Joseph R. Biden Jr. Elected 46th President of the United States | Brunswick
Perspectives

Joseph R. Biden Jr. Elected 46th President of the United States

Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States; Kamala Harris will make history as the country’s first Black, Indian-American, and woman Vice President; Republicans will likely maintain control of the U.S. Senate; and while having lost seats, Democrats will maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

If the final tally holds in the handful of states that will have recounts, Biden may win as many as 306 electoral votes, which will be equal to the same margin of Trump's victory in 2016.

The country entered this election divided and remains even more so. Democrats won the White House, and voters will likely see Republicans maintain control of the Senate following two runoffs in Georgia on January 5.

While Trump was not re-elected, his defeat reaffirmed that his narrow 2016 victory was not a one-off event but rather a deeply embedded reality of current American politics and a reflection of the U.S., rather than the cause of its divisions.

Biden’s victory is a continuation of a long-running trend: in seven out of the last eight elections the country has voted for change, regardless of which party is in power.

While Congress will likely be split between a Republican Senate and Democratic House, many states will have clear partisan control: Ballotpedia projects that in 38 states, the Governor and control of the state legislature will be in the hands of one party (23 Republican and 15 Democrat).

On a national and state-by-state level, most polls did not accurately reflect the outcome of the election.

Biden’s Path to Victory

Based on NBC News’s projection as of 4:30 PM EST today, Biden may win as many as 306 electoral votes.

The Biden/Harris ticket carried all the states that Clinton won in 2016 while also picking up Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Biden will also pick up Arizona and Georgia if he maintains his current leads. 

Entrenched Political Beliefs

Despite the worst pandemic in over 100 years, the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression and social strife since the 1960s, the vast majority of the country knew who they were going to support before campaigning even began, according to an Associated Press post-election survey.

Political predispositions are so strong that a record amount of campaign spending did not have a measurable impact on swaying American voters. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a record $14 billion was spent in this election cycle, including $6.6 billion in the presidential contest, which towers over the $2.4 billion spent in the 2016 campaign. This extended to Congress, which saw eight of the ten most expensive Senate campaigns in history, as of mid-October.

In an election cycle that shattered all spending records, the partisan movement was minimal beyond shifts in the Electoral College:

  • While the results in the two Georgia run-offs are not yet known, Democrats have thus far made a net gain of one Senate seat, which by itself would not change the overall partisan control of the chamber
  • At least 10 seats shifted parties in the House of Representatives
  • Only one governorship changed parties, with a Republican pick up in Montana
  • No net change in party control of state legislatures if the Democrats win the state house and senate in Arizona.

Historic Voter Turnout

The 2020 presidential election will have the highest voter turnout in over 100 years with more than 147 million ballots already counted. It is quite likely that there will be more than 160 million votes, far surpassing the nearly 139 million people who voted in 2016. The Washington Post projects that when all the votes have been counted, 66.4% of the voting-eligible population will have cast a ballot in this year's election.

Biden’s 74 million votes is now the highest in American history, far surpassing the record 69.5 million people who voted for President Obama in 2008. If Biden maintains his current leads, he will be the first Democratic candidate for President to win Georgia since 1992 and the first Democratic candidate to win Arizona since 1996.

While Trump lost the election, he won at least 10.5% more votes than in 2016. As of 4:30 PM ET, 70 million people (47.7%) voted for Trump in this election—7 million more than his 2016 vote total. 

Notably, more than 101 million people voted early or by mail.

The Demographic and Geographic Groups That Elected Biden

According to the Associated Press post-election survey, the groups who most strongly supported Biden and powered his victory were women (+11 points), young voters (+25), Blacks (+82), Hispanics (+28), educated voters (+14 ), suburbanites (+10), and Independent voters (+14).

Biden was also able to reduce the margins that Clinton lost with non-college educated white women and men as well as narrow the margins from 2016 in small towns and rural areas.

However, Trump was able to keep the election close by significantly increasing turnout to 61% of non-college graduates. He was also able to reduce the margin of expected losses in suburban areas as well as with senior voters.

The most significant change that could have a long-lasting impact in American politics was Republican’s unexpected strength with Hispanic voters, the fastest growing group of voters in the country. Trump gained 35% of the Hispanic vote, which was a 7% increase from 2016.

In the end, Biden’s strength in suburban and urban areas overcame any of Trump’s gains. However, if Republicans can continue to make inroads in the Hispanic community—as demonstrated most notably with Cuban and Venezuelan Americans in Florida— they will grow their base of support as America’s demographics continue to evolve.

In the post-mortems of the election that will inevitably be conducted by both parties, expect a deep-dive analysis on Hispanic voters and their impact on future elections.

Congressional Elections

Republicans had a very strong showing in congressional races despite being massively outspent and defending as many as ten Senate competitive seats across the country. They are now favored to maintain control of the Senate although they will need to win one of two Georgia runoff elections on January 5 to seal their majority. The GOP currently has a 50-to-48 seat advantage over Democrats going into the runoff.

While runoffs typically favor Republicans, Biden’s narrow win is expected to energize Democrats to aggressively compete in Georgia. These will also become nationalized elections in what is truly now a swing state. Ballots will start to being mailed on November 18. Early voting starts on December 14.

In the House, Republicans gained at least ten seats, contrary to predictions that they would lose 10-15 seats. The Democrats are projected to have a majority of at least seven seats, which would be the narrowest margin of control by either party in 18 years.

Republicans also showed surprising resilience in swing states and won a number of seats that they lost in the 2018 Democratic sweep of the House. Their strong support with Hispanic voters was instrumental in flipping two Democrat-held seats in Florida, while defending at least five seats that were vulnerable in Texas.

Notably, Republicans will now have a record number of women in the new Congress. Republican women defeated a majority of their Democrat-held seats and will have a minimum of 13 new female members in the House.

Three factors contributed to Republicans’ success:

  1. Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment had the effect of nationalizing the Senate elections. Republicans were defending ten vulnerable seats in red states, and the Supreme Court confirmation helped to build energy and turnout for the GOP incumbents.

  2. Trump’s repetitive attempts to associate Democrats with socialism and his heavy emphasis on law and order became effective arguments to maintain support for Republican candidates and turn out voters on Election Day. 

  3. Trump’s second debate performance was strong enough to help bring drifting Republicans back into the fold.

Potential Legal Issues

Significant attention will be placed on potential legal challenges to the electoral outcomes in the coming days and weeks. President Trump has vowed to take an aggressive stance on filing legal challenges over the counting process in several states.

While a number of cases have been tossed out or resolved, the Trump campaign’s strategy is to use the courts to challenge the electoral process. The Trump campaign has filed several lawsuits and more are expected. As such, it is important to separate the signal from the noise when thinking about forthcoming legal activity.

  • Recounts. These are fairly common, and in some cases, they are actually mandated by state law if the margin between candidates is small enough. In others, candidates can request a recount. The question to ask is whether a recount will produce results that will have a meaningful impact on the margin of victory in a given state.
  • Contests over absentee ballots. Some states have segregated some late-arriving absentee ballots, for example, in case there are questions or challenges.
  • Other contests. Expect a variety of other legal theories and claims advanced, many of which are less specific―and unsubstantiated―accusations of “voter fraud.” The courts have already struck down some of these claims but expect the Trump campaign to continue to pursue legal avenues to make its case that the electoral results are suspect.

The legal process will likely take some time to sort out, and there is no benefit for elected officials or businesses to either comment on or get ahead of the process. Every vote can and should be counted and this process will take time, so patience will be the watchword. States need to certify their elections by early December, consistent with the chart below.

Now Until Inauguration Day

There are 78 days between Election Day and the inauguration of the new president. This is one of the longest transition periods of any political system. The extent to which Trump continues to litigate and contest the election will likely dictate whether there is a tumultuous transition.
The transition will be influenced by three main factors:

  • The extent to which an unpredictable Trump uses this time to continue to advance his policy priorities by executive action.
  • A surge in coronavirus cases and deaths leading to additional shutdowns, mandates, and more economic turmoil.
  • Demands for economic stimulus if the economy begins to deteriorate further.

