LOS ANGELES, October 5, 2020 — Four years ago businessman Donald Trump became President of the United States by defeating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College. The Electoral College exists because the Founding Fathers wanted to give small states a voice. A popular vote election would give all the power to a select few large states. Clinton won the popular vote by racking up huge margins in New York and California.
Trump won the Electoral College by winning states that had voted Democrat for decades, including the Blue Wall of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Clinton did not make a single campaign appearance in Wisconsin, and voters returned the slight. On election night, Trump won 306 electoral votes to 232 for Clinton.
As Trump runs for reelection against former Vice President Joe Biden, the Electoral College appears as divided as the nation. One month out, the 2020 presidential election is totally up for grabs. (America’s immovable object: The Electoral College)
Rather than a national election, the Electoral College is 51 separate state elections.
Outside of Maine and Nebraska, the winner of the popular vote in a state wins 100% of that state’s electoral votes. The 51 contests add up to 538 electoral votes, with a majority of 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
Biden is all but guaranteed to win the following contests:
California — 55
Oregon — 7
Washington — 12
Hawaii — 4
New York — 29
New Jersey — 14
Delaware — 3
Maryland — 10
District of Columbia — 3
Massachusetts — 11
Rhode Island — 4
Connecticut — 7
Vermont — 3
Illinois — 20
These 13 states plus Washington, DC give Biden 182 electoral votes.
Trump is virtually certain to win the following contests:
Alaska — 3
North Dakota — 3
South Dakota — 3
Idaho — 4
Wyoming — 3
Montana — 3
Utah — 6
Nebraska — 5
Kansas — 6
Missouri — 10
Oklahoma — 7
Texas — 38
Louisiana — 8
Arkansas — 6
Alabama — 9
Mississippi — 6
Georgia — 16
South Carolina — 9
Tennessee — 11
Kentucky — 8
Indiana — 11
West Virginia — 5
These 22 states give Trump 180 electoral votes.
The swing states that will decide the election are:
Florida — 29
North Carolina — 15
Virginia — 13
New Hampshire — 4
Maine — 4
Ohio — 18
Michigan — 16
Wisconsin — 10
Pennsylvania — 20
Minnesota — 10
Iowa — 6
Colorado — 9
Arizona — 11
New Mexico — 5
Nevada — 6
These 15 swing states total 176 electoral votes.
An individual breakdown of these 15 states offers a clearer picture.
Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia are all states that in recent elections have become solidly Democrat blue states.
Republicans will point to some rays of hope. Virginia Democrats have a deeply unpopular governor in Ralph Northam. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has run an uninspiring Senate campaign against a surprisingly competitive incumbent Cory Gardner. In Nevada, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is no longer around to corral the union muscle around Las Vegas.
Most importantly in Nevada and New Mexico is the Hispanic vote. Democrats have dominated the Hispanic vote in recent elections, but Biden is vastly underperforming and Trump is overperforming. Having said all of that, Democrats start with a sizable advantage. Clinton won all four of these states in 2016 and Biden should hold them.
Michigan and Wisconsin are two of the three states making up the Democrat Blue Wall that crumbled in 2016.
Trump barely won these states, and Biden is not going to take them for granted as Clinton did. The COVID virus forced Democrats to cancel their Milwaukee convention, but Biden is making repeated campaign stops in the Industrial Midwest. Unions are very strong in these states, and Biden has a long history of support from unions. While police unions are solidly behind Trump, other unions may give Biden a shot. Both states have unpopular governors in Tony Evers and Gretchen Whitmer. Republicans are hoping for a backlash against strict lockdowns in those states, but such a backlash has yet to significantly materialize.
Trump needed everything to go right in 2016 to pull off a surprise. Green candidate Jill Stein siphoned off just enough votes to harm Clinton.
Angry over Stein in 2016 and Ralph Nader in 2000, the left may not opt to be suicidal this time. Expect these two states to return to their traditional Democrat fold.
Maine has a strong independent streak.
