As I have two degrees in political science and over 30 years of “geeking out” over elections, politics, political principles, and the like, this season becomes the Super Bowl for me when the U.S. presidential election comes around. And like everyone else, we all want to be right in predicting who the winner is. I am predicting that the next president of the United States will be…
Okay, slow your roll a minute. Before I let you know who I believe will win next Tuesday, I need to to give some background here and discuss where I see things going, and the pitfalls both Joe Biden and President Donald Trump must avoid.
I first would like to discuss 2016, as it is from there we can understand where things are and how hard it will be for anyone to predict the winner this year. As most people who know me well can attest, every October 30th before a presidential election, I sit down and pour over election information. Polls, which can be national, state, or even local for key counties/cities, are dissected to see where things are and what changes might be happening close to the election. This article is the 2020 version of this. I have read hundreds of articles, poured over poll after poll, and drilled down into some key counties in the key states I will discuss below.
On October 30, 2016, I predicted Hillary Clinton to win, just about everyone else. The problem is that while most polls and political scientists were predicting an Electoral College blowout, my prediction had Clinton eeking out a victory. In fact, it wasn’t until about 5pm on Election Day 2016, that I began to see live data that showed that I might be wrong. The picture below shows the map of my prediction on October 30th, and my Facebook post at about 5pm on November 8th as the election was in full swing.
As you can see, although I was wrong about Clinton winning, I was finding things much closer than almost everyone else. And even the weekend before, I had been posting and telling those around me that some of the numbers I had seen were causing me pause. I should have listened to my gut! Please remember this, as my prediction later will include what my gut is saying about the data I am seeing now.
This time last fall, with the economy booming and President Trump seemingly getting everything he wanted internationally and domestically, I was looking at President Reagan type result to the 2020 election. I saw Trump repeating the epic re-election of Reagan, where Reagan won every state except Minnesota.
What a difference a year makes!
In 2020, we have had two major hits to the American economy and psyche which have made a once untouchable Trump turn into a horse race with an old grey mare. The COVID-19 Pandemic and the riots over the summer (and still happening) have put the campaigns a lot closer than they would have ever been.
The economy took a major hit due to the COVID shutdowns, although the Third Quarter of 2020 has seen one of the largest gains in American history, as the economy turns around and is almost back to pre-COVID levels.
The problem for President Trump is the damage has been done. With a media and the left in this country hounding him with lies and half-truths everyday since November 8, 2016 (to include an impeachment, baseless accusations of Russian collusion, and so much more) the Trump Administration has had to deal with an angry and petulant left the entire time he has been in office. This has worn down the American public, which was the plan of the anti-American left all along.
Recently, I witnessed a reporter asking a few leftist college students what would happen if Trump won a second term. The responses were appalling, with some stating that the riots will intensify. I will have more in an article on the eve of the election next week, discussing what happens after Election Day. But, now that we know why we are in as close a race as we are (it has nothing to do with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and everything to do with fatigue and the anti-Trump brigades), we can start seeing how next Tuesday will pan out.
Locked Up States
Starting with the obvious, let me list the states (and their electors) and who will almost assuredly win in those states. You can take these to the bank. If either candidate finds they are losing in any of these states on Election Day, it will be over for them.
- Trump/Pence (164)
- Idaho (4)
- Texas (38)
- Montana (3)
- Wyoming (3)
- North Dakota (3)
- South Dakota (3)
- Nebraska (4)
- Utah (6)
- Kansas (6)
- Oklahoma (7)
- Arkansas (7)
- Louisiana (8)
- Indiana (11)
- Mississippi (6)
- Alabama (9)
- Tennessee (11)
- Kentucky (8)
- Missouri (10)
- West Virginia (5)
- South Carolina (9)
- Alaska (3)
- Nebraska District 2 (1)
- Biden/Harris (212)
- California (55)
- New York (29)
- Washington (12)
- Oregon (7)
- Colorado (9)
- New Mexico (5)
- Illinois (20)
- Virginia (13)
- Vermont (3)
- Maine…District 1 (1)
- Massachusetts (11)
- Rhode Island (4)
- Connecticut (7)
- New Jersey (14)
- Delaware (3)
- Maryland (10)
- DC (3)
- Hawaii (4)
As you can see, the starting point for each ticket is that Biden has 212 locked-up electoral votes, and Trump has 164. This means, out of all of the states in play, Trump needs to grab the most.
There are many states which I call solid blue or solid red. That means they could go to the other ticket, but I don’t believe they are likely to. The following are those states and electors. The overall numbers are the number of locked up electors combined with the number of solid states.
- Trump/Pence (204)
- Ohio (18)
- Georgia (16)
- Iowa (6)
- Biden/Harris (222)
- Minnesota (10)
Trump closes the gap here, but is still 66 electors off the mark needed (270). Biden only needs 48. But this is where it gets a little tough for Biden/Harris, as Trump closes the gap.
I list below what I call Leaning Red or Leaning Blue. While many polls show both of them winning in these states, the percentages are close that it could go either way. I look at other intangibles in order to come to the conclusions I do.
One word of caution: if either candidate loses a significant number of these electors, it is over for them. For Trump, if he loses Florida, there is no real path to become president that I can see. It is one of the two or three “make or break” states for the Trump/Pence ticket. Here are the leaning states.
