Trump’s Improbable But Not Impossible Path To 270
Jim Geraghty at National Review outlines how Trump won with 306 electoral votes four years ago and thus he can give away 36 electoral votes and hit the critical threshold of 270. He doesn’t need to win Wisconsin. He doesn’t need to win Michigan. He could lose both of those states and Iowa, and still have a path to 270 electoral votes.
Path to 270: Iowa, Ohio, Georgia, Texas
Trump can’t lose any of the states he won comfortably in 2016. This starts with Texas. The Dallas Morning News poll unveiled Sunday showed Biden ahead by 3 percentage points. That poll is an outlier compared to other polls in the past few months, although Quinnipiac showed a tie. The early vote in Texas has been huge — more than 7.1 million votes, as of this writing; approximately 9 million Texans voted in the presidential race in 2016.
Last cycle Trump won Iowa by almost 10 percentage points; the polling this year, in aggregate, has Biden ahead by a hair. It’s a similar story in Ohio, where Trump won by eight points last cycle, and the polling this year, in aggregate, has Trump ahead by a hair. In Georgia, Trump won by five points last cycle, and the polling this year, in aggregate, has Biden ahead by a hair. The new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll of likely voters released this morning showed Biden at 47 percent and Trump at 46 percent, within the survey’s margin of error of 4 percentage points.
If you give Trump all the deep-red states, and all of these states listed above, this gets him to 203 electoral votes. He loses any of them and it’s curtains. This is why Biden is such a heavy favorite as of now.
Trump won this state by just 3.5 points last cycle, and has to win it in 2020. Whether Arizona stays red or turns blue this depends upon whether Arizona is shifting away from Republicans overall or shifting away from Trump specifically.
Right now, Joe Biden enjoys a small lead in Arizona polling, but Trump is gaining ground. In the midterms, Senator Kyrsten Sinema won a Senate race, Katie Hobbs won the Secretary of State race, Democrats flipped a U.S. House seat, and Democrats gained four seats in the State House; however, incumbent Republican governor Doug Ducey won reelection by 14 points, and Republicans held the state attorney general and state treasurer jobs reasonably comfortably. With Arizona and the states listed above, Trump reaches 214 electoral votes.
Trump only won Florida by a bit more than a percentage point in 2016, but Florida’s a big state that had 75 percent turnout — so that one percentage point was 112,911 votes. Aggregate polling currently gives Biden a small lead in Florida, but it’s narrowing as well. It should be noted that Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron overperformed their final polls in Florida, and it along with the states listed above would give Trump 243 electoral votes.
I have talked about the importance of North Carolina and how early voting could portend a Tar Heel blue wave. Trump needs to win North Carolina, which he won, 49.8 percent to 46.1 percent, or 173,315 votes in 2016. both inclusive and exclusive of the minor party candidates or not.
Trump outperformed his final polling average by a few points in 2016. Right now, in the RealClearPolitics average, Biden is ahead by 1.8 points. Trump winning North Carolina and the states listed above, puts him at 258 electoral votes — just twelve short of winning another term.
Maine and Nebraska
Trump is probably going to lose the congressional district that includes Omaha in Nebraska, meaning he will probably win four of Nebraska’s five electoral votes and Biden will win one. In Maine, the limited polling in the state’s larger and more rural second congressional district is split pretty widely depending upon the pollster — either Biden has a modest lead or Trump has a fairly large one.
One of Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania
Trump needs to win at least one of those big three upper midwestern states that he won narrowly four years ago — Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin. We have already documented the difference between 2016 and 2020 polling in Michigan and Wisconsin. Biden is ahead in the RealClearPolitics average in Michigan by 7.8 percentage points.
On the FiveThirtyEight tool that allows you to pick the winner of a swing state and see how that affects the rest of the states, if Trump wins Pennsylvania, he has a 73 percent chance of winning a second term. If Biden wins Pennsylvania, Trump has a 3 percent chance of winning a second term. Trump did get a small boost in the state from the debate.
As of this writing, Biden is ahead in the RealClearPolitics average in Pennsylvania by 5.1 percentage points. But this is a complicated state, with many Pennsylvanians casting ballots by mail for the first time; without the “security envelope,” the ballot will not be counted.
If Trump wins Pennsylvania and the states listed above, he reaches 278 electoral votes, completing his path to 270. If Trump wins Wisconsin and the states listed above, he reaches 268 electoral votes — and then those lone electoral votes in Nebraska and Maine suddenly have huge significance!
There are a few other states that are worth watching. Nevada has been pretty blue most cycles, but a few Democrats are worried about whether the unions will be able to effectively do their usual get-out-the-vote operations. There’s been a lot of attention on Minnesota, but Biden’s lead has been in the five- to seven-point range since late September. Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Virginia have now slipped out of the broadest definition of a “swing state.”
Keep in mind, if the polling is accurate, Biden is going to win, and win big. If the final vote matches all of those small leads in polling aggregates, Biden is finishing with something in the neighborhood of 350 electoral votes.