We’ve entered the age of “doomscrolling” – repeatedly checking our Twitter feeds, often in the middle of night, to see what new horrific development has befallen the country, from the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the latest record outbreak of coronavirus cases, to the bizarre plot by white supremacists to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
But no subject has created more consistent anxiety in the Twitterverse this year than the 2020 presidential election, the nastiest and perhaps the most consequential one of our lifetime, with every jump or plunge in the polls creating yet more sleepless nights.
On Election Day itself, the time spent on Twitter is bound to set new records, as we continually refresh, looking for any clue as to who might claim the White House for the next four years. Want to make the most of that time spent staring at your phone? Here are nine key accounts to follow that day: prognosticators who will help sort out the numbers, commentators who will bring insight and perspective, and political experts who can help sift through the tsunami of tweets to offer a bit of clarity to what will undoubtedly be one of most chaotic elections in decades.
Nate Silver (@NateSilver538; 3.4 million followers) first made his reputation in 2012, when his FiveThirtyEight blog, then working in conjunction with The New York Times, correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states in that year’s presidential election and gave Barack Obama a greater than 90% chance of winning a second term at a time when many pollsters were predicting a Romney win. (Following that coup, ESPN and Disney brought FiveThirtyEight into their fold and Silver has become a regular commentator on Disney-owned ABC). Yes, Silver got the 2016 election wrong, but he got it less wrong than almost anyone else. Going into Election Day, Silver pegged Donald Trump’s chances of winning the presidency at 29%; the four other major forecasters, including The New York Times, had Trump’s chances ranging from 15% to absolute zero. Today, Silver’s number-crunching skills and ability to spot shifts in the political winds remain among the best in the business, and his Election Day tweets will be must-reads for political junkies. For the record: Silver currently gives Biden an 89% chance of winning the 2020 presidential race and a 29% chance of doing it in a landslide.
The “other” Nate, Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn; 319,200 followers), is a domestic correspondent for The Upshot, an analytical team at The New York Times, where he covers elections, polling and demographics. Cohn and The Upshot are best known for the infamous Needle, the prognosticating tool on the homepage of the Times website, which, in 2016, started out the evening by pointing sharply to the left and indicating Hillary Clinton had an 85% chance to win, and then, to the horror of most Times readers, begin inching slowly right before finally acknowledging the Trump victory. (The Times has indicated that the much-maligned Needle may come back in some form on Nov. 3, but, if so, it will only be one of several predictive tools that the paper relies on.) But the Needle aside, the 32-year-old Cohn, a self-defined “data journalist,” has gained a devoted following for his sharp analysis of the intersection of demographics and politics as well as his ability to decipher and demystify polling data. In 2015, Politico’s Joe Pompeo described Cohn as a “precocious numbers-cruncher and polling whiz who has emerged as the new face of election analysis for the paper of record, as well as one of the latest players in a growing brood of wonksters (see also Steve Kornacki, Ezra Klein, etc.) who’ve brought some new fire to the nerd-media genre.”
Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict; 306,600 followers) is House Editor for the Cook Political Report, where he is responsible for analyzing the U.S. House of Representative races and where he has gained a reputation as one of the nation’s top election forecasters. In 2016, Wasserman proved particularly prescient in his pre-election piece, “How Trump Could Win the White House While Losing the Popular Vote,” published two months before Election Day. The Los Angeles Times once described Wasserman as a “one-man clearinghouse for presidential tabulations across the country” and Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, recently called Wasserman “pretty much the only person you need to follow on Election Night.”
Unlike her Cook Political Report colleague, national editor Amy Walter (@amyewalter; 189,800 followers), is not a pollster or a number-cruncher. But Walter, who also does double duty as the host of the “Politics with Amy Walter” podcast and as a political commentator for the PBS Newshour, is an skilled interpreter of those numbers, and a seasoned observer of the political scene. She should be particularly good on the 2020 Senate races and—as the results come in—might be able to predict whether the Democrats will end the night by wresting back control of the Upper Chamber from Mitch McConnell and the Republicans.
If the presidential race isn’t decided Tuesday night, and there is a very good chance it will not be, then we may be entering the murky territory of legal challenges and disputed ballots. Trump has already laid the groundwork for charges that the election may be “stolen” from him and both campaigns have invested heavily in legal teams that will surely be mobilized on election night. Rick Hasen (@rickhasen; 56,700 followers), a law professor at the University of California at Irvine and an analyst for CNN, is among the most clear-minded experts on election law, and has been an invaluable resource this election season, as Republicans and Democrats fight over how long absentee ballots should be counted and the Supreme Court has jumped into the fray with questionable rulings about voting rights. If legal challenges await, Hasen will likely be the first to anticipate and explain them.
There is perhaps no more insightful Washington observer right now than Jonathan Swan of Axios (@jonathanvswan; 608,800 followers). The Australian journalist, whose sharp and persistent interrogation of Donald Trump in August made national headlines, has impeccable sources on both side of the political aisle and will surely be a must-read on Election Day.
David Smiley and Jim Henson
Beyond the perennial swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, there are two critical states this election year: Florida and Texas. Florida, of course, helped to deliver the presidency to Donald Trump in 2016 and Texas hasn’t gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. But right now, the polls in both states are showing a tight race, with Texas moving to “toss-up” status in the past few days. If either goes to Joe Biden, he will almost certainly be the country’s next president. To keep track of how those states are trending, especially as the early votes come in, follow these two local political analysts: David Smiley, a reporter for the Miami Herald (@NewsbySmiley; 13,600 followers) and Jim Henson, director of the Texas Political Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the UT/Texas Tribune Poll (@jamesrhenson; 6,437 followers).
Can’t keep up with the lightning-fast pace of Twitter? Let Molly Jong-Fast do it for you. The Daily Beast editor-at-large and Vogue contributor (@MollyJongFast; 745,500 followers) offers a daily heat map of what’s happening in the social media universe. A voracious consumer of news and a non-stop tweeter and re-tweeter herself (on a recent day, she posted 93 times), she provides real-time updates on breaking news developments, recaps the most notable (and often craziest) moments on that day’s cable news shows, and provides a curated guide to the best of what others are tweeting. Molly’s sure to be on fire on Election Day.
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