The conversation I started on the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Electoral College got me to thinking about 2020 election forecasts and what we can expect in November. Of course, there’s a lot of time between now and then, but still, it’s fun to take a look at the forecasts all the same.
If you google search swing states, the following come up: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
And even among these swing states, there are pretty predictable trends:
Minnesota is the longest blue (Democrat) voting state in the country, though they’ve had some close calls over the past few years…Colorado has gone blue the last three elections and rather decisively…Michigan has gone blue four of the last five elections, narrowly going for Trump in 2016 to break the trend (47.5%-47.3%)…Nevada has gone blue the last three elections, though 2016 narrowly went to Hillary (47.9%-45.5%)…New Hampshire has gone blue the last four elections, though 2016 narrowly went to Hillary (47.0%-46.6%)…North Carolina has gone red four of the last five elections, narrowly going for Obama in 2008 (49.7%-49.4%)…Pennsylvania has gone blue four of the last five elections, narrowly going for Trump in 2016 (48.6%-47.9%)…Virginia has done blue the last three elections pretty decisively.
While all the swing states listed above could flip one way or the other, the ones that are true toss ups are Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin. So, in that vein it’s typically a handful of states that ends up deciding the election.
Using the swing states as a guide, what I noticed is that Joe Biden has lot more boom/blow out potential and very little bust potential. The opposite is true for Donald Trump. Very little to no boom potential and a lot of bust potential. Trump really needs to thread the needle like he did in 2016.
Basically, I don’t see Trump picking up any states that he didn’t win in 2016 and in all likelihood, he’s going to lose some states. The only way Trump squeaks past Biden in my book is if he hangs on to Ohio or Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Florida. In such a scenario, we would be looking at a 270-268 result that could result in a contested election similar to what we saw with the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. This assumes Maine doesn’t go entirely blue. If Maine gives Biden three electoral votes and Trump one electoral vote, we get the above result of 270-268.
Trump could pull off such a victory, but boy are those thin margins. I’ve already taken the assumption that Biden will win Michigan because Trump won Michigan so narrowly in 2016 (+0.2%). I think it’s safe to say enough swing voters in Michigan will defect to Biden that it once again goes blue. Trump really does need to win all the states I listed above and split between Ohio and Pennsylvania. If Biden wins both Ohio and Pennsylvania and all else stays the same, we’re looking at a 286-252 Biden win. That’s pretty comfortable. If Biden fails to win Ohio, but picks up Florida, it’s a 297-241 Biden win. Even more decisive. If Biden picks up all there (Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania), then it’s a 315-223 Biden blowout victory.
Things could get even more out of hand from there. If Biden wins Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida while also picking up Wisconsin for good measure, he’ll cruise to a 325-213 victory…If Biden were to say steal Arizona as well, it’s a 336-202 dominant win for Biden…It could get even worse….Let’s say Texas by some miracle flips as well: 374-164…If you tack on North Carolina or Georgia for good measure it’s a 390-148 Biden beat down if Georgia goes blue or a 389-149 beat down if North Carolina goes blue.
In an ultimate repudiation of Trumpism, where both North Carolina and Georgia go blue as well, it’s a 405-133 win for Biden. And let’s say one other state defects as well because why not? Let’s say Alabama, who did vote for Democrat Doug Jones in the Senate race against Roy Moore goes blue, then it’s a 414-124 win for Biden.
Now of course, I don’t think we’re going to see a wild 414-124 win for Biden. However, I think a 315-223 win where Biden picks up Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania is quite possible. That’s what has to worry Trump. If he wins, it’s by the narrowest of margins. But, there’s a lot of possible scenarios where he could get routed.
If I had to make a prediction, I would say Biden wins at least 297-241 at the moment. I think Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida will all go Biden’s way. I think Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona will go for Trump. The two states that I have a tough time pegging are Ohio and Wisconsin. The 297-241 model assumes Trump wins both Ohio and Wisconsin and what has to worry Trump is I think he could very well lose both states. If he were to lose both, then it’s a 325-213 victory for Biden.
So, that’s the spasticity/realistic range I see Biden likely winning (297-241 to 325-213). Trump will have to keep Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin if he is to have any shot at winning and with Florida I think likely shifting to Biden, Trump will have to make up ground in other ways like keeping Pennsylvania (unlikely in my book) and shocking the world in a state thought to go blue (like Minnesota or Colorado).
Note: If you haven’t checked out 270towin.com, do it! It’s really cool. It has an interactive map where you can look up voting history by state and you can create your own electoral college map with your own projections. That’s how I gathered this data.