While it is unclear how the Trump administration will handle the transition of power, there is no question that the country is headed into a worse phase of the pandemic. As a result, Americans will soon feel increasing economic pressures against the backdrop of political dysfunction as winter sets in.

Any idea of big, bold economic recovery plans to respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are likely moot. Those expectations will need to be moderated by the fact that they now need to pass a likely Republican-led Senate.

It is also possible Congress passes a temporary aid package during the lame duck session. And if that is the case, the debate will quickly turn to whether or not Trump signs it into law.

Regardless of what happens between now and Inauguration Day, President-elect Biden will inherit a deeply divided nation still in the grips of a pandemic and dealing with the economic fallout.

A Biden/Harris Administration

While it is too early to speculate on the detailed policies of a Biden/Harris administration, look for early signals based on the appointments the President-elect makes to his White House staff and Cabinet. Three characteristics will define the Biden/Harris administration:

  • Experienced aides. With over five decades in politics, Biden has assembled a seasoned group of loyal advisors and aides to fill appointments to the senior roles in the West Wing. And given the multiple crises on multiple fronts, a Biden/Harris administration will prioritize expertise to meet these challenges.
  • Confirmable. Likely Republican control of the Senate confirmation process will be a moderating force on Biden’s appointees―to the dismay of progressives who helped elect Biden.
  • Diverse. Biden has committed to a government that looks like America. He is expected to have the most diverse administration in history and is likely to pursue racial and gender parity as he makes appointments.

As when Biden took office as Vice President in 2008, the first priority for his new administration will be an economic aid package commensurate to the crisis caused by the pandemic. The size and specifics of this package will offer insight into the Biden/Harris administration’s priorities and be the first signal of the working relationship between the Biden/Harris administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Biden’s instinct to work across party lines may become his defining characteristic as president. Despite pressure to override Republican opposition to his agenda―and pass many of his priorities via Executive Order as Presidents Obama and Trump favored when dealing with a divided Congress―Biden may choose to engage substantively and use his experience in Washington and statesmanship to work across party lines in an effort to return to normalcy.

Policy Implications

A divided government will present challenges for a Biden/Harris administration. A likely Republican controlled Senate will impact how Biden organizes government, how policy is enacted, and how politics is conducted in America.

On matters requiring legislative action—fiscal stimulus, energy, health care, tax policy, and new infrastructure spending—a Republican senate will be a check on the ambitions expressed during Biden’s campaign. Where executive authority is meaningful—COVID-19 response, the environment and climate change, and foreign policy—Biden will have more leeway since there will be less interference. This complexity, and the complicated mix of governance structure and policy issues, will require careful navigation across a broad range of issues.

Policy Overviews

Antitrust

Cybersecurity

China

Economy

Energy

Health Care

Labor

National Security and Defense 

Technology

Trade

 

 

Antitrust

A Biden/Harris administration will bring a return to the tradition of minimal White House involvement in antitrust enforcement decisions. Authority will be delegated to agency heads.

EXPECT

  • Continued scrutiny of big tech platforms.
  • Continued support for the consumer welfare paradigm.
  • Slightly more aggressive merger review, which is typical for Democratic administrations.
  • Increased focus on consummated mergers.
  • Possible changes in the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act and Rules (HSR) to facilitate the review of passive investments.

WATCH

  • Serious consideration of proposed legislation restricting M&A in concentrated industries, including:
    • Easing of the burden of proof in
      monopolization cases.
    • Requirement of platform content portability.
    • Reinstitution of certain per se rules of illegality.
    • Adoption of an essential facilities doctrine.
    • Facilitation of private rights of action for damages.
  • Enactment of antitrust legislation will be extremely challenging if Republicans control the Senate.

Cybersecurity

Biden has said cybersecurity is one of the leading threats of our time and has made commitments to pursuing a cybersecurity policy agenda focused on building national cyber resilience.

EXPECT

  • Reinstatement of the top White House cybersecurity post eliminated by Trump.
  • White House-led cyber strategy to address threats related to 5G and global malware.
  • Work with private sector to build defense capabilities and protect individual data, perhaps as part of wider tech company regulation.
  • Push for federal data privacy legislation inspired by Europe.
  • Return to U.S. cyber diplomacy, including norms for behavior in cyberspace. 

China

Biden will find areas of common cause to cooperate with China on transnational issues, such as biological security, climate change, nuclear and missile proliferation, and recovery of the international economy, while also remaining “tough” on China. As Vice President, Biden hosted Xi Jinping on a tour of the United States, but during the campaign called him a “thug” and vowed to stand up to Chinese bullying. Republicans in Congress will be quick to attack Biden for any signs of stepping back from this new spirit of confrontation. 

EXPECT

  • Tension between protectionism and free trade as blue-collar voters in manufacturing industries and key states will be sensitive to any roll-back of Trump’s trade barriers.
  • A multilateral approach, working more closely with allies.
  • Repair of ties with Indo-Pacific allies.
  • Pursuit of a security partnership with India.
  • Military investment for countering Anti-Access/Area Denial shifting to networks of flexible, adaptable, and autonomous machines. Congressional-Industry-Military triad will continue to argue for expensive platforms.
  • Cautious cooperation with China on international economic recovery, including macro policies and developing economy debt.
  • Challenge to China’s human rights politics in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet.

WATCH

  • Modest de-escalation of tension via “off-ramps” linked to the pandemic, biological security, and climate, facilitated by multilateral institutions
    like the G20, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations (UN).
  • Chinese actions to increase U.S. exports and award judgments to U.S. complainants in its relatively new intellectual property courts.
  • Reassessment of tools used to decouple from China including:
    • Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)
    • Sanctions on Chinese individuals and companies
    • Use of Entity List to restrict technology exports
    • Limits on Chinese students and U.S. university cooperation
    • Treatment of all personal data collection as a national security risk
  • Movement back toward traditional expressions of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan.
  • Appointment of a senior figure to oversee the U.S.-China relationship.

Economy

The Biden/Harris administration’s immediate focus will be on a fiscal support package to help struggling Americans and stabilize the economy.

EXPECT

  • Push for a whole-of-administration fiscal support package delivering swift relief for small business and tax increases for high-income earners, coupled with rebuilding and expanding America’s public health and other infrastructure priorities.
  • Longer term tax plans may try to reverse some of the 2017 tax cuts on corporations but will face opposition if Republicans maintain their Senate majority.
  • Robust consumer financial protections with an increased focus on economic and racial equality in lending.
  • Increase in U.S. manufacturing capacity to strengthen domestic supply chain.
  • Rigorous scrutiny on foreign investments posing national security threats via CFIUS transactions filed and not filed.
  • Ongoing use of sanctions and other financial measures to punish and isolate criminals, hackers, human rights abusers, and other bad actors, particularly from Iran, Russia, and China.

WATCH

  • Passing a fiscal support package, together with addressing the pandemic, will be the administration’s top priority during the first
    100 days.

Energy

Biden is focused on eliminating emissions of greenhouse gases from the U.S. power sector by 2035 and reaching net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050. He has promised a $2 trillion clean energy program, including 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations and 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes. His ambitions may be limited by strong opposition if Republicans keep control of the Senate.

EXPECT

  • Climate measures to be included in broader, popular legislation such as economic stimulus or infrastructure to minimize partisan obstruction.
  • Reliance on regulations and executive orders to avoid likely Congressional opposition.
  • S. to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • Reinstatement of Obama-era emissions standards for cars and oil and gas operations.
  • Opposition to the Keystone Pipeline.
  • Ban on new fossil-fuel leases on federal land.

WATCH

  • Indirect opposition to hydraulic fracking, short
    of an outright ban.
  • Use of Endangered Species Act to block
    energy development or requirement for federal agencies to consider climate impact of any
    new project or rule.
  • Support for nuclear power, hydropower, and carbon-capture and storage.

Health Care

The response to the pandemic will be the first health care priority for the Biden/Harris administration. The second priority will be the broader issue of health care. While Biden supporters’ hopes for “Bidencare” passing as a comprehensive program are likely unrealistic, there may be certain parts of it that can be pushed as well as efforts to shore up the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

EXPECT

  • Implementation of a COVID-19 recovery plan in the first 100 days through both executive action and negotiations with Congress to fully fund priorities, including:
    • Manufacturing and distributing personal
      protective equipment
    • Vaccine development
  • Proposal for direct negotiations between drug makers and the federal government over drug prices paid by Medicare, although congressional Republicans will likely oppose legislative changes.
  • Fixes and improvements to the ACA including:
    • Enhanced subsidies, such as a premium tax credit for middle-income families
    • More financial incentives for states to expand Medicaid programs
    • Fixes to poorly functioning parts of the law
  • Action with Congress to end “surprise billing” when patients receive an unexpected bill for out-of-network care.
  • Push for the creation of a public health insurance option to compete on the ACA marketplace against private plans. This will take longer, as it is more politically fraught and still thought of as too progressive by most Republicans. However, it is the centerpiece of “Bidencare” and some effort to enact it, even if Senate Republicans oppose it, will likely come during President Biden's first year in office.

Labor

Biden has a long history of support for organized labor and will likely support legislation and rule changes to reverse the recent decline in union participation and power.

EXPECT

  • Promotion of union organizing and collective bargaining in public and private sectors through a new Cabinet-level working group focused on labor. Its first 100-day plan will likely include:
    • Increased union density through greater
      protections and incentives
    • Expanded sectoral bargaining
    • Permission for city and state workers to organize more easily by identifying areas for the federal government to waive pre-emption of the National Labor Relations Act
  • Higher-profile debate around the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which nullifies state right-to-work laws. Right-to-work laws in 27 states allow workers to choose if they want to join a union or pay dues. The PRO Act imposes a new definition for “independent contractors” that reclassifies independent workers as employees. While a likely Republican Senate won’t agree to these actions, Democrats may be able to gain stakeholder support for a more pro-labor push within the party and in blue states.

National Security and Defense

As a former Vice President and long-serving chair and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden comes to these issues with experience and firm views. He wants a return to a more traditional approach to national security policy and to show the world that the United States can be counted on to lead. He trusts multilateral and global frameworks. On defense, he will have to balance strong forces in his own party who want to redirect defense spending to other domestic priorities against Republican resolve to defend the increased defense investments made under Trump.

EXPECT

  • Deep focus on repairing bilateral and multilateral relationships around the world; seek to work with allies on important global challenges.
  • Some areas of continuity with the Trump administration, notably concern about China and U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, however there will be different elements to Biden’s approach.
  • Scaling back of defense budget projections.
  • Less aggressive support for U.S. arms sales.

WATCH

  • Development of a global response to
    COVID-19.
  • Reversal of decision to leave the WHO.
  • Halting U.S. troop withdrawals in Europe,
    South Korea, and Afghanistan pending review.
  • Review of technology and trade restrictions
    on China, tying some to action on human rights and climate.
  • Support and respect for the U.S. intelligence community.

Technology

Biden recognizes the value of technology and science in economic growth, innovation, and the advancement of key sectors such as health care, manufacturing, and education. He also broadly sees access to technology as a matter of social justice and opportunity.

EXPECT

  • Immediate efforts to deploy the best of U.S. technological know-how to fight COVID-19.
  • Continuation of debates around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and how to moderate the content appearing on social media platforms.
  • Restoration of net neutrality.
  • Support for municipal broadband to bridge the digital divide.
  • Relaxation of H1-B visa rules to allow more technical talent to work in the U.S.
  • National technology innovation agenda, drafted by public and private sectors, including greater support for research and development.
  • Increased dialogue and cooperation between the U.S. and the EU on tech regulation, although tensions are likely to remain.

Trade

Biden will seek to uphold and reform the rules-based trading system of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and look for opportunities to facilitate trade with Europe despite the focus on domestic reforms. On China, he will move away from Trump’s focus on trade deficits and managed trade to focus on the structural reasons for the imbalances in U.S.-China trade and investment. He will likely work with the EU to pressure China to accept reform.

