Countdown to Election 2020

It has been two months since my last article on anticipating the 2020 elections based on voting trends—not polls.

I take little stock in polls since they were largely wrong in 2016, and many are politically motivated. Polls are done by conservative and liberal groups—the only thing that they have in common is portraying close elections in order to motivate their base and to sell more polling results.

So…will we see a red wave or blue wave on November 3? Nobody knows for sure, but the election will confirm how large (or small) Trump’s base is after his four years in office. It will also be a means to assess the impact of organizations like Black  Lives Matter and March For Our Lives.

High voter turnouts in 2020—and in 2018

As of October 25, some 60 million U.S. citizens have already voted—an unprecedented number! High turnout historically favors Democratic Party candidates. For example, 2018 saw one of the highest turnouts on record for midterm elections (see graph below), and Democrats gained 41 seats in the House of Representatives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A third of the Senate (33 seats) was up for reelection, and even though Republicans got less than 40% of the vote, they gained 2 Senate seats. The Senate race in Florida between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson was especially close and caused much controversy. Scott’s attacks and lawsuits on the recount process in 2018 will likely be a model for the Trump campaign if the 2020 election is close in Florida.

New Map Shows Change from August 2020 Map

Based on high turnout numbers and past voting trends, the following states changed to favoring Democrats (light blue) on the map.

Electoral Forecast as of October 25, 2020

A r i z o n a. Democrats flipped a Republican U.S. House and Senate seat in 2018. Trump won the state in 2016 with 48% of the vote. Democrats have not won this state’s electoral votes since 1996, but recent voting and demographic trends indicate changes helpful to Democrats. Fundraising favors Democrats as of October 2020—especially for Arizona’s Senate seat.

I o w a. As a former Iowan, I noted that the state is trending favorably to Democrats. Trump won 51% of Iowa’s vote in 2016, after the state went to Obama in 2008 (by 54%) and 2012 (by 52%). Prior to the 2018 elections, Iowa had one Democratic representative in the U.S. House and three Republican ones. The 2018 election gave Democrats three seats to just one for Republicans—largely due to Trump’s trade policies that hurt farmers. Indicators point to a defeat for incumbent Republican Senator Joni Ernst in 2020.

F l o r i d a. Democrats flipped two Republican House seats in the 2018 election and have a slight edge in voter registrations for 2020. Trump got 49% of the vote in 2016, after Obama won it with 51% of the vote in 2008 and 50% of the vote in 2012. It will be close (as always), but Biden should get a narrow victory.

N o r t h   C a r o l i n a. Democrat Roy Cooper won an upset victory over incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory in 2016. Governor Cooper is popular, especially for his Covid-19 response, and is running for reelection in 2020. Trump won the state in 2016 with 49.8% of the vote, after Obama narrowly won it in 2008 but lost it in 2012. In 2018 Democrats gained six seats in the North Carolina State Senate and nine seats in the state’s House of Representatives. Statewide Democrats received more votes than Republicans in 2018 but gerrymandering limited Democratic gains. Trends look favorable for a Democratic win in 2020.

Summary

Voting trends point to a blue wave on November 3, Election Day. It should be evident after the polls close on Election Day that eastern states, such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, are stopping—or stifling—any imagined red wave.

One state to watch as the returns come in is Kentucky. It has a pivotal Senate race and is usually the first Republican state to report its election results. If election results are delayed in Kentucky due to tight races, then it could be a long, disappointing night for Republicans.

 

Anticipating the 2020 Presidential Election Results

The 2016 Election and 2020

Like most Americans, I had a lot of time to think while my office (and most places) were closed due to Covid-19, and I decided to apply my knowledge of electoral mapping to the 2020 election. To appreciate the future, we must first look at the past. In 2016, most Americans did not vote for Donald Trump, who received 62.9 million votes. However, some 73.6 million voted for others, including Hillary Clinton, who received 65.8 million votes. Low voter turnout and third-party candidates gave Trump very narrow wins in the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Most nations elect presidents based on the popular vote, but the U.S. uses the so-called “Electoral College,” which means that 538 “Electors” choose our president. Under Article II of the U.S. Constitution, states are allotted Electors equal to their number of Representatives, plus two Senators. The Electoral College preserves federalism, with the least populous states guaranteed 3 Electors — currently the most populous state, California, gets 55. In almost every state the winner of the popular statewide vote gets all the Electors. In 2016, Trump narrowly won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by less than 78,000 total votes to gain 46 Electoral votes — and the presidency.

