JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The COVID-19 pandemic and the “Big Blue Wall” of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were what turned the 2020 presidential election in favor of president-elect Joe Biden, according to News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney.
Mullaney said it was fitting that Biden’s birth state of Pennsylvania was the one to propel him over the top.
The Associated Press called Pennsylvania on Saturday morning in favor of the former vice president, who was born in Scranton. The state’s 20 electoral votes pushed Biden over the 270 threshold needed to become the next president.
“I’m sure it’s meaningful to Joe Biden himself that Pennsylvania was the state that really made the difference to most of the calls that are being made today,” said Mullaney, the founding director of Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute. “It’s a historic moment. There’s no doubt about that.”
Mullaney acknowledged that the race to the White House is not necessarily over, as President Donald Trump has vowed to challenge the results in court.
“This is a media declaration. The AP is calling this. Fox is calling this. CNN is calling this. That’s not legal process, that’s media process,” Mullaney said. “There is a certification process that each of the states have. There’s an official vote tally that each of the states have.”
Mullaney said the president has every right to bring claims about the election results and that those should be heard and vetted. But, he said, the uphill battle becomes whether – even if the president wins some of the legal fights… “Does it make a difference in the outcome?”
“The president has a lot of fight in him, and I expect him to litigate this to the extent that he can,” Mullaney said.
Mullaney said Biden’s projected victory hinged on several key moments, including his win in the South Carolina primary and the reaction to the candidates' first debate.
“Prior to South Carolina, Joe Biden was a long shot. South Carolina really changed everything,” Mullaney said. “Nine months ago, Joe Biden’s campaign was considered finished and his resurrection and his win in South Carolina and the pathway he took really has been remarkable.”
Mullaney also pointed to the coronavirus pandemic as a “game-changer” in the election, saying that before the pandemic, even after his impeachment, Trump was likely on a path to re-election.
But Trump’s response to the pandemic was widely criticized across the country, and the pandemic itself drove many voters to utilize mail-in ballots, a shift the Democrats were able to capitalize on by mobilizing their constituents, Mullaney said.
“What Joe Biden did successfully was to put the focus on the president and to make this a referendum on the president’s handling of COVID-19 as well as a referendum on the president’s behavior and style,” Mullaney said. “There’s just no doubt that COVID-19 in 2020 played a major role in the outcome of this election.”