The underlining operating principle of cable television news is not to inform viewers but to attract viewers because basically they’re in the business of selling advertising and people who buy advertising are primarily concerned with the size of the viewing audience.
So, your favorite cable channel’s primary concern on Tuesday, November 3 will be to keep you watching. To keep you watching, they have to keep you in suspense. So, here’s a cheat sheet for watching election returns that will take the mystery and suspense out of election night. It’s how hardened political professionals like James Carvell and Steve Schmidt will be watching and the tells they’ll be looking for.
The first early state that matters is Florida. If Joe Biden wins Florida, the game is over; you can put a fork in Trump.
If Trump wins Florida, the next early state tell is North Carolina. If Biden wins North Carolina, he has probably won the night, but you’ll want to wait for Pennsylvania for confirmation. If Biden wins Florida and North Carolina then it will be a rout; you can change the channel or go to bed early, because it’s game, set, match. The only question is the final score.
If Biden loses Florida and North Carolina, then don’t panic if you’re a Biden voter, because all that has happened is Trump didn’t lose the first two home games. The series then moves to Pennsylvania, where a Biden win means Biden is in position to close out the series with wins in Wisconsin and Michigan. Biden holds the serve by winning Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan; Trump can’t win the election because there’s no Republican road to 270 electoral college votes at that point.
If you’re interested in what the professionals will be watching if Biden wins Florida and North Carolina, then it’s Texas, Arizona and Iowa, especially Texas. If Biden wins these three, it means the Republicans have been gutted and are no longer in a position to be a national party and America’s politics have finally caught up with its tectonic demographic changes.
It would also mean that Democrats have picked up two additional U.S. Senate seats (they’re on track to win Arizona regardless) and have control of the Senate with room to spare. You will also wake up on Wednesday, November 4 to a changed national state-level political landscape as well.
The board is set that one of the above scenarios is possible and even probable, but probability is not predictability. You still have to run the race, and because something should have gone a certain way, doesn’t mean it will go a certain way.
So, what’s the plan if Trump wins and Republicans maintain control of the Senate? Then on Wednesday morning start, searching for countries that may welcome Black American refugees. Because we’re out of here.
Mike Jones is a member of The St. Louis American editorial board.