- Trump/Pence (248)
- Florida (29)
- North Carolina (15)
- Biden/Harris (233)
- New Hampshire (4)
- Nevada (6)
- Maine District 2 (1)
As you can see, we now have Trump and Biden running neck and neck. Both are in striking distance. Again, if any of these above go a different way, then this election is over and it won’t be close.
Now we look at the battleground states. This is where I believe the election will be won or lost. The four battleground states are Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This is where I will be keeping most of my focus on Election night.
I’m going to remove Wisconsin from the list as even though it might be in play, if I were a betting man, I would put money on it going for Biden (although it might be close!). That puts it Trump 248 and Biden 243.
Now let’s look at the Big Three.
Arizona is interesting, due to the retirees there. Many parts of the state are very conservative. But there are retirement communities in key parts of the state which have blued the state somewhat in recent years. While Arizona is a battleground state, I look at it like Wisconsin. Biden has a good chance to win there, but I do not believe he will. Advantage Trump. The score is now Trump 259 and Biden 243. Trump only needs 11 electors to win at this point.
This leaves Michigan, with 16 electors, and Pennsylvania with 20 to decide the 2020 presidential election. As you can see, if Trump takes either of them in this scenario, he wins a second term. In Biden’s case, he would need both Pennsylvania and Michigan to become president.
Early Voting and Mail In Ballots
One of the areas this year that has been a huge push for the Democrats is early voting and mail in ballots. The push as been such a priority for the left, that the majority of ballots expected by early voting and mail should go to the Democrats. Counting these right now is hard, because although we have a pretty good idea of the number of mail in ballots sent out, we recently saw that several million ballots had still not been received by the states as of the writing of this article. And in a close election, where the Democrat’s chances of regaining the White House hinge on the early votes and mail in ballots, this has to have them somewhat worried (and probably ringing phones off the hook trying to remind folks to get them turned in).
This is also why you see several undercurrents out there. First, you see the Trump campaign in court, trying to get voting stopped and counted on Election Day. To not wait for ballots to trickle in afterwards. As I said, the majority of those votes will most likely be Democrats, so if the Trump campaign can get a significant number of ballots blocked it may help, especially in these battleground states.
The second interesting development is that the Democrats are also gearing up for a legal fight. In this, they will push to not only count late ballots, but also ballots that do not meet each state’s election requirements. So, if a signature is not right, or they did not get it post marked on time, these would normally not be counted. The Democrats will sue and fight for every one of these ballots.
Interestingly, in two cases so far, Trump has lost in court (particularly the Supreme Court) where some states were ordered to allow for an extended period past Election Day to receive ballots, if they are post marked by Election Day. This is interesting because the SCOTUS has been 4-4 since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, so these cases were reviewed and decided with only 8 justices. Now, with five solid conservative justices on the court, with the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett (ACB) this week, the Trump campaign has to feel strong in showing up to the court to defend its positions. While Democrats were focusing on ACB knocking down Obamacare, the real November concern should have been for them that ACB would tip the court toward the right in regards to the decisions on Election Day and any court fight. Again, I’ll have more on this on Monday.
Also, a quick note on the mail in ballots. I’ve already discussed that there are millions of the requested mail in ballots that still have not been turned in. Some studies suggest that if the Democrats do not get over 65% of the mail in and early vote, that the Trump surge on Election Day will be a rout. And this is likely true, which is why it is so hard to pick the winner this year.
The last consideration here are the intangibles. And the biggest of these is the Trump voter. While the Democrats must get over 60-70% of the mail in and early voting, the Trump voters are locked in and fired up to show up this Tuesday to vote for him. A hurricane or nuclear war will not stop them. Election Day will see Trump with a huge turnout, and likely numbers early on that show him leading, or even winning many of these battleground states. The problem is the counting of the mail in votes. If they are left uncounted, or the usual 1-2% of the ballots are thrown out due to they were not properly submitted, then the numbers of ballots in play could cause the election to last days or even weeks (at the very most, until December 14th, which is the day the states must certify their votes by). This is exactly why Biden has been encouraged to not concede on Election Night, as the court battles may pull things out for him.
But back to the Trump voters. They were undercounted and under polled in 2016 and I believe they are again. To what extent, it is hard to tell. Will they be able to help Trump overcome the very large contingent of leftist voters who want Trump out of the White House, no matter what it takes? We will see.
So many moving parts this election. Mail in ballots. Trump brigades swarming the polls on Election Day. For a political scientist, it is absolutely incredible and exciting to watch!
Okay, after all of this, I guess I need to tell you who will win. As I said, I was wrong in 2016, but mostly because I listened to everyone else instead of seeing what was right in front of my eyes. If I were to just look at the polls, and make my decision from there, then Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. But as I laid out above, the polls have been incredibly wrong AND there are so many inputs to this election that are not being considered. Added to this, I have begun to learn it is very hard to bet against Trump. He tends to confound his naysayers and enemies.
The safe decision would be to declare Biden the winner. But there are so many things that help the incumbent, that it is hard to not pick Trump. Which one? I know, I know… I’m stalling.
Well, however it turns out, I see a VERY close race that may not be decided until December.
So with that, it’s time. No guts…no glory.
The next president of the United States will be…
Below is the electoral breakdown I am basing my decision on.