The euphoria of Joe Biden’s victory will eventually subside for his supporters, and when it does, they might begin to wonder how a candidate who received more votes for president than any other candidate in history had such short coattails for the rest of the Democratic ticket.
Conversely, when supporters of Donald Trump get over his loss, they might begin to wonder how, even with the president getting substantially more votes than he did in 2016, he seemed to underperform the rest of the Republican Party nationally. The GOP picked up seats in the House, will likely maintain its Senate majority by winning two runoffs in Georgia, and is doing well in races for governor, and exceptionally well in races for statehouses.
One can begin with the Biden team’s core message for much of the campaign, which was broadly, “he’s not Donald Trump.” Biden’s modern version of a “front porch” campaign was obviously successful in keeping the media’s focus on Trump and his problems, but it left Biden less defined policy-wise than most candidates running for the Oval Office. For example, on the handling of the pandemic—the top issue according to exit polls—Biden was seldom clear about what he would actually do as president. He appeared content to let Trump stew in his own COVID juices while he wore a mask to draw a distinction between the two. What was behind the mask was less clear.
For most of the campaign, Biden’s policy positions were often a muddle of the left and the center. At times it was unclear whether he was most interested in consolidating support within the progressive wing of the party or getting traction with fence sitters—including working class voters, moderate Republicans, and independents.