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With nearly all votes counted, the 2020 presidential election wasn't that close

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: President-elect Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden gesturing to supporter, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.
President-elect Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden gesturing to supporters on Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.Andrew Harnik / AP file

WASHINGTON — What’s gotten lost in all of the focus on President Trump’s lawsuits, his baseless accusations of voter fraud and his administration’s unwillingness so far to begin the transition is a simple fact.

The 2020 presidential election wasn’t really that close.

Right now, Joe Biden’s popular-vote lead over Trump stands at 4 percentage points, 51 percent to 47 percent — and it’s only going to grow once more of New York’s votes (finally) get counted.

That would give Biden the second-largest popular vote margin out of the 21st century’s six presidential elections, with only Barack Obama’s 7-point win in 2008 being greater.

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When it comes to the Electoral College, the tally stands at Biden 306, Trump 232 – which happens to be the exact same split as Trump’s 2016 win versus Hillary Clinton (but in reverse). And Trump referred to that as a “massive landslide victory.”

Biden’s ahead by 154,000 votes in Michigan (greater than Trump’s 10,000-vote winning margin there in 2016).

He’s ahead by 81,000 votes in Pennsylvania (nearly twice Trump’s 44,000-vote win there four years ago).

And he’s ahead by more than 20,000 votes in Wisconsin (almost the same as Trump’s 23,000-vote victory there in 2016).

On top of those leads, Biden also narrowly flipped the traditionally GOP-leanings states of Arizona and Georgia.

The 2020 presidential race looked close the 12 hours after the first polling places closed on Election Night.

But nearly three weeks later — with almost all the votes counted — it’s now safe to say the Biden-vs.-Trump contest wasn’t that close.

More cracks in the GOP wall

With Michigan and Pennsylvania scheduled to meet to certify their results today (although questions remain about what exactly will happen in Michigan), and with Georgia having certified last Friday (though Team Trump has requested a recount), there are more Republican voices calling Biden the winner.

Or saying that the Trump administration should be preparing for a transition.

After a federal judge dismissed the Trump campaign’s lawsuit in Pennsylvania, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said on Saturday Trump had “exhausted all plausible legal options” to challenge the state’s results, and he congratulated “President-elect Biden.”

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., added that Michigan voters “spoke” for Biden. "And here again in Michigan, it's not a razor-thin margin," he said. "It's 154,000 votes. You've got to let those votes stand."

And on “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. — while saying Trump has every right to exhaust his legal options — said the president and his administration should “at least cooperate with the transition.”

Biden starts to roll out his national security team

NBC News on Sunday confirmed reports that President-elect Biden is expected to name veteran diplomat Antony “Tony” Blinken as his secretary of state.

And this morning, NBC News reports that Biden is expected to select Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.N. ambassador.

Biden cabinet/transition watch

State: Tony Blinken (expected)

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (expected)

Treasury: Lael Brainard, Janet Yellen and Roger Ferguson

Defense: Michèle Flournoy, Jeh Johnson, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Director of National Intelligence: Maine Sen. Angus King

HHS: New Mexico Gov, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Calif. Rep. Raul Ruiz, Calif. Rep. Karen Bass, Dr. Vivek Murthy

Homeland Security: Val Demings, Susan Rice, Bennie Thompson, Xavier Becerra

Interior: Deb Haaland

Agriculture: Heidi Heitkamp

Labor: Andy Levin, Bernie Sanders, Marty Walsh

Education: Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Randi Weingarten

Chief of Staff: Ron Klain (named)

National Security Adviser: Jake Sullivan (expected)

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

6,026,117: Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote at the time of publication

12,306,023: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 504,004 more than Friday morning.)

257,692: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 4,059 more than Friday morning.)

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

83,782: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

43: The number of days until the January 5 Senate runoffs.

58: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Tweet of the day

Georgia Runoff Watch by Ben Kamisar

In today’s Runoff Watch, new ads show how both Georgia GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock have been simultaneously on offense and defense — both campaigns are out with new spots that take a big swing at their opponent and look to defuse a key attack.

Loeffler’s attack ad uses footage from Warnock’s sermons to claim that he “attacks our military” and “is dangerous,” before ending with footage of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Warnock’s spot, out the same morning, includes a group of police officers and sheriffs criticizing Republicans for claiming Warnock supports defunding the police.

On the flip side, Warnock’s new spot goes on the offensive to attack Loeffler for her pre-pandemic stock trades, accusing her of protecting “her own interests” over those of average Georgians. And like she did during the special primary, Loeffler’s new spot tries to rebut those charges as “liberal lies,” noting the Senate Ethics Committee dropped its inquiry, before touting her handling of the pandemic.

The Lid: Sixteen years later

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we looked at how much the presidential map has changed – and how it hasn’t – since 2004.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s what we know about what may happen in Michigan today at a 1:00 pm ET meeting of the Board of State Canvassers.

Trump is threatening to veto a defense spending bill unless a measure to rename military bases honoring Confederate leaders is removed.

Business leaders in New York are urging Trump to start the transition.

Biden and Harris will meet virtually with mayors to discuss the virus and the economy.

Kelly Loeffler is self-isolating after inconclusive test results.

Chris Christie is calling Trump’s legal moves “a national embarrassment.”

Trump’s post-presidency could be very complicated legally.

The Ad Council has a tough new task: Convince skeptics that the Covid vaccine is safe.

Republicans have their eyes on the 2022 Senate map.

Gavin Newsom is under pressure to pick a woman of color for Kamala Harris’s Senate seat.