The background on the 2016 election and current trends help identify key states and indicate their likely votes on November 3, 2020. Trends include some Trumpians referring to face masks as “submission muzzles” and calling the pandemic, racism, and impeachment “leftist hoaxes,” indicators that Trump voters are drifting farther right, leaving centrists behind.

Trump is the first impeached president to run for reelection. The Constitution’s framers, remembering the pernicious rule of George III over colonial America, added impeachment to constrain presidential power.

Election forecast as of mid-July 2020
Key States in 2020

This will be an ugly election campaign, with hyper-partisan accusations filling the media, some from outside actors, like Russia. The media storm will be destructive to both candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden; but Biden should win the following key states.

P e n n s y l v a n i a. Trump won 48.8% of the state’s vote versus 47.6% for Clinton. Trump won this state’s 20 electoral votes in 2016 with about 44,000 more votes than Clinton of the 6.1 million cast by promising growth in jobs and coal. Trump’s unfulfilled promises gave Democrats victories in the 2018 election for governor, as well as a net gain of 3 seats in the U.S. House. This trend will likely lead to a 2020 win for Biden, who lived in the state as a child, making him a favorite son candidate.

M i c h i g a n. Trump won 47.6% of the vote versus 47.3% for Clinton. In 2016 Trump won by 10,700 votes out of 4.8 million, gaining 16 electoral votes. Trump had reached out to Blacks (1.4 million) in the state and had promised more manufacturing jobs. But manufacturing declined, and Trump alienated Black voters on healthcare and racism issues. In 2018 Democrats easily won statewide elections for the U.S. Senate and governor — and flipped 2 Republican seats in the  U.S. House, indicating favorable political winds for Biden in 2020.

W i s c o n s i n. Trump won 47.9% of the vote versus 46.9% for Clinton. Trump carried Wisconsin in a low turnout 2016 election by about 22,700 votes out of 2.9 million, claiming 10 electoral votes. Many blamed a new Republican Voter ID law for suppressing Democratic votes; others faulted Clinton for not visiting the state. Democrats rebounded in November 2018 (defeating Republican Governor Scott Walker) and April 2020 statewide elections with major victories, and Milwaukee is the site of the August 2020 Democratic National Convention (although Covid-19 limited its impact). These are all positive signs for Biden.

Mapping 2020

If Biden holds the states that voted for Clinton in 2016 (dark blue on map), which seems certain, he will have 233 electoral votes. Adding the 3 key states (light blue), will give Biden the presidency with 279 electoral votes (270 are needed to win). Trump (red) starts with only 177 near certain electoral votes. States in gray are likely to be close and could go to either candidate.

The Covid-19 crisis is eroding public confidence in the Trump administration, and support for Trump could weaken in more states. Of course, anything can happen, but based on current trends and the Electoral College alignment, it looks like the Trump presidency is unsustainable.

2020 Senate Races: Montana

 

I must admit to being a big fan of Sabato’s Crystal Ball from the UVA Center for Politics, and I was especially keen on the recent (Aug 5) 2020 Senate race rating (see map below).

Map UVA Sabato’s Crystal Ball

As a long-time observer of electoral geography, I must say the Crystal Ball is being a tad conservative on Montana—by which I mean that this is a winnable seat for Democrats and should be AT LEAST in the Toss-up category. I believe the Crystal Ball will move this to Toss-up by September. Why? This will be a Toss-up and likely a gain for Democrats due to the candidates, Montana’s electoral trends, as well as U.S. trends.

The Candidates

Steve Daines, a Republican, is the incumbent. Often incumbents in the U.S. Senate are hard to beat, but senators in their first term tend to be more vulnerable. A few reasons why this seat will likely go to the Democratic candidate: Steve Bullock.

Steve Daines (R) and Steve Bullock (D)

Why Senator Steve Daines will likely lose:

  • Daines was first elected in Nov 2014, facing a weak Democratic candidate. Democrat Amanda Curtis was handicapped by having  only 2 months to campaign and fundraise.
  • Daines raised $7.5 million for his race in 2014; Curtis raised $977,000.
  • In 2018, Montana reelected Democrat Senator Jon Tester, despite President Trump campaigning against Tester, confirming that Democrats can win here in the Trump era.
  • Also in 2018, Montana’s own #PlaidShirtGuy, Tyler Linfesty, shows some Big Sky skepticism to Trumpian rhetoric.

 

Why Governor Steve Bullock will likely win:

  • Bullock has won three statewide elections—once for Attorney General (2008) and twice for Governor (2012 and 2016).
  • Bullock won in 2016 despite his Republican opponent, Greg Gianforte, putting in $5.8 million of his own money in the race—in a year when Trump won Montana by 20 points.
  • Since declaring in March, Bullock has raised some $11 million, coming close to Daines war chest of $12.9 million that he has been accumulating for six years.
  • Bullock enjoys a high 75% approval rating as Montana governor.

 

Pundits characterize Montana as a red state, but recent statewide elections give it a more purple tint—plus the national trend indicates an exceptional voting pattern rather than a normal one. This exceptional pattern favors Democrats—as in 2008 at the twilight of the last Republican administration, when tax cuts for the rich, a ruinous recession, and health care loss enraged voters.

It looks like Steve Bullock will win the November election and go from the Governor’s residence in Helena, Montana, to the U.S. Senate in Washington, DC. It is also possible that Republicans will lose Montana’s electoral votes in November.

Virginia State Senate Battlegrounds for the November 5, 2019 Election

 

Geographic distribution of vulnerable Senate seats.
Republicans look vulnerable in 7 of their 21 Virginia Senate seats, and Democrats 1 or 2 for control.
Continue reading “Virginia State Senate Battlegrounds for the November 5, 2019 Election”

National Geographic’s Poo Map

How to Map a Public Poo Problem?

A map on “the percentage of people defecating in the open air” is a concept that is both profound and perverse. The map (below) appeared in the National Geographic August 2017 issue, with the title, “A Place to Go.” The article focuses on India, but includes pictures of Haiti and Vietnam. To be perfectly plain, people pooping in the open go in fields, forests, bushes, rivers, or beaches—often due to cultural habits and/or lack of toilet access. This can risk spreading disease, like cholera, and stunting the growth of children due to sickness and malnutrition.

NGdefecationMap

NGkey&top countries

 

Problems with the Map?

As a former National Geographic map editor, I applaud the designer’s use of brown colors as appropriate for the topic; however, to better visualize the nature of the problem, more creative symbols (below) could replace the boring boxes in the key.

poo

 

 

I have a few other more serious issues with the map too:

Problem with Poo Percentages. With the exception of India, the use of percentages in the map legend results in smaller countries being highlighted rather than more populous countries, which possess prodigious piles of poo.  For example, the above table, “Countries with highest rates,” includes Eritrea (population 5.8 million), Sao Tome and Principe (pop. 197,000), and Solomon Islands (pop. 635,000).

Poo Gap in Map Key. Comparing “More than 40” to “25 to 39.9,” there is a gap that excludes 40. The countries of Mozambique and Madagascar (both at 40%) would be in the highest category if the key was changed to “40 or more.” However, on the National Geographic map, both countries were put in the second category (25 to 39.9) by mistake.

Angola’s Poo Color. As a map professional (some would say map geek), I noticed on the map that Angola’s exclave of Cabinda was not the same color as the rest of Angola. This is kind of a big deal — like not showing Alaska in the same color as the rest of the United States. Cabinda is a major oil-producer for Angola, with a population of some 700,000, about the same as Alaska.

Angola

War and Poo. The “No data” category on the National Geographic map includes Libya, a country that descended into civil war starting in 2011, resulting in the displacement of people and the destruction of sanitation facilities. This scenario also exists in Syria and Iraq where millions have lost their homes and are on the move as refugees. Open defecation happens in times of war, although authoritarian governments choose to hide it. Cholera outbreaks and epidemics in both Syria and Iraq, especially in 2015, provide evidence of the poo problem. Therefore, Syria and Iraq should be (at the very least) put in the “No data” category, due to government inability to provide basic sanitation services to millions of people.

I would add that North Korea should be added to the “No data (meaning no reliable data)” category due to recent cholera epidemics and the open use of human poo in North Korean society.

 

How to Make the Map Better?

A passage from the National Geographic article prescribes a poo map solution:

Tiwari moves on: How many people live here? About 1,500, a young man shouts. Tiwari explains that each person daily produces more than half a pound of feces, which means the village annually produces around 300,000 pounds. The crowd murmurs, and Tiwari leads them in a round of mocking applause.

This excerpt links population number to poo production. Changing the map from population percentages to millions of people would highlight more populous countries, as shown in the table (below) from a 2012 WHO/UNICEF report.

table.png

It should be noted that China, which shows as “Less than 1” on the National Geographic map, has a poo problem, with 14 million practicing open defecation. This problem was shockingly evident at the 2016 opening of Shanghai Disneyland. A populous country with a small percentage can lay down leviathan loads of poo, with 14 million Chinese producing an estimated 2.8 billion pounds per year.

DisneyLand Poo

While I admire National Geographic for taking on a topic with unpleasant pictures, the map could have been more effective — mostly by using absolute numbers instead of percentages. Obviously, I had a bit of fun with the topic, but analysis of the map design and data was serious doodie.

 

Georgia’s 6th District: Who Will Win?

Elections elicit different feelings from different people. Winston Churchill once said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” An even stronger quote, reflecting 2016 elections, came from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “…democracy—what a f**king horror show.”

The special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district takes place tomorrow, June 20, pitting Democrat Jon Ossoff against Republican Karen Handel. The winner will replace Republican Tom Price in the U.S. House of Representatives. It looks like Jon Ossoff has a good chance of flipping a red district. Why? A few reasons:

1. The fast-growing suburban Atlanta district is trending less Republican.
2. Health care looms large, which now is the Republican’s Achilles heel.
3. Jon Ossoff offers a clear vision to the electorate on health care and jobs.
4. Karen Handel and her campaign appear more anti-Democrat than visionary.
5. A conservative PAC ad blames Ossoff for the shooting of Scalise. The ad was widely condemned, creating sympathy for Ossoff.

However, the most important factor is that the 6th district favors Ossoff geographically. Jon Ossoff captured most of the district in the April 18 primary (see map below). Only the far north of the district went Republican. Ossoff could lose additional precincts in the west (Cobb County), but should make it up by carrying most of the 6th district precincts in DeKalb and Fulton counties (south and east).
April18Primary Georgia6th

Pundits say the results of this race could cripple Democrats or Republicans. Nonsense! Both parties will produce narratives to spin the outcome and move on. Of course, this is Newt Gingrich’s old district, and he thinks Ossoff is just another “great liberal fantasy.” Fantasy, or Newt’s nightmare, may become reality on Tuesday, June 20.

Siberia: Russia’s Secret to Superpower Status?

Seems Russia is in the news a lot lately for being an international bad boy (as viewed from the West), so here is a quick look at one aspect of Russia’s geopolitical power.

The 21st century saw Russia labeled as an ascending energy superpower (Hill, 2002). Many thought it could break the power of OPEC, making the energy market more competitive. Most of Russia’s oil and natural gas production comes from Siberia, a geopolitical location that can uniquely serve European and Asian markets (see Map 1). The vast majority of oil and natural gas comes from West Siberia, but East Siberia is growing in reserves and production. 

