President Donald Trump baselessly told voters he had won the election during an early morning press conference at the White House Wednesday, even as former Vice President Joe Biden held onto an electoral college edge and millions of ballots in battleground states had yet to be counted.
The president stood in front of supporters at 2 a.m. to claim, “We did win this election,” and said campaign staff “want all voting to stop.”
President Trump’s actions are without precedent in American politics.
Earlier, he had taken to Twitter and Facebook early Wednesday morning to undermine confidence in the vote count. “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election,” Trump wrote. Both social media platforms labeled his statement as misleading.
With officials in several battleground states crucial to either a Trump or Biden victory saying they may not have final results until later this week, a broad swath of rabbis and Jewish organizations urged patience.
“Do not panic. Do not despair,” the left-leaning Jewish group IfNotNow wrote on Twitter. “After historic turnout, we will not back down until each and every vote is counted.”
IfNotNow was one of several groups including T’ruah, Bend the Arc and Jewish Voice For Peace that have joined a progressive coalition called Protect the Results that seeks to mobilize voters “if Donald Trump undermines the results of the 2020 presidential election.” The Reform Movement is also calling on secretaries of state not to certify election results until all votes are counted.
Polling foretold a solid win for Biden and in some polls, a landslide, neither of which materialized as the hours ticked by. Trump clearly won key states that earlier seemed like tossups, including Florida and Texas.
But in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, mail-in and absentee ballots have yet to be counted, and political analysts say those ballots will be overwhelmingly blue.
In South Florida, home to many of the state’s Jews and long a Democratic bastion, many Latino voters appear to have swung toward Trump. On Staten Island, historically conservative voters returned to the Republican column and defeated freshman U.S. Rep. Max Rose, a Jewish Democrat.
“The thing that’s troubling me is the polling,” said Steven Windmueller, an expert on Jewish political behavior and professor emeritus at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. “There was a general drumbeat that the election would be very much more favorable to the Democrats than we seem to be seeing.”
Did Jewish organizing work?
Jewish organizations on both sides of the political spectrum poured unprecedented resources into races up and down the ballot this year. But the presidential race has done the most to animate the community.
An exit poll conducted by GBAO strategies for the liberal group J Street reported a 77%-21% Jewish vote for Biden with a 3.5% margin of error. If that number holds, it represents a seven percent increase over Hillary Clinton’s share of the Jewish vote in 2016.
Volunteers with Bend the Arc, a liberal group, made over three million calls and texts to Jewish voters in battleground states like Florida, but it appears not to have been enough to flip the state.
Karyn Frank, who co-leads a Bend the Arc chapter in South Florida, said the organization’s work in Florida was plagued by limited supporters on the ground and a database of supposed Jewish voters that included many non-Jews.
She said that it was difficult to muster local volunteers to make calls for U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents Miami-Dade County.
“There were like four of us phone banking,” Frank said. “We don’t have strength in numbers around here.”
Mucarsel-Powell lost to her Republican opponent Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Tuesday.
(Bend the Arc spokesman Logan Smith said the group spent a significant amount of its advertising budget in Florida and started phone banking in the state months ahead of the election.)
Frank, who lives on the border of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, attributed South Florida’s Republican turn to Cuban and South American voters convinced that Trump was a bulwark against a leftist government taking root in the United States.
“They believe the socialist bit,” Frank said. “Biden was a socialist and Trump was going to be the person to save them.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition spent millions of dollars in South Florida on television advertisements and other voter outreach. Matt Brooks, RJC’s executive director, said he believed that work had shifted the Jewish vote a meaningful amount across the state.
“I’d see it as contributory,” he said of the RJC’s work in Florida. “Any time you’re able to move an impactful demographic group like the Jewish vote in South Florida in one direction … obviously it contributes and helps, in this case, the president.”
Mixed results for down-ballot Jewish candidates
Most of the races involving Jewish House candidates running in swing districts remained too close to call by press time. Rose’s loss was the most notable, falling by a wide margin to Republican Nicole Malliotakis.
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who represents Long Island and has become something of a Jewish Republican standard-bearer since his election in 2014, was leading Jewish chemistry professor Nancy Goroff with over 61 percent of the vote by press time.
Outside of the New York region, freshman U.S. representatives Democrats Elaine Luria in Virginia and Elissa Slotkin in Michigan were both trailing their Republican opponents by about 10 points with roughly half the vote totals in. Luria and Slotkin are both slightly favored to win reelection and experts said much of the outstanding vote comes from mail ballots expected to lean Democratic.
Two candidates with far-right ties did notch wins Tuesday. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican who has promoted the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory that claims a cabal of Satantic pedophiles is running a global child sex trafficking ring, was elected to represent a U.S. House district in northeast Georgia. Republican Madison Cawthorn was elected to the House in western North Carolina. The 25-year-old Republican’s campaign drew attention for attackint a journalist as being disloyal to white men. Cawthorn himself posted photographs from a vacation to Adolf Hitler’s mountain retreat in 2017.
Laura Loomer, another far-right candidate, lost handily to incumbent Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat, in Florida. Both Loomer and Frankel are Jewish.
There was no clear fate for two key Jewish Senate candidates hoping to flip Republican U.S. Senate seats blue. Jon Ossoff, a media executive, was trailing Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue in Georgia but 20 percent of the vote remained outstanding. Much of that total is in the Atlanta area, a Democratic stronghold where voting counting was significantly delayed in one county due to a burst pipe.
There were no numbers by press time for Al Gross, a Jewish physician and former commercial fisherman attempting to knock off Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan in Alaska. Polls in the far western state did not close until 1 a.m. ET.
Frank, the Bend the Arc volunteer from Florida, said she headed into Tuesday night blind. No political yard signs or bumper stickers dotted her Broward County neighborhood and there was no consistent theme among the voters she reached while phone banking.
“Some days it sounded like everybody was voting for Biden and some days there wasn’t a single Biden voter,” Frank said.
“They said it was going to be a toss-up,” she added. “That’s just what it is around here.”
Arno Rosenfeld is a staff writer for the Forward, where he covers U.S. politics and American Jewish institutions. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @arnorosenfeld.
Trump falsely says he won, threatens court action