EXPECT

  • Opening of negotiations for a limited trade agreement with the EU, short of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) 2.0, which includes: elimination of tariffs on industrial goods; EU concessions on agriculture; and agreements on regulatory cooperation such as non-safety auto rules.
  • Continued negotiations with the UK on a comprehensive free trade agreement. Looming expiration of the Trade Promotion Authority may prompt a modest, targeted agreement.
  • Resolution of the Airbus-Boeing dispute, though a standstill agreement may be necessary to give the parties room to negotiate a deal.
  • Quick engagement with the EU to reform WTO rules and pressure China to reform its abusive trade and market access practices.
  • Supply chain diversification, especially in critical materials, to build resilience and reduce dependency on China. This will be done even while publicly rejecting calls to decouple
    from China.

WATCH

  • Withdrawal of unilateral tariffs on imports
    of EU steel and aluminum if EU lifts countersanctions.
  • Lifting of veto on appointments to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body.
  • New U.S.-EU digital/tech council of
    government and business leaders to align regulation of the digital economy.

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Terry Calvani, Senior Advisor, Washington, DC 
Antitrust, competition, and regulatory expert; Calvani also previously served as Commissioner of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Lanhee Chen, Senior Counselor, San Francisco
Served as chief policy adviser to Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential bid. Now a member of the public policy faculty at Stanford University and fellow at the Hoover Institution, Chen advises Brunswick clients on public affairs and geopolitical challenges with a particular focus on health care issues.

Patti Solis Doyle, Partner, U.S. Public Affairs Lead, Washington, DC 
Veteran political advisor and commentator, with more than 30 years of experience in politics, presidential campaigns, and public service.

Anthony Gardner, Senior Advisor, London 
U.S.-European affairs advisor; Gardner also previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.

Siobhan Gorman, Partner, Washington, DC
Crisis, cybersecurity, public affairs, and media relations advisor; 17-year career as a reporter, most recently at The Wall Street Journal.

George Little, Partner, Head of Office, Washington, DC 
Crisis communications, cybersecurity, reputational, and public affairs advisor; Little was previously head of Marketing and Communications at Booz Allen Hamilton, Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and Pentagon Press Secretary.

Molly Millerwise Meiners, Partner, Washington, DC
Public affairs, financial regulation and economic policy, and crisis management advisor; Meiners served as Chief Communications Officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.

Stephen Power, Partner, Dallas
Corporate reputation, public affairs, and crisis communications advisor with an extensive understanding of the challenges facing energy and transportation companies worldwide. Power covered global energy, automobile, and airline industries for The Wall Street Journal.

Chrissy Randall, Director, Washington, DC
Labor relations and public affairs advisor; Randall also worked on the 2008 McCain presidential campaign.

Adm. Mike Rogers, USN (Ret.), Senior Advisor, Washington, DC
Cybersecurity, technology, geopolitical, and crisis expert; Rogers joined Brunswick following a 37-year career in the U.S. Navy, where he served as Commander of U.S. Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency.

Mark Seifert, Partner, Washington, DC
Cybersecurity and privacy expert; corporate communications advisor, has extensive experience within the U.S. government, including 16 years with the Federal Communications Commission.

Doug Sosnik, Senior Advisor, Washington, DC
Policy and political expert who has closely advised President Bill Clinton and multiple U.S. Senators, governors, Fortune 100 corporations, foundations, and universities for 35 years.

Karen Wickre, Senior Counselor, San Francisco 
Content and communications strategist, specializing in tech; Wickre also spent 15 years in leading corporate editorial roles at both Google and Twitter.

Neal Wolin, Chief Executive Officer, Washington, DC
Business, public affairs, and communications expert; Wolin also previously served as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Treasury from May 2009 until September 2013, and Acting Secretary of the Treasury in January and February 2013.

Robert Zoellick, Senior Counselor, Washington, DC
Zoellick has decades of experience in politics and previously served as the President of the World Bank Group, U.S. Trade Representative, Deputy Secretary of State, and Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury.