsters what they thought the pollsters wanted to hear. Live phone calls are least likely to provide honest answers. “Any poll that relies strictly on live polls is going to be wrong.”

Many poll recipients believed they’d end up on a list which would cause them grief down the road.

The polls were right in that they successfully predicted a Biden-Harris win. They were terribly wrong when it came to Senate and House races. Democrats lost several seats in the House, while Republican senators such as Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine won reelection. One explanation for this could be that the Lincoln Project, where disaffected Republicans united in a campaign against Trump, did not carry over to Senate and House races where Republicans did better than expected.

Televangelist Pat Robertson claimed he had a “message from God” that Trump would win. Robertson must have had a bad connection. Biden won. But history professor Alan Lichtman’s predictions, which were not based on politics, polls, money, or debates, but on history and governmental performance proved to be accurate again. Lichtman has batted a 1000 since 1984. Lichtman noted that Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic in the last eight months lost him the election, based upon his 13 criteria.

Maybe I wasn’t wrong after all when I predicted that COVID-19 and character would determine the election! Thank you Professor Lichtman for giving me a “save”!

I’m relieved that Biden won the presidency, and I deeply appreciate the influence that President Trump had in destroying voter complacency.


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Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
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