Republicans have never been happier for President Joe Biden.
In conversations with Republican operatives across the spectrum of the party, there is a general sense of resignation that Donald Trump will eventually lose the presidential election. Even the most optimistic Republican who spoke to Intelligencer only gave Trump a one-in-three chance of pulling out a victory on Wednesday afternoon. (To be sure, nothing is settled yet.) However, there was a sense of glee that Democrats had lost House seats and were likely not to take control of the Senate, not to mention that the media had gotten it all wrong.
One Republican argued that the entire political-media class needed “to have a come-to-Jesus moment. This is the third cycle in a row, and it’s always wrong in one direction.” In that operative’s view, polls had a distorting effect on the entire political landscape. “If you took away the polls, is there anything you could think that there would be a Biden landslide?”
Other Republicans saw the beginnings of political transformation in the GOP to turn it into a “new party of the working class.” One veteran Republican operative focused on Trump’s strong performance with minority voters, saying, “Nothing has happened to the Republican Party like this since Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.” The operative continued: “Donald Trump has given us a gift, and whether he wins or loses, we have to continue down that path, and this is something that George Will and Mitt Romney could have never could have accomplished.”
Regardless of whether the 2020 election does herald any sort of realignment in national politics, one Republican strategist saw the result as “a pyrrhic victory” for Biden. “His party will have basically taken a drubbing in the Senate and House and will limp in, having projected a blowout,” the strategist said. Further, the operative saw a narrow loss for Trump under these circumstances as a long-term plus for the GOP: “A Republican base that believes the election was stolen from Trump will show up to vote for school-board races.”
From the perspective of one Trump-skeptical Republican operative, “it couldn’t have shaken out much better.” The operative added, “I’m pleased that he did well enough.” The result was likely to be a politically weak Biden without the ability to reverse many of Trump’s policy achievements.
In the meantime, though, it’s just a question of how long the process of tabulating votes and settling legal challenges will drag out before a final result. No one Intelligencer spoke with thought there would be intentional fraud, contrary to statements from the Trump White House and campaign. As one Republican pointed out, “Anyone who thinks there is coordinated effort to steal this election is beyond retarded.” However, there was the sense that the process still had to play out. As another Republican operative noted, “This was an unusual election … so there is probably a much higher possibility of aberration and anomalies.” The operative didn’t point to malfeasance but some chaos as local election officials dealt with the confluence of a pandemic plus an unprecedented influx of absentee ballots. “All these states were put into a situation that they never sufficiently planned for and prepared for,” said the operative. Obviously, it’s not likely any of these issues could significantly shift results, but it simply was an argument that it was reasonable for campaigns to be a little more cautious with the process. The Republican operative dismissed the rhetoric in the meantime, noting, “Both sides are posturing.”