2020 Electoral College Prediction

Here is my 2012 prediction.

Here is my 2016 prediction.

I think the general public broadly misunderstands the 2016 Trump win. 2016 was actually a really good year for national polling. It was the media and public at large that extrapolated Clinton’s strength to automatic victory. Trump’s win was a fluke in many respects. He squeaked out a victory on a razor thin margin of roughly 88,000 votes spread amongst Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. He lost the popular vote by over two million votes, about right what the polls gauged it would be. The polling error that occurred was in state polls that didn’t properly weight college educated whites in the electorate, and so a fairly normal polling error put Wis., Mich., and Penn. within spitting distance for Trump. Those that don’t understand how polling errors have since had the impression that polls are useless or that they were systemically biased against Trump. 2016 was a possible, but unlikely outcome that broke in Trump’s favor based on a small and extremely possible polling error, and a lot of bad press breaking against Clinton. The polls were actually more wrong in the 2012 presidential election, underestimating Obama’s strength, and he won more than what polling averages predicted. But as Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has noted, people don’t care if you predict a winner but miss the margin of victory by eight points.

What made 2016 so shocking to most, including me, is that Trump is a know-nothing buffoon. Part of the common wisdom on the election was that a loser reality TV show guy should stand no chance against a seasoned political operative like Hillary Clinton. But a third consecutive term for a party is its own headwind, and that air of inevitability about the 2016 race undoubtedly pushed many undecideds at the last minute towards Trump, especially after the Comey letter upended the race.

To win in 2020, Trump has to expand his voting base, because he literally cannot win even if every single voter of his voted for him again, because of changing demographics. He has some advantages, like being an incumbent president with more resources and exposure. He has something like a 92 percent approval rating amongst Republican voters too.

But the disadvantages are glaring. The economy collapsed this year and millions remain unemployment. A pandemic has swept the nation that has killed upwards of 300,000 Americans, and the government response has been utterly inept. His term has been plagued by widely publicized scandals and corruption. Trump is also, as he has been throughout his entire term, a deeply unpopular president, and mostly done things that are really unpopular, like trying to rip healthcare from millions of people, or passing tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy. His approval ratings have hardly changed throughout his tenure. The fundamentals of any politician running a race in this environment are deeply unfavorable.

To overcome these factors, Trump needed to make a campaign aimed at keeping his old voters and making new voters. But Trump cannot change who he is, and has mostly engaged conspiratorial fear mongering, bad messaging, and apparently chronically poor campaign budgeting. The Trump campaign is a machine designed to please Trump and the chronic Fox News viewer more than anything else, and that is a weak position to work from.

Here are some stats I think are key to the election tomorrow:

  1. Trump’s numbers with seniors are abysmal. Maybe telling them to tough it out and just die from COVID was a bad strategy. If this polling trend is accurate, and senior citizens, once a reliable Republican bastion, are fleeing Trump, then he and the party are doomed.

2. A polling error similar to 2016 wouldn’t save Trump:

3. Biden’s lead has been among the largest and most stable in presidential election history.

4. Pollsters are paranoid about underrating Trump’s support and the best pollsters are focused on weighting education in respondents.

5. Trump is underperforming with white voters across the country.

With that in mind, I think it is a positive factor for Biden that liberals are terrified of a polling error and therefore not falling victim to complacency, while Trump’s core supporters are oblivious at the possibility of their dear leader succumbing to defeat. This, combined with the many factors weighing against Trump’s strength, make me bullish on a Biden win, and the margin thereof.

The battleground states on everyone’s radar are:

I think Biden now has a comfortable enough lock on Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Nebraska 2nd. These states would bring him to 260 electoral votes (270 to win). So to me, the more interesting states to watch that are truly tossups, if the polls are close to accurate, are Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, and Texas. Florida and Arizona in particular allow ballots to be counted before election day, and so their early results could be a harbinger of what the night may bring, and if Biden won Florida, the election be all but over. It will be particularly interesting to see whether the massive turnout happening in Texas will finally be enough to turn Texas blue. I actually think Biden’s lead is strong in Pennsylvania, but the likelihood of its decisiveness in determining a winner makes it within a mediumish polling error away from being incredibly important and the lynchpin of election litigation.

If Biden locks down the states in the earlier group I mentioned, and then wins ANY ONE of the states in the latter group (except Iowa), then he wins. Its a much, much stronger position than Hillary Clinton ever had, with a lot more options for victory. What’s overlooked is how even a minor polling error in Biden’s favor would mean this election could quickly turn into an utter blowout of the likes not seen in a generation.

Here is my 2020 electoral college prediction:

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