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

  • Insider and our partners at Decision Desk HQ called the 2020 election for President-elect Joe Biden well before other outlets.
  • Different media outlets and wire services use various criteria for declaring a winner in elections, and DDHQ President Drew McCoy explained why they felt comfortable making the call.
  • DDHQ has been calling major races since the 2012 election, and made its first big foray onto the national stage in 2014 by being the first service to call then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's upset defeat for reelection.
  • "So we had certain benchmarks, 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 for Biden winning 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 vote that, 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 can be rightfully perplexed as to why some outlets have declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election while others are holding off.

Insider and our partners at Decision Desk HQ called the race for Biden well before other outlets.

DDHQ President Drew McCoy, a longtime campaign analyst, told us why he feels comfortable with the call that came early Friday morning.

Ever since the 2012 election, DDHQ has been calling everything from national races to local contests. They gained a more prominent reputation nationally in 2014 when they were the first service to call then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's upset defeat for reelection.

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

"So why the call," McCoy said. "Because the data led us there."

"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 explained 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] had well over 80%. So that means there's not the same margin, still sitting, just in Philly to come in later."

McCoy added: "There's also a tens of thousands of ballots out in Allegheny County, which has gone strongly for Biden. We've also seen 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. The numbers that the Trump campaign would have to make up simply do not appear to be there."

For DDHQ, he added, the Philadelphia returns were what made them confident in an official call for Biden, but it's also normal and reasonable for other election services and media outlets to hold off for a bit.

"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. "These guys and women are professionals as well."

"But we had the understanding of what the votes were still out there. So we had 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 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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