GREENWICH — It was another day of confusion and chaos for political observers as ballot-counting continued Friday in the presidential race in a number of battleground states. Local political experts seemed poised for a Joe Biden victory, but were bracing themselves for what that might mean.
“The writing is on the wall for Biden to win Pennsylvania,” said Scott McLean, a Quinnipiac University political science professor. Given that the Pennsylvania districts where ballots remained to be counted were heavily Democratic, “it looks almost impossible to imagine that (President Donald) Trump will end up with the most votes once votes are counted.”
Pennsylvania isn’t the only state where victory hinged on absentee ballots. In Georgia, ballots were still being counted Friday afternoon, though Biden appeared to be ahead by a razor-thin margin in what is typically a Republican stronghold.
Greenwich’s Dita Bhargava, a former Democratic candidate for state treasurer, said she was “ecstatic” about the likely election result, with Kamala Harris poised to make history as the first female vice president.
“I think the Biden-Harris ticket is strong, diverse, representative. Together, they’re going to do a great job bringing our country together,” Bhargava said.
“People are hurting,” she said. But Biden and Harris will “govern not just to bring people together, but govern smartly, and present a plan for Americans that can give them hope and comfort, that so many of us are looking for. …
“Joe Biden will be president for all Americans. And I think that is so important, we need a president who doesn’t make it about him, but makes it about being a public servant, representing everyone,” she said.
Bhargava hosted a fundraiser at her home in Greenwich for Harris in September 2019 — in her only visit to Connecticut during the campaign. It was attended by over 200 people from all over the tristate region.
“I think she will make a tremendous vice president, a real partner. And she will be ready on day one,” said Bhargava.
Alan Gunzburg, a Greenwich resident who is vocal in the fight for disability rights, said he’s “very comfortable” saying he voted blue in this presidential election.
He recalled a time when Trump made fun of a reporter with a disability while campaigning in 2016. Gunzburg, who lives with visual and hearing impairments, said most people don’t expect the leader of the free world to exhibit such behavior.
“I thought that the Republican Party could never, ever, in my lifetime put somebody like that (up) as a plausible candidate for president,” Gunzburg said.
Now Gunzburg said he hopes everyone can get along, compromise and create an equal platform for everyone’s voice. He also hopes that Biden and Harris will adopt a better strategy for quelling the coronavirus.
Before the pandemic, Gunzburg said he identified as a “very active” person with a disability, but that has changed.
“I was everywhere,” he said. “I go nowhere (now).”
With his other medical conditions, Gunzburg said he fears that if he were infected with COVID-19, he “would lose the rest of my vision. I would lose the little bit of hearing that I have. I could even become somebody who’s wheelchair-bound.”
“I couldn’t possibly let that happen,” he said. “I’ve worked way too hard for my own health … to have that taken away by people who … say that (COVID-19) is a hoax.”
Greg Schulte worked for the Biden campaign from the outset — he was in Philadelphia in May 2019 when Biden announced his candidacy, near the “Rocky” statue at the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Schulte was a volunteer in New Hampshire, Iowa and Michigan — and can vividly recall the low points of the campaign when Biden struggled to make headway against a crowded field of Democratic candidates.
A former Greenwich resident who recently moved to Stamford, Schulte says that as a Red Sox fan, he knows how to keep the faith.
“I’m really excited,” he said about Biden’s campaign. “He was true to himself, and even more and more as the campaign went on. It was really a long haul. So it’s faith rewarded.”
Schulte, a finance executive, said he believed Biden “was the only person who could have beaten Trump.” As the Biden campaign moved closer to an apparent victory, “We feel like this saved democracy,” Schulte said, and it is a major turning point in the history of the country.
Wanting to win seems to be in Trump’s nature, and always has been, said Lennie Grimaldi, an author and political consultant who runs the Only in Bridgeport blog. Grimaldi worked for Trump for four years in the mid- to late 1990s and was the real estate mogul’s “eyes and ears” in Connecticut on gaming and development matters, including Trump’s effort to build a casino in Bridgeport.
Grimaldi said he expected the next few months will be tense, especially if Trump’s presidency ends and Biden prepares to be sworn in.
“(Trump) wants to be loved,” Grimaldi said. “He hates to lose. He often makes fun of losers. So to his way of thinking, to concede is a sign of weakness. His ego will not allow him to be framed as a loser. He’s going to go out kicking and screaming. … The next couple of months are going to be very, very dicey.”
But even if Trump loses the presidential race and contests it, McLean, the Quinnipiac professor, said that he has faith that the electoral process will do its job. Election-related lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign in some states — including Michigan and Georgia — have already been dismissed.
“The election does not turn on Trump’s unwillingness to concede,” McLean said. “There are public officials who run elections, both Democrats and Republicans, and they are obligated to follow — and so far have followed — the rules.”
Presuming Biden wins, the victory “clearly is a referendum on the president and the president’s party,” said Gayle Alberda, an assistant professor of political science and director of the master’s program in public administration at Fairfield University.
Given that it’s unusual for an incumbent president not to be re-elected, “for a challenger to win, that is a referendum for me on the current officeholder,” she said.
But it isn’t as strong a referendum as people anticipated, McLean pointed out. He said the vote ended up much closer than anticipated, largely due to the strategies Biden and Trump took in their campaigns.
“Biden’s strategy in Pennsylvania was to offer a moderate alternative to Trump,” McLean said. “What Trump was able to do in his rhetoric was to paint Biden as much more of a left-wing candidate.”
Trump’s path ultimately proved successful for him, McLean said, particularly with his base, resulting in a close race.
The closeness of the race, and the prevalence of mail-in voting, has also led to Trump challenging the election results, even as votes were still being counted. That isn’t shocking, Alberda said, given that Trump was casting doubt on the legitimacy of mail-in voting long before Election Day.
Exactly 100 years ago, the 19th Amendment was adopted giving women the right to vote, though many Black women were barred from the polls through voter suppression, intimidation and racial discrimination.
But Stamford’s Jere Eaton — an active voice in the city advocating for racial equality — said the Biden-Harris victory is historically symbolic a century later. She said that when Black woman use their voice and their right to vote, unprecedented changes can happen.
“As a Black woman, it’s great to know (that) when we vote and we engage in the election process, that we can win,” she said. “My hat’s off to Joe Biden for having the foresight of choosing a Black woman as his running mate, because it engaged a number of Black people, especially women to join in on the process.”
When Barack Obama was elected president, Eaton said, it empowered many Black boys and young men. She envisions the same empowerment occurring for young Black girls now.
“I think women, but especially Black women, are walking extremely tall today,” Eaton said. “And hopefully, it’s going to carry on for decades and hundreds of years from now.”
Brook Manewal spent months rallying women and mothers in Stamford and across the nation after Trump claimed that the “suburban housewife” would be voting for him.
“Suburban women are flocking over to us. They realize that I am saving the Suburbs – the American Dream!” Trump tweeted on Oct. 22, riffing on the same points that led Manewal to start the S.W.A.T Team, or Suburban Women Against Trump.
But Manewal is ready to take a breath, because the likely 2020 election result won’t just take Trump out of the White House. It would bring Kamala Harris – the nation’s first Black and female vice president – into it.
Manewal knows discrimination won’t abruptly end; she said she’s keen not to fall into traps of complacency similar to those ones that followed Obama’s presidency.
“I think that just backfired tremendously,” said Manewal. “Do I think the fight is gonna be over for women? No! But I think in terms of our daughters, especially little black girls, being able to be like… the next vice president looks like me. I think that’s awesome.”
Yet, Manewal and her group have another reckoning coming as results continue to trickle in. CNN repoted that Trump’s support grew by three points among white women — like the ones he tweeted about in
“If it is accurate, it shows how much work there is to still do to help women disconnect from the patriarchy,” said Manewal. “I think white women, as opposed to women of color, glean greater benefit from the white patriarchy and therefore tend to think that a vote for someone like Trump is a vote in their self-interest.”
Staff Writers Veronica Del Valle and Amanda Cuda also contributed to this story.