Scott Farris, author of “Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation,” describes the tradition of offering a concession speech.


WASHINGTON – Joe Biden described the presidential race as “Scranton versus Park Avenue.” He slammed tax cuts for billionaires. He touted that he would be a state school graduate, not another Ivy Leaguer, in the Oval Office.

Months before Election Day, the Biden campaign adopted an economic populist message aimed directly at white working-class voters, convinced they could peel off a small portion of President Donald Trump’s base.

Yet despite Biden’s election victory, this demographic – white voters without college degrees – remained just as loyal as ever to the president, defying public polling before the election that suggested Democrats were poised for small inroads.

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For Biden, wins in battleground states came thanks to growing support in affluent suburbs around cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia and Detroit where the president-elect expanded margins with a new Democratic stronghold: white voters who graduated college.

The 2020 election widened the education polarization – a largely urban-rural divide that has come to define American politics, producing a mixed bag for Democrats. 

From left, Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden on Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

“The biggest thing that came out of this election was that education polarization – the gap between college-educated voters and (non-college-educated voters) – actually increased, rather than decreased like the polls predicted it would,” said David Shor, a Democratic polling and data expert who advised liberal political action committees this cycle. “(Democrats) basically treaded water in the least-educated areas and gained a lot in the educated areas.”

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Even as Biden beat Trump in the popular vote by more than 6 million votes, Democrats aren’t expected to gain control of the Senate, lost several House seats and failed to flip a single state legislature. Their rejection among white working-class voters, particularly in rural areas and small towns, helped lead to the disappointments. Once viewed as the party of working people, Democrats now rely on the Whole Foods shopper. 

At the same time, Democrats saw support slip among Black voters, their most loyal constituency, and Latino voters.


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Although Biden won Black voters overwhelmingly 87%-12%, Trump grew his support by 4 percentage points from 2016, according to exit polls.

The shift was more significant among Hispanic voters. While Biden still won Latino voters overall, Trump performed 7 percentage points better than four years ago. He improved his margins in 78 out of 100 majority-Latino counties, according to an analysis from POLITICO. 

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