What does the 2020 election mean for the Republican Party?

What does the 2020 election mean for the Republican Party?

The 2020 presidential election is now in the rearview mirror.

Political strategists will be digging into the numbers to see what happened, so they can learn lessons for future elections.

Over the next few weeks, election result challenges will play out in several states as election counts are certified.

It is incumbent on President Donald Trump’s campaign to prove election fraud, not simply to casually allege it. This burden of proof requires evidence, not tweets.

I expect former Vice President Joe Biden will have his electoral victories certified in battleground states Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin before the end of the month. Final counts may shift somewhat, but his winning margin in these states will be stable.

President Trump will be only the fourth duly elected president to seek re-election and face defeat in the past 100 years.

Losing a presidential election is a disaster for any political party. It casts the party into chaos, with no central leader for at least three years, until a new presidential nominee is elected in the primaries. The party in power controls events, raises more money and can enact a popular agenda.

But despite this presidential election loss, the 2020 election will prove to have been a surprisingly good one for Republicans.

Going into Election Day, the widely held expectation was that Democrats would likely win back the majority in the US Senate and gain more seats in the House of Representatives. They did neither.

The battle for control of the US Senate looked bleak at times for Republicans. While Democrats held massive financial advantages, Republican candidates in Maine, North Carolina, Iowa, South Carolina, Montana and Alaska all swam upstream and won re-election. Two US Senate seats now advance to runoffs scheduled for January 5. Democrats need to win both seats to move the Senate to a 50-50 tie, which would give them a majority with the new Democratic vice president breaking the tie.

Republicans significantly narrowed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s majority in the House, which will endanger her ability to pass progressive bills over the next two years and will raise the very real possibility that Republicans can win back the majority in the 2022 midterm elections.

Republicans also picked up a governorship in Montana and several state legislative majorities, which have added value given that redistricting will occur in early 2021 in every state.

So how was it possible for the GOP to prosper while the incumbent Republican president was being defeated? What happened?

First, President Trump actually outperformed his results in the 2016 election by about 10 million votes. His late momentum, launched with his decisive win in the second presidential debate, carried him through the end of the campaign. While national polls predicted a Democratic landslide, the electoral college margin of Biden’s win will end up close to Trump’s margin from 2020. The incumbent lost because the Democrats improved their margins in the suburbs, which was enough for his opponent to win in the battleground states. This was fuelled by Trump fatigue and concern over the federal response to COVID.

Second, President Trump improved his performance with non-white voters, according to exit polls. This was particularly impressive in places like South Florida and South Texas, where he shifted entire counties 20-30 percent in his direction, benefitting GOP congressional candidates.

Third, Republicans recruited a diverse and stellar crop of candidates. It appears that every Republican candidate that flipped a congressional seat in 2020 was either female, Hispanic or a military veteran. There are 17 new GOP women who won election to Congress this year. These candidates were able to routinely outperform Trump in their district by roughly three to five percent, which made the difference in their races.

All the news is not good for the GOP.

Suburban voter flight away from the Republican Party is a problem. Seniors likely voted in surprisingly strong numbers for Biden. Young voters pose a demographic tidal wave that could wash away GOP majorities.

What does the future hold?

It remains unclear how strong President Trump’s hold over the GOP will remain once he has left office. As of now, he is privately musing about running again in 2024. And if he does, he would undoubtedly be the nominee.

But 2024 is a long time from now and a lot can change between now and then.

Republicans desperately wanted to see President Trump re-elected. His loss is a real disappointment.

But the congressional election outcome was far more positive for Republicans than it was for Democrats.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance