Why the Capitol Insider says naming a winner on Election Night is 'very unlikely'

Posted at 3:53 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 15:53:31-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Each Tuesday leading up to Election Day, National Scripps correspondent Joe St. George will join Bill Fitzgerald on CBS 6 News at 7 to discuss Virginia politics. Below you'll find a lightly-edited transcription of their conversation.

Bill Fitzgerald
There's a lot at stake in November Joe, not just the presidency, but control of both chambers of Congress. To win the House, Republicans would need to win back to the seats they lost last time around, that's in Virginia's 7th and 2nd Districts won by Democrats Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria.

What are the prospects there?

Joe St. George
Well, you're right. I think, potentially, they are the most fascinating races in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia this election season.

And to some degree, 2020 is a bit of a humbling election for Virginia politicos, the Dr. Bob's of the world, because it's not quite the swing state that it was four years ago.

You don't have Senator Tim Kaine running to be vice president.

When I was working at WTVR in 2012, Virginia was certainly a swing state. But that doesn't mean the Commonwealth of Virginia doesn't have fascinating races, my goodness, the 7th Congressional District in Virginia, that's a district that predecessors include Dave Brat and Eric Cantor. It could very well flip and there will be money spent on those races in an attempt to change that.

Republicans think there's an outside chance they can retake the House, they obviously would need to win these races in suburban Richmond and suburban Norfolk if they're going to do that.

Bill Fitzgerald
And the conventions now being over, we had four nights of one virtual hour for each party the last two weeks, has the needle moved at all?

Joe St. George
You know, if you talk to some Republican operatives, they think that this race could be tightening.

Now the polls, Morning Consult came out with a bunch of swing state polls today, they still show Biden with significant leads in enough swing states that would give him the nomination.

But I'll tell you this Bill, I was in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania last week, I got a chance to speak with voters just outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania. I spent about four hours in a diner there. And granted, it was just one diner, but it was a county that voted for President Obama twice, and then flipped to President Trump four years ago. And what I found interesting is that the issues that CNN, the cable news networks, make it sound like it are the most serious issue since the Civil War, when you bring those up to voters in these key parts of the United States, they don't seem to be as bothered with it as perhaps insiders, capital insiders are in Washington, D.C. and in the capital city of Richmond.

So we shall see, but again, we expect this race to tighten, as we head post-Labor Day.

Bill Fitzgerald
Well, we're calling you the Capital Insider, so we don't mean that in a pejorative way.

You mentioned Virginia being a battleground state, a purple state, but does Virginia come into play in the presidential race?

Does it mean we might get a visit from President Trump, or repeated ones? Would Joe Biden come here at all?

Joe St. George
I don't think Virginia is going to get the attention that it received in previous elections.

But that being said, if for some reason, suburban, rural Virginia, those polls really start changing, then you might see President Trump's campaign say, 'Boy, we're in Washington, DC, the president lives in the White House. Why don't we fly down to Richmond to do a rally in Chesterfield' or in an area where they think they need some votes. I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility.

But again, it's just a humbling election for Virginia this year, not quite the swing state that it was in previous elections.

Bill Fitzgerald
And lastly, Joe, mail-in voting. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is asking Virginians to tell him their stories of post office woes, whether their bills are late, their medications might be coming late, whether their business is in trouble because of the Trump administration changes that the postmaster imposed.

What's the latest that you're hearing on how timely we can expect mail-in voting to be?

Joe St. George
Well, I think that is the question that will decide this election, Bill.

Think about how many Americans are going to be voting by mail this selection that never voted by mail before.

I had a phone call just down 95 from Richmond in the north corridor of North Carolina, Halifax County, North Carolina, and talked with their elections director.

They said four years ago, they had 200 requests for absentee ballots. They've had 2,000 requests for absentee ballots in Halifax, North Carolina, and it's only September 1.

So how the post office processes these ballots, how Americans, do they put it the right postage on those ballots? These are the questions that will decide this election.

Democratic Attorneys General from around the country, including Attorney General Herring, are obviously suing. They want legal answers ahead of Election Day.

But we should say something clearly to the viewers here on CBS 6, if you expect to turn on WTVR on Election Night and get the results, I'm going to tell you right now, it is going to be very unlikely that the results of the presidential election are going to be able to come in like they were four years ago like we're used to.

There are so many uncertainties of selection. It may be Election Week, Bill, not Election Night.