Summer Round-Up #2: Campaigns, Conventions, and the Race to Election Day

Over the course of the summer, the 2020 election has taken shape. Most primaries for congressional office have concluded, and the parties and presidential candidates were able to showcase their respective visions during their conventions. In this second summer round-up, we take a look at the state of the 2020 election. Our first summer round-up explored the ongoing impact of the coronavirus and the responses to the pandemic. Our third and final summer round-up will discuss ongoing protests, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the changing politics of race and equity since the murder of George Floyd.

Congressional Races

All of the seats in the House of Representatives are up for election this year, as are a third of the seats in the Senate. The presidential election inevitably receives the most attention, but control of Congress plays a significant role in shaping U.S. politics as well. At the moment, the Republican Party controls the Senate1 while the Democratic Party controls the House of Representatives.2 It is technically possible for both chambers to change hands, although the latest polls and expert observers predict that Republicans are unlikely to win enough seats to take control of the House.3 The Senate is more competitive. Currently, Republicans hold 53 seats to Democrats’ 47 (including two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party).4 Some election observers predict that Democrats will win enough seats to secure a majority in the Senate,5 while others believe the races remain too close to call.6

One of the key dynamics in the congressional primaries has been the contest for the future of the Democratic Party. Centrist Democrats mounted unsuccessful challenges to young, progressive women of color, including Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).7 Meanwhile, several progressive challengers, most notably Jamal Bowman of New York8 and Cori Bush of Missouri,9 were able to knock off centrist Democratic incumbents. The presidential primary contests between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 and between Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden in 2020 also highlighted philosophical differences and tensions within the party.10 This fight will likely continue after Election Day, no matter the outcome.

Party Conventions and Visions for the Future

Both parties have now completed their quadrennial conventions to cement their priorities and nominate their presidential candidates.

WATCH: PBS NewsHour’s 17-minute video with highlights from both conventions

The Democratic National Convention focused on two major themes: party unity and defeating President Donald Trump.11 Speakers largely argued that President Trump is a threat to democracy, as well as a threat to people’s lives, pointing to his administration’s handling of the coronavirus.12

Meanwhile, President Trump and Republican speakers argued that Biden and the Democratic Party represent a radical shift towards socialism and communism.13 In an unusual move, the Republican Party decided not to draft a new platform for 2020, and instead ratified its 2016 platform once again and offered a strong endorsement of President Trump as the voice of the party.14

READ: NPR’s 7 Takeaways from the Democratic Convention and 7 Takeaways from the Republican Convention

Final Days of the Election

There are a little over two months left until Election Day. The economy and COVID-19, two of the issues on the top of most voters’ minds, are in constant flux. The stock market is experiencing significant gains, especially in the technology sector,15 but the unemployment rate remains high and seems to be growing.16

Credit: Pew Research Center

While many big issues clearly weigh on the minds of voters, the presidential campaign has largely focused on character and vision. Looking ahead, the debates and the candidates’ closing arguments will add further definition to the differences between the two men. However, many voters may begin voting by mail before the election cycle reaches that final push.

Discussion Questions

  • Which Senate and House races are taking place where you live? Are they contested? Who do you and your family support?
  • Which of the presidential candidates do you support? Why?
  • If you were voting in this election, would you be excited to support your preferred candidate? Why or why not?
  • Have you seen many political advertisements? For or against which candidates? How do those ads impact you?



Featured Image Credit: Evan Vucci/AP
[3] Cook Political Report:
[5] Real Clear Politics:
[6] Cook Political Report:
[7] Fox News:
[8] New York Times:
[9] St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
[10] New York Times:
[11] New York Times:
[12] CBS News:
[13] BBC News:
[14] BBC News:
[15] Forbes:
[16] U.S Department of Labor:


Summer Round-Up #1: The Pandemic, Schools, and The Economy

The Pandemic, Schools and The EconomyThe summer of 2020 has been unlike any other. Schools across the country did not finish the end of the academic year in person, and many will not be seeing students in person once again this fall. Major events have been canceled or moved online, and we are in the midst of a presidential election that looks quite different from previous elections. On top of all the changes brought by COVID-19, the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in May sparked protests across the country and around the world. In our first blog posts of the 2020-2021 school year, we will look back at key social and political issues from the summer so we may look ahead to the November election and beyond.

Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the summer, the COVID-19 pandemic deepened and spread. In May and June, the infection rate seemed to be slowing, but by mid-July, almost 75,000 new cases were being reported daily. As of August 20, the seven-day average for new infections is more than 46,000 per day.1 The duration and depth of the pandemic is forcing citizens and policymakers to confront challenging questions about life under quarantine, the crippled economy, and the appropriate government response.

For additional background on COVID-19 and the government response, please see our posts about reopening the economy and enforcing social distancing.

Back to School COVID-19

One major area of focus is schools. Schools in some parts of the country have reopened;2 in a few cases, they have had to close after an outbreak.3 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 school reopening guidelines to emphasize the importance of schools opening.4 However, images such as this one captured by a Georgia high school student have some parents, students, and teachers concerned.

WATCH: From A Starting Point, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) debate: Should U.S. students go back to school in-person or virtually this fall?

The economy is another major area of concern amid the pandemic. The unemployment rate is now approximately 10 percent. More than 57 million people have lost their jobs in the United States5 and there are growing concerns that many of those jobs will not return, even as the pandemic recedes or a vaccine is developed.6 Policymakers face tough questions about how to respond to the dual public health and economic crises. Some advocate reopening businesses and schools so people can get back to work.7 Others are more cautious, arguing that the infection rate is not under control in many parts of the country.8

WATCH: From A Starting Point, Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) debate: How should states reopen while preventing the spread of COVID?

The government provided a one-time relief check to many Americans and offered supplemental unemployment insurance through the CARES Act, but many people are still hurting.9 The additional unemployment insurance has expired and Congress did not authorize additional measures before going on recess. President Donald Trump signed executive orders to offer additional unemployment insurance benefits, but so far, the program has not dispersed any money and it is unclear if it ever will.10

One proposal, introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would give every American over the age of 18 $2,000 per month until the end of the pandemic.11 Another more comprehensive bill, the HEROES Act, passed the House of Representatives in May. That bill would provide additional $1,200 payments to most individuals, provide premium pay for essential workers, fund local and state governments, and extend a moratorium on evictions.12

These challenging and complex issues are impacting the lives of all Americans. They are also having a profound effect on the 2020 election. In our next blog post, we will explore key developments in the presidential and congressional races over the course of the summer, highlight significant moments from the Republican and Democratic conventions, and prepare for the final push to Election Day.

Discussion Questions

  • How are schools in your area handling the pandemic? Do you support your school’s plan?
  • What different opinions do people in your community hold about whether or not to go back to school in person?
  • How has the pandemic impacted the economy in your community? Which businesses are struggling? Do you know people whose jobs have been affected?
  • Do you think that restrictions on social gatherings and businesses should be lifted? Why or why not?
  • What, if anything, do you think Congress should do to protect workers, the unemployed, and the economy?



Featured Image Credit: Demetrius Freeman, New York Times
[1] New York Times:
[2] USA Today:
[3] WFYI (Indianapolis Public Television):
[4] CNN:
[5] Fox 6 Milwaukee:
[6] Politico:,of%20a%20rapid%20economic%20rebound.&text=Tens%20of%20millions%20of%20Americans,positions%20are%20going%20away%20forever.
[7] Axios:
[8] Forbes:
[9] CNBC:
[10] Forbes:
[11] CNBC: