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Latest On The Electoral College Vote

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In California, electors will vote about an hour from now. The state's 55 electors are expected to clinch Joe Biden's victory.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And joining us now for more on today's Electoral College vote and what comes next is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hey, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right. So as of today, it will be absolutely official that Joe Biden won the presidential election. And as we've been seeing, President Trump lost his final court battles in the last few days leading up to today's vote. So is there any sign that President Trump might concede at any point soon?

LIASSON: No sign. Even as we're getting this gigantic civics lesson, the president has been relatively quiet, although he has tweeted a few of his typical comments, falsely claiming that the election was rigged. You know, conceding would be good for the country but maybe not for Donald Trump's political and economic interests. He has a rationale to run again in 2024 or at least to keep people thinking he's going to run, keep himself in the spotlight, keep control of the GOP base, also keep the ability to monetize his brand. He has raised tremendous amounts of money since Election Day. But in the process, of course, he's undermining a lot of Americans' faith in free and fair elections. You know, the bedrock norm of democracy is accepting that, sometimes, your guy doesn't win, and a loss is met with grace, not denial and threats of violence.

CHANG: Sure. But, you know, that said, the president did have a lot of support from Republicans for his efforts in continuing to fight the election results. A lot of these Republicans who wouldn't acknowledge a Biden victory have been saying all along that the process just needed to first play out. So what do you think, Mara? Are we going to be hearing them come around now and explicitly recognize that Trump lost the election?

LIASSON: I think some Republicans will. And some conservative entities - the Wall Street Journal editorial board said today, acknowledge the results and move on. But over half the Republicans in Congress, 126 of them, signed on to that suit brought by Texas to overturn the results in four states - Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia. For them, that vote was a kind of freebie. They knew the suit wasn't going anywhere. At least it showed Trump that they were supporting him. So maybe they wouldn't get a primary challenge backed by Trump. But in the meantime, what those 126 Republicans were saying is that every single one of their colleagues who were elected in those four states were elected illegitimately.

CHANG: (Laughter) Exactly.

LIASSON: The question is, over time, do these Republicans look like people - the kind of tinfoil-hat, anti-democratic party, people who want to overturn democratic elections? Or do they just look like they made a smart strategic decision to stay on the right side of Donald Trump? We don't know that yet.

CHANG: Well, what about Republican voters? I mean, voters have been saying in polls, at least - Republican voters - that they do not think Joe Biden was elected legitimately. And, you know, we should be clear that he was. But what impact do you think that could have on Biden's presidency as we look ahead to the next four years, you think?

LIASSON: This is a really big question. It could mean that the Republican Party approach to Biden may be a scorched-earth approach, that their goal is to make sure he looks like a failed president. They could block him at every turn. They could refuse to approve his nominees. Biden didn't have any coattails in this election. This is an election with the least coattails in modern American history. He won very big and decisively. Down ballot, Democrats laid an egg at almost every level. So it'll be really interesting to see what Republicans, who are extremely confident about getting the House back in 2022, decide is in their interest going forward.

CHANG: OK. Well, Joe Biden is expected to speak to the country tonight. It doesn't seem like he can easily unify people over this election outcome. So what, Mara - what can he do?

LIASSON: I think he will try to unify the country. He ran on that. One of his promises was to kind of lower the temperature in the culture wars. Tonight, at least with excerpts from his speech that we've gotten, we know he will talk about unity. He'll say that in America, politicians don't take power, the people grant it to them. And then the big question is, how does Joe Biden turn a no-coattails election into political capital? You know, what policy is he going to push first? Are they going to be the ones with big bipartisan support, like infrastructure and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour or his Made in America program, which is kind of an economic populist program? We'll see what he does, and we'll see how he demonstrates that he wants to be the president for everyone, including people who didn't vote for him.

CHANG: That is NPR's Mara Liasson. Thank you, Mara.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.