Ross Perot won 30% of the Maine vote in 1992. Angus King got elected Governor and Senator as an Independent, although he caucuses with Democrats. After King, the governorship was held by the very conservative Paul Lepage. Then in 2019 Lepage was succeeded by the very liberal Janet Mills. Her strict Coronavirus lockdowns have led to a backlash that other states have avoided. Maine is known for such rebellion.
The Senate race between Republican incumbent Susan Collins and Democrat Sara Gideon is a battle royale. Collins is the most moderate Republican in the Senate. Her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will be a major issue in that race. Now Collins is under heavy pressure to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Trump has a significant patch of die-hard support in Northern Maine, but 80% of the voters live in Southern Maine.
Expect Biden to win the state overall but not the Second District of Northern Maine. Biden will receive three of the four Maine electoral votes, as Clinton did in 2016.
Arizona has been a traditionally Republican state that Democrats keep trying to win, to no avail.
2020 can be the year the tide finally turns, albeit temporarily. There is a large Hispanic population, but the main issue that hurts Trump in Arizona is the Senate race. Republican incumbent Martha McSally has a compelling personal story.
On paper, she is a dream candidate, but for some reason, she is a terrible campaigner. She lost the Senate race to Democrat Kristen Sinema in 2018. She was appointed to her current seat when Senator John McCain died. This time McSally’s Democrat opponent is Mark Kelly. His entire campaign is based on sympathy. He is the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot by a leftist agitator and almost killed.
Kelly is using his campaign to push gun control. Like Biden, Kelly knows how to push personal family tragedies for political gain. McSally is an albatross around Trump’s neck. Kelly is cruising to a win large enough to get Biden over the hump.
This brings Biden’s victories to 21 states plus D.C. for a total of 255 electoral votes.
Long a decisive swing state, Trump won Ohio fairly easily in 2016.
He has a margin for error in the state. Voters by and large do not blame him for the economic contraction brought on by the Coronavirus. The economy is rebounding. Both candidates will fight hard for Ohio, but Trump has the edge as long as the economy continues to mend. He will most likely win Ohio again.
Trump won Florida and North Carolina in 2016, and he cannot win the White House without Florida.
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has proven very competent in dealing with everything from hurricanes to COVID. He has opened up the state and vowed never to lock it down again. The Cuban Hispanic community in Miami Dade County is traditionally Republican, but many Cubans disliked Trump in 2016. In 2020, support for Trump in this vital community has skyrocketed.
Biden is underperforming miserably in Miami-Dade, and he cannot win Florida without a heavy victory in that county. Cubans despise socialism, and Trump’s efforts to portray Biden as a captive of his party’s Socialist wing has been successful.
Trump is now a resident of Florida, which makes it easy for him to campaign there and then return to his Mara Lago home. Trump should win Florida with less difficulty than expected.
North Carolina was supposed to be a struggle, but a scandal has just rocked the Senate race.
Republican Thom Tillis was one of the most vulnerable incumbents until last Friday night. With the nation and the media focused on Trump testing positive for COVID, another major story broke in North Carolina. Tillis’s Democrat opponent Cal Cunningham was caught exchanging sexually charged text messages with a woman other than his wife.
Cunningham has authenticated the texts and admitted the planned affair. North Carolina is not California. Values voters still have a strong say in the state. Former President Barack Obama flipped the longtime GOP stronghold in 2008 by mobilizing massive turnout among black voters. Obama lost the state in 2012, and Clinton lost by a wider margin than expected in 2016.
Cunningham has vowed to stay in his race, which will make life miserable for Biden. This was a gift for Tillis and Trump, and they will accept it.
Iowa is a swing state, but Republicans have the advantage.
Trump has the trust of the farmers, who are sticking with him. They see swift actions taken by Trump during the COVID pandemic to protect the agriculture supply chain. Iowa is a very white state, although it did launch Obama to the presidency. Biden’s campaign is dependent on a massive turnout among black voters, and Iowa does not offer that opportunity.
