2020 Electoral Predictions: A Look At the Likely Outcomes At the State Level

With the November 3rd approximately two weeks away, let’s take stock of the race, check out the tighter races on a state by state level, and make some predictions about the outcome of the election overall. Obviously, this kind of undertaking is fraught and prone to miscalculations. I should also add the massive caveat that this is the year 2020 and literally anything is possible, or so it seems. Aliens could invade, the North Koreans could drop a nuke on Seoul, a meteor could slam into the exact same spot on the Yucatan peninsula as the meteor that killed the dinosaurs — who knows? After all, the President of the United States already caught a pandemic disease, huge swaths of California forest have burned to the ground, and the economy has tanked. With about two weeks to go before election day, there is still plenty of time for some random world event, orchestrated or not, to upend the race for the White House.

Overall, Joe Biden is clearly in the lead in the national polls. He has held a steady margin over the president all summer, which could be more a result of President Trump’s sheer unlikability combined with the unwavering support of his base (a floor of support that has given Trump some of the steadiest polling numbers over the past four years ever enjoyed by a president) rather than a result of anything Joe Biden did. Supporters for Joe seem to be more inclined to vote against President Trump this race than to vote for Biden, though the results would be the same. Biden’s lead has only grown in recent weeks following the disastrous first presidential debate and Trump’s subsequent diagnosis with the coronavirus. Those two back to back events seem to have turned off the margin of voters who may have swung his way in the suburbs of Texas and in some republican strongholds across the midwest. After all, the president got COVID after months of railing against mask-wearing and playing down the disease, something that likely looks foolish to many voters. Currently, Biden has around a 10 point lead in the national polls according to Real Clear Politics, and as a result, the race is largely being viewed as his race to lose. He has many paths to victory in the electoral college, whereas the president has only a few narrow options.

So let’s begin by getting the easy states on the West Coast out of the way first. California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Nevada will almost certainly go to Biden. The entire West coast is a Democratic stronghold and has been for several election cycles now, the exception, of course, being Alaska, which is a reliably red state. The Democrats can also probably expect to win in New Mexico, Colorado, and this year, Arizona. Arizona has become competitive recently due to Trump relentless attacks on the late Senator John McCain and the dynamics of the current senate race to replace him, in which a very popular Astronaut named Mark Kelly is poised to win the race for the Democrats. 

Moving into the midwest, the map looks decidedly more favorable for Trump. Trump is likely to easily win states like Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and North and South Dakota. Nebraska has become a more competitive state recently only because the state divvies up electoral college votes by congressional district. The second congressional district, which Omaha dominates, will almost certainly go to Biden. Otherwise, Trump can expect to win nearby states like Kansas and Missouri. Sticking with the red states down into the South, let’s quickly put Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana in Trump’s column. He will almost certainly win those states, which have been reliably red for decades and show no signs of flipping now. 

Now let’s talk about some of the more interesting states. First: Florida. Florida is always a close state and one of the major swing states that Trump must win if he wants to have any chance of a smooth victory. As a result, Trump recently shifted the focus of his campaign away from the midwest and put his resources to work in Florida, holding massive rallies and launching ad campaigns. Unfortunately for the president, some of the same dynamics that are playing out in Arizona, where older voters seem to be trending toward Biden, are playing out in Florida, a known retirement spot for older Americans. As a result, Trump is struggling in Florida for some of the same reasons he is struggling in Arizona. While Florida is too close to call and will always potentially throw a curveball on election night, I am going to predict that Biden will win Florida, albeit by a slim margin. Everything depends on how the infamous Miami-Dade election board runs that county’s elections this year. If things go smoothly and the polling is accurate, Biden will most likely win that county, and therefore, win the rest of the state of Florida.

Georgia, Florida’s neighbor to the North, has also become extremely competitive recently. Georgia is one of the most notoriously anti-voter states in the union. Republicans in Georgia have intentionally made it extremely difficult to vote, and engaged in active voter suppression tactics like shutting down polling places and passing voter ID laws that ensure that many poor and working-class minority voters will be less likely to cast a vote on election day. Despite that reality, Biden’s numbers in Georgia are very good owing in part to a popular progressive Governor and the work of prominent activists in Atlanta. In addition, the first week of early voting in that state saw massive lines where voters waited for hours (in a few cases as many as 11 hours) to cast a vote for Biden. That kind of enthusiasm is what wins elections, so it is very clear that Georgia could go to Biden. Still, given its history and its tendency to engage in voter suppression tactics, Georgia is still slightly more likely to go to Trump than Biden. 

Next, let’s shift up to the North East and take a look at Maine. Maine is another state that could be very interesting this November. Senator Lisa Murkowski has been a very unpopular Republican for Maine, and as a result, Maine is likely to go for Biden. The rest of the North East is a democratic stronghold and likely to go to Biden as well, except for New Hampshire, which the president has enjoyed some support in. Still, even New Hampshire will likely go to Biden given the trend away from Trump in that state in recent weeks.

In the North, that leaves the rust belt — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. All of these states form what has been known as the blue wall, which Trump broke in 2016. With Trump’s disastrous trade policies and the severe economic downturn that hit this year, these states are trending by a slim margin toward Biden. The closest race in this bunch is Pennsylvania, where Trump must win if he wants to have any chance of beating Biden. Trump must win Pennsylvania and at least one other state like Wisconsin or Ohio to have a shot at victory, and that’s assuming he also wins in Florida. However, Biden winning back the entire blue wall is not outside the realm of possibility — with Illinois as a reliable Democratic stronghold and Ohio trending toward Biden, Biden seems poised to sweep the region. We can probably also throw in Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware for Biden.

That leaves two of the most interesting races in the country: Texas and North Carolina. Both states are suddenly in play for the Democrats despite having gone heavily for Trump in 2016. In Texas, the Democrats have been gaining ground in the suburbs of Houston and Dallas, and with popular politicians like Beto O’Rourke raising the profile of Texas Democrats during the primaries and building out massive campaign infrastructures, it seems suddenly possible, albeit unlikely, that the Dems could carry the state. A similar dynamic is playing out in North Carolina, where an unpopular Republican state legislature has pushed the suburbs around places like Asheville and the “Research Triangle” toward Biden. Of the two, Texas is undoubtedly the most consequential: if the Dems win Texas, it would ensure a Biden victory.

With all of these considerations in mind, I think it is safe to predict a Biden victory. As I mentioned at the beginning anything can happen — this is 2020 after all. With Democrats fired up and hitting the polls early, I would even go so far as to say that Biden will likely win by a comfortable margin. Unlike in 2016, when I predicted the outcome of the race would be close, I predict this time that Biden will win handily. I do not think Trump will be able to replicate his win in the rust belt and I do think he could even lose Florida to Biden. With those two dynamics in play, I see only a slim path to victory for Trump on November 3rd.

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