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Biden won by re-running the 2016 map and campaign, just better

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, mask
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris after being declared the winners of the presidential election in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday. Andrew Harnik / Pool via AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Now that the dust has settled after election week — we told you there was a good chance it could take days to count the votes in the key battleground states — we can answer how President-elect Joe Biden won.

He simply re-ran the 2016 map and campaign, but better.

1. Biden won the urban counties in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by larger margins than Hillary Clinton did.

So far — with still more votes to count — Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in Wayne County in Michigan (Detroit) was 323,000 (Hillary’s was 290,000); his margin in Milwaukee County in Wisconsin was 183,000 (Hillary’s was 163,000); and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was 440,000 (Hillary’s was 475,000). Expect those Philly votes for Biden to grow in the coming days as more votes get counted.

Margins matter: The 20,000 more votes Biden netted out of Milwaukee County just happen to be his winning margin in the state.

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2. He won the key big-city suburbs by bigger margin

Take Montgomery County, which is right outside of Philadelphia. As our colleague Dante Chinni writes, Biden’s margin over Trump was 131,000 votes, while Hillary Clinton’s was 93,000.

3. Biden won independents

In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost independents nationally, as well as in the battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the exit polls.

In 2020, Biden won independents — both nationally and in those states.

And he needed to: Unlike in 2016, Republicans either ran even or ahead in Party ID in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (Was that Trump’s success in registering new Republican voters?)

4. The third-party vote benefitted Biden, not Trump

In a reverse of 2016, the third-party vote hurt Trump — not Biden.

In Wisconsin, Libertarian Jo Jorgensen got 38,000 votes; Biden’s winning margin over Trump was 20,000.

In Pennsylvania, Jorgensen got 75,000 votes; Biden’s winning margin over Trump was 43,000, though expect that to grow.

As we’ve also said, it’s pretty clear that Biden won many of those Gary Johnson/Jill Stein voters of 2016. Biden’s margins in many of those urban/suburban counties were simply Clinton’s votes + Johnson’s votes.

5. Biden appears to be on his way to winning two 2016 expansion states

In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost Arizona by 3.5 percentage points, and she lost Georgia by 5 points.

In 2020, Biden is ahead in Arizona by nearly 17,000 votes, and he’s ahead in Georgia by 10,000 votes.

The uncalled presidential states as of publication time

  • Arizona: Biden is ahead by 16,985 votes, 50 percent to 49 percent (98% in).
  • Georgia: Biden is ahead by 10,353 votes, 50 percent to 49 percent (99% in).
  • North Carolina: Trump is ahead by 75,407 votes, 50 percent to 49 percent (98% in).
  • Alaska: Trump is ahead by 51,382 votes, 63 percent to 33 percent (56% in).

2020 isn’t over

Six stories we’re still watching: Just in case you thought that a decided presidential race has ended our year in politics, think again.

  • The coronavirus rages on inside the United States: Since Election Day alone, there have been 5,800 coronavirus deaths, 13,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations and nearly 600,000 confirmed new cases. And today, President-elect Biden rolls out his Covid-19 advisory board. (More on that below.)
  • The Senate runoffs in Georgia: It seems all but certain we’re going to have teo Senate runoffs in Georgia on Jan. 5, which will decide control of the U.S. Senate. (If Democrats win both, they’ll pull to a 50-50 tie, with Vice President-Elect Harris being able to cast the tiebreaking vote.) By the way, does Trump still pursue that recount in Georgia? Seems it could distract Republicans in those runoffs, no?
  • The future of the GOP: What happens to Trump? Who becomes the next chair of the RNC? Which Republicans start making clear moves for 2024?
  • Kamala Harris’ Senate seat: Whom does California Gov. Gavin Newsom select to fill Harris’ Senate seat?
  • The Biden transition: How does Biden fill out his cabinet and incoming government?
  • Dem divisions: Over the House, you have AOC vs. Conor Lamb.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

4,361,895: Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote at the time of publication

10,055,485: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 366,754 more than Friday morning.)

239,449: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,780 more than Friday morning.)

156.64 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

57: The number of days until the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia.

72: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: The 18 uncalled House races

  • California 08: Obernolte (R) leads Bubser (D)
  • California 21: Valadao (R) leads Cox (D)
  • California 25: Garcia (R) leads Smith (D)
  • California 34: Gomez (D) leads Kim (R)
  • California 39: Kim (R) leads Cisneros (D)
  • California 42: Calvert (R) leads O’Mara (D)
  • California 48: Steel (R) leads Rouda (D)
  • Iowa 02: Hart (D) leads Miller-Meeks (R) (By just 161 votes!)
  • Illinois 14: Underwood (D) leads Oberweis (R)
  • New York 02: Garbarino (R) leads Gordon (D)
  • New York 03: Santos (R) leads Suozzi (D)
  • New York 11: Malliotakis (R) leads Rose (D)
  • New York 18: Maloney (D) leads Farley (R)
  • New York 19: Delgado (D) leads Van de Water (R)
  • New York 22: Tenney (R) leads Brindisi (D)
  • New York 24: Katko (R) leads Balter (D)
  • Texas 24: Van Duyne (R) leads Valenzuela (D)
  • Utah 04: McAdams (D) leads Owens (R)

Republicans are ahead in 12 of these races; Democrats are ahead in 6.

Biden rolls out his coronavirus advisory board

During his Saturday victory speech, President-elect Joe Biden said he’d announce his Covid-19 task force on Monday that would create an “action blueprint” to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

And today, the Biden team announced David Kessler, Vivek Murthy and Marcella Nunez-Smith will be the co-chairs for his Covid-19 advisory board.

Kessler served as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Murthy became U.S. Surgeon General under President Obama in 2014 and was asked to resign by the Trump administration in April 2017; and Nunez-Smith is a public health professor at Yale University and is the Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at Yale School of Medicine.

Just asking: But in a functioning current government, wouldn’t the administration’s coronavirus task force actually be meeting with Biden’s incoming team?

The Lid: Georgia, Georgia

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we took a look at the two upcoming Senate runoffs in Georgia.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Biden is focused on the transition and Covid as Trump remains defiant.

Here are 10 major policies to keep an eye on when Biden gets to the White House.

Chris Christie says it may be time to “move on” — but not all Republicans are speaking up.

Here’s how Pennsylvania voters describe their thoughts on Trump.

Black voters made the difference for Biden in major cities.

But Democrats missed Trump’s appeal to Latino voters.

Pfizer says its vaccine is more than 90 percent effective.

Biden wants to be proactive on stimulus talks.

The president’s accusations of election “irregularities” have not been substantiated.