Don’t rule out President Trump’s re-election chances just yet.
With the coronavirus pandemic still going strong, a trade policy that has ravaged the fashion and retail sectors, thousands of lost jobs and a U.S. economy embroiled in an extended recession, the 2020 election will determine the direction of policy and the economy over the next four years.
Four years ago, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote over then-Republican nominee Trump, winning nearly 2.9 million more votes. But it was Trump who ultimately won the Electoral College, with 304 votes over 277 for Clinton.
Could this time be different?
Democratic challenger and former vice president Joe Biden appears to have the leading edge over Trump for a popular-vote win. But nothing is ever really certain in a hotly contested election. Sometimes people tell pollsters one thing, and then do something else or change their minds. For example, in 2016, Trump unexpectedly won Michigan in the general election. This year, most pundits expect traditional GOP stronghold Texas to “flip” and vote for Biden. And conventional wisdom suggests that neither candidate can win if he loses Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes. That also could depend on what happens with voting in a few other swing states.
As the clock counts down to Election Day on Nov. 3, here are some of the key battleground states to watch.
In a blog post that polled 11 UC Riverside political science professors, John Warren, director of news and information for the University of California, Riverside, wrote about eight key states to track. All of the polled professors predicted that Biden will win Michigan, and 10 out of 11 said he will also win Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, nine out of 11 see Biden winning Minnesota and Arizona, while all 11 said Trump will take Georgia. That leaves tight races in Florida and North Carolina.
But projections are still no guarantee for either candidate, especially given what happened in 2016 once the Electoral College votes were tallied. The electors are slated to vote this year on Dec. 14. They tend to vote in alignment with the popular vote in their state, but a few key swing states could tip the electoral balance regardless of who emerges as the national favorite. In 2000’s race, Democrat nominee Al Gore won the national popular vote over Republican candidate George W. Bush, but lost the electoral vote after a bitterly contested vote-count dispute in Florida.
Different polling models indicate that Biden could end up with over 340 projected electoral votes versus about 190 for the incumbent president, according to data checks by Alan I. Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University, in a column at Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Popular voting site FiveThirtyEight, named after the total number of Electoral College votes, on Friday predicted that Biden would win. But it also reminded readers of the possibility of polling errors, which explains in part why projections for a huge Clinton win in 2016 were wrong.
Could history repeat?
“At this point, President Trump needs a big polling error in his favor if he’s going to win. Although if you were just looking at national polls, the error doesn’t need to be as big as you might think. Take Pennsylvania, the state our forecast currently thinks is most likely to decide the election. Biden doesn’t have much extra cushion in polls there, so a 2016-magnitude polling error could deliver the state to Trump,” the FiveThirtyEight site said on Friday.
And then there’s Ed Brock from St. Louis, who owns a Halloween store called Johnnie Brock’s Dungeon and has said that sales of masks have predicted the outcome of presidential elections since 1984. In a clip of an interview on Thursday on Today in St. Louis, a show on KSDK, an NBC-affiliated online channel in St. Louis, Mo., Brock said: “Sixty-six precent of the sales of masks—political masks between the two, Biden and Trump—66 [percent] are Trump and 34 percent are Biden. What this is showing me is that if it stands, if this formula stands, that Trump will win this election.”
As baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”