Eleven Three Twenty: Where the Electoral College Stands 14 Days Out
October 20, 2020
As I’ve mentioned over and over in these columns, we’re not really two weeks away from election day — we’re actually halfway through election month. For as Michael McDonald of the United States Election Project reported this afternoon, over 35.5 million Americans already have cast their 2020 ballots. (That’s over 25% of the total votes cast in 2016!) And McDonald estimates almost 85 million votes will have been cast by November 3.
As I’ve also consistently mentioned, 41 of the 50 states basically are already locked in as either Democratic Blue or Republican Red. Therefore, I’m going to once again focus just on the states that ultimately will decide who is the next President of the United States — “The Necessary Nine.”
“The Necessary Nine” as of October 20, 2020
Two weeks before Election Day, there is not a single state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 in which Donald Trump currently leads or is considered a “Toss Up” by either The Cook Political Report or FiveThirtyEight.com — two of the two most highly respected, non-partisan electoral college/election tracking sites. That means there is little chance the President will increase his electoral numbers from 2016.
And things aren’t all that much better for President Trump when it comes to simply winning at least most of the states he won in 2016. (He had a 36-vote cushion in 2016, so he could lose 2 or 3 of the smaller states and still win re-election.) But that’s going to be a significant challenge for the President if his poll numbers don’t change in a hurry.
Specifically, here is the list of states (including their number of electoral votes up for grabs) that President Trump won in 2016 that currently are listed as “Toss Ups” by The Cook Political Report:
- Florida (29)
- Georgia (16)
- Iowa (6)
- North Carolina (15)
- Ohio (18)
Of these five, Georgia and Ohio appear in FiveThirtyEight.com’s list of “Toss Ups.” And they believe President Trump is “slightly favored” to win Iowa.
That’s the good news for the President.
The bad news is that North Carolina remains in the states Joe Biden is “slightly favored” to win in their forecast. And in another bad sign for the President, they continue to list Florida among the states Biden is outright “favored” to win.
That means the Sunshine State is one of six states that President Trump won in 2016 but that Joe Biden is now “slightly favored” or “favored” to win, according to FiveThirtyEight. The following list includes the number of electoral votes in each state — as well as the average polling lead FiveThirtyEight projects Biden to have in those states as of today:
- Arizona (11, Biden + 3.7)
- Florida (29, Biden + 3.4)
- Michigan (16, Biden + 7.9)
- North Carolina (15, Biden + 3.2)
- Pennsylvania (20, Biden + 6.4)
- Wisconsin (10, Biden + 7.2)
Consequently, President Trump remains trailing in — or at best facing a “Toss Up” situation — in 8 states he won in 2016, for a total of 135 electoral votes. And Joe Biden needs to pick up only 38 electoral votes to win (assuming he doesn’t lose one of the states won by Hillary Clinton — an almost certainty at this point). Depending on the specific states, the former Vice President needs to win only two of these eight states if Florida is one of them.
Even if Florida stays Republican Red, any combination of three of the other five states Biden currently is leading in will win him the Presidency. (Technically, winning Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin would get him only 37 electoral votes, which would result in an electoral tie. But that would throw it to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to decide the outcome. And I think we all know how that would turn out.)
Does this mean President Trump won’t win re-election? Absolutely not. In fact, he can pin his hopes on the following three pieces of good news. First, even though his national poll numbers have dropped significantly since the first debate and his coronavirus diagnosis, many of the state polls have stayed about the same.
Second, a few national polls released today showed the race tightening. Having said that, most of the national polls remain very static — so it’s possible these are just outliers. We’ll see over the next few days as more poll results are released.
Finally, polls indicate his supporters are much more enthusiastic to vote for him than Biden’s supporters are to cast their votes for the former Vice President. That means he may see overwhelming turnout on November 3 — especially given that even Democratic strategists agree the President has a better organized get-out-the-vote machine for in-person voting (what political insiders call a “ground game”).
But the clock is ticking. And as the above numbers indicate, the President doesn’t have any margin for error between now and November 3. Conversely, former Vice President Biden, has time on his side and multiple paths to the Presidency. Therefore, the President has to make significant inroads in a number of states sooner rather than later. Otherwise, he is destined to be a one-term President.
For those of you wondering why I’m qualified to write about this topic, I have a Ph.D. in Human Communication Studies from the University of Denver — with an emphasis on leadership, power, and persuasion. My dissertation research focused on political communication, specifically Ross Perot’s 1992 Presidential campaign (“A Mythic Analysis of Ross Perot’s 1992 Campaign Infomercials as a Modern American Jeremiad”). And I have worked on — or consulted for — a number of political campaigns, ranging from the mayoral to the Presidential level.