Obama won Iowa by nine points in 2008 and by six points in 2012. Trump crushed Clinton by 10 points in Iowa in 2016. Biden is far less off-putting to Iowa farmers than Clinton was, but Trump is liked enough to maintain his cushion.
New Hampshire was once the conservative stronghold of New England
New Hampshire has dealt with a massive influx of Massachusetts voters (similar to Virginia receiving massive numbers of Americans fleeing Maryland) bringing their liberal politics. Trump barely lost the state in 2016 and may have won if not for spoiler Libertarian Gary Johnson siphoning off 4% of the vote.
New Hampshire has a strong populist bent that listened to Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan. Trump speaks to their anxiety on losing jobs due to overseas trade deals. Trump’s populist economic stance allowed him to trounce his 2016 opponents and propel him to the presidency. He should be able to paint Biden as the establishment candidate who supported the trade deals that harmed New Hampshire.
As previously stated, Trump’s populist economic stance also helps him in Northern Maine.
Even without winning the state, he should win the Second District again and it’s one electoral vote as he did in 2016. Gun rights is a particularly important issue in Northern Maine. Trump opposes gun control while Biden supports it. Additionally, Trump has cultivated a warm relationship with Maine’s lobster fishermen. Obama-Biden regulations devastated their industry. Trump’s reversal of those regulations was a lifeline to the lobster fishermen. They will reward his loyalty.
There are very few opportunities for Trump to flip states that voted for Clinton, but Minnesota is a very real possibility.
Trump barely lost Minnesota in 2016 and has been obsessed with winning it in 2020. Minnesota is schizophrenic. They have voted for staunch liberals including Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone. Voted for staunch conservatives including Rudy Boschwitz and Tim Pawlenty. Voted for independents including former Governor and professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
Outside of her Minneapolis district, First-term House member Ilhan Omar is radioactive. Her comments and various corruption scandals have made her a lightning rod. Her repeat of anti-Semitic tropes has harmed the traditionally warm relationship between Democrats and liberal Jewish voters. Yet the most important difference in Minnesota is the area in the North known as the Iron Range. Trump has been a friend to the miners. Several Democrat mayors have crossed party lines to back Trump. Another major issue in Minnesota is law and order. The George Floyd riots that burned down Minneapolis were condemned by Trump. Biden to this day refuses to condemn Antifa in a satisfactory manner. Small business owners who want safety and security are flocking to Trump. Trump should win Minnesota.
This brings Trump’s victories to 28 states plus Maine’s Second District for a total of 263 electoral votes.
This means that for the second straight presidential election, everything comes down to Pennsylvania. For the second straight presidential election, two major groups will be key. In Pennsylvania, it is all about the Catholics and the coal miners. Forget that Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Forget that Democrat Governor Tom Wolf is unpopular. Just focus on the Catholics and the coal miners.
Biden is a Catholic, but his abortion stance is suicidal in a state where even Democrats like Bob Casey are opposed to abortion.
Biden straddled the abortion issue for decades by supporting the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer-funded abortions overseas. This was the compromise that satisfied people willing to support abortion rights but demanding that people pay for abortions themselves. Biden reversed himself on the Hyde Amendment in 2019 in what was seen as a craven and desperate appeal to his leftist base. His campaign was faltering, and there is zero chance a pro-life candidate can win the Democrat nomination today.
Trump is pro-life and has appointed pro-life judges. Trump’s current nominee Barrett is a religious Catholic. Biden will be tying himself into a pretzel trying to oppose her. Even trying to delay her nomination will backfire on Democrats in Pennsylvania.
The coal miners love Trump and detested Clinton.
Trump promised to put them back to work. Clinton promised to put them out of work. The Obama-Biden war on coal devastated the miners. The leftist obsession with their environmental agenda is anathema to working-class Pennsylvania miners.
Biden keeps insisting that he does not support the Green New Deal or a ban on fracking. Yet past Biden comments directly contradict his current promises. His running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has publicly and gleefully vowed to ban fracking and implement the Green New Deal. Vice President Mike Pence will effectively remind Pennsylvania voters of this.