Why Decision Desk HQ and Insider called the election for Joe Biden

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  • Insider and our partners at Decision Desk HQ called the 2020 election for Joe Biden on Friday morning, while many other outlets had not.
  • Different media outlets and wire services use various criteria for declaring a winner in elections. DDHQ’s president, Drew McCoy, explained why it felt comfortable making the call.
  • DDHQ, which has been calling major races since the 2012 election, stepped onto the national stage in 2014 by being the first service to call House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s upset defeat in his reelection bid.
  • “We knew that a certain margin wouldn’t have done it and [Biden] simply taking the lead was insufficient,” McCoy, a longtime campaign analyst, told Insider on what led to DDHQ making the call that Biden would win Pennsylvania and thus the presidency.
  • He added: “So it really came down to having some understanding of what the margin would have to be and then seeing that the vote hit that margin, and also that there was still votes to come that would replicate that margin.”
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Given all the waiting and confusion since Election Day, news consumers would be rightfully perplexed about why some outlets declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election on Friday morning while others held off.

Insider and our partners at Decision Desk HQ called the race for Biden while many other outlets had not.

DDHQ President Drew McCoy, a longtime campaign analyst, told us why he felt comfortable with the call.

Since the 2012 election, DDHQ has been calling everything from national races to local contests. It gained a more prominent reputation nationally in 2014 when it was the first service to call House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s upset defeat in his reelection bid.

Ultimately, it came down to when Pennsylvania would no longer be winnable for President Donald Trump as votes from Philadelphia and other precincts continued to be tallied.

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So why the call? “Because the data led us there,” McCoy said.

“Obviously we’ve known for a while that Philadelphia was counting votes. We knew what they had,” he continued. “Homework led us to a benchmark. We weren’t going to simply call it if, you know, Joe Biden had a 20-vote lead or something like that. It had to be a substantial lead that met certain benchmarks.”

While there are still more votes to count in Pennsylvania, McCoy said that a particular batch that came out on Friday morning pushed Biden over the top.

“This drop for Philadelphia this morning is about half of their reported ballots,” he said. Biden “carried it well over 80%,” he added, “so that means there’s not the same margin still sitting just in Philly to come in later.”

McCoy added: “There’s also tens of thousands of ballots out in Allegheny County, which has gone strongly for Biden. We’ve also seen even late-counted votes in Trump-friendly counties have gone to Biden by substantial margins. So in our analysis, looking at this, there are still plenty of Biden votes to come in Pennsylvania. And the numbers that the Trump campaign would have to make up simply do not appear to be there.”

He said that while the Philadelphia returns were what made DDHQ confident in an official call for Biden, it’s also normal and reasonable for other elections services and media outlets to hold off for a bit.

Read more: Legal problems galore await Donald Trump now that he’s lost reelection — and soon, his presidential immunity

“I can’t tell you why others haven’t called it yet, but you can see what they’re saying is, ‘We’re looking at the numbers,'” McCoy said. “And listen, these guys and women are professionals as well.

“But we had the understanding of what the votes were still out there. So we knew what certain benchmarks — we knew that a certain margin wouldn’t have done it and simply taking the lead was insufficient,” he added. “So it really came down to having some understanding of what the margin would have to be and then seeing that the vote hit that margin, and also that there was still votes to come that would replicate that margin.”

Walt Hickey contributed reporting for this story.

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