RussiaNatGas
Map 1. Russia’s energy moneymaker: West Siberia.

But it seems Russia has fallen short on superpower status due to lower commodity prices and limited markets. The price of oil rose steadily in the 21st century from about $26 a barrel in 2001 to $150 a barrel in 2008, then the worldwide recession and oversupply brought prices down to $26 a barrel again by 2016 (Macrotrends, 2017). Regarding markets, there was high demand for Russian energy until the 2009 gas crisis and the 2014 Crimea invasion. In January 2009, Russia halted delivery of natural gas to Ukraine due to price disputes, and this disrupted delivery to some 18 European countries (see Map 2) getting natural gas via pipelines from Russia (Reuters, 2009).

EuropePipelines
Map 2. European customers for Russia’s natural gas in 2009.

At that time, many felt the Russian disruption of gas supplies to Europe was a warning to the European Union to not interfere with Ukraine. As a result, many European countries made plans to reduce their dependence on Russian energy. Then European countries imposed sanctions on Russia after it invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. These sanctions put Russia into recession in 2015 (CNBC, 2016). While Russia is still a major supplier of energy, Europe is diversifying its sources of energy to countries such as Algeria, Angola, and the United States (Reuters, 2017).

Lower prices and reduced European markets have hampered Russia’s energy growth and income. Russia looks to the east, especially China, to export Siberian energy; but with pipeline costs high and energy prices low, Russia may reduce exports to China  (Reuters, 2016). Exports to China will increase in 2025 after the Power of Siberia pipeline is completed (see map and image below).

siberiaPipeline

pipeline2
Power of Siberia pipeline under construction.

In the end, Russia needs markets for its energy, especially natural gas, more than China needs Russian energy. Europe continues to move away from Russian energy, and prices are still relatively low as of May 2017, with oil hovering around $50 a barrel — a third of the 2008 price. It would seem that energy superpower status for Russia remains elusive.

 

Power
Can Russia’s natural gas and oil threaten Europe…
PowerIllusion
…or is Russia’s energy power an illusion?

Works Cited

CNBC, These are the only sanctions that Russia cares about, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/16/these-are-the-only-sanctions-that-russia-cares-about.html, Accessed 2 May 2017.

Hill, Fiona. Russia: The 21st Century’s Energy Superpower? Brookings, 1 March 2002, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/russia-the-21st-centurys-energy-superpower. Accessed 3 May 2017.

Macrotrends, Crude Oil Prices ¾ 70 Year Historical Charthttp://www.macrotrends.net/1369/crude-oil-price-history-chart, Accessed 3 May 2017.

Reuters, Exclusive: Russia likely to scale down China gas supply plans, 15 January 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-china-gas-exclusive-idUSKCN0UT1LG,  Accessed  4 May 2017.

Reuters, FACTBOX – 18 countries affected by Russia-Ukraine gas rowhttp://www.reuters.com/article/uk-russia-ukraine-gas-factbox-idUKTRE5062Q520090107?sp=true, Accessed 3 May 2017.

Trump Quake Election 2016

Hillary Clinton should have won the election. The pollsters and most media agreed. Based on Map 1, Democrats would take states in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast, leaving Republicans with not enough votes in the West and South. Of course, I was wrong, and Donald Trump won on November 8. Election night results were compelling and sublimely surreal as media maps turned increasingly Republican red, causing a geopolitical earthquake—or Trump Quake.

Election Prediction as of May 2016
Map 1: Election Prediction as of May 2016

A Brexit Feeling

On November 7, 2016, Trump referred to Election Day at a large rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, by saying, “it’s going to be a very historic day… I think it’s going to be Brexit, plus, plus, plus.” He was right! Like Brexit, this was a rejection election, where the power of the political elites was rejected, and expert media analysis was proved wrong. The election highlighted anti-globalization and anti-immigration feelings, and reflected a surge of right-wing nationalism.

The Midwest Turns to Trump

The U.S. Midwest formed the nation’s industrial core. Pent-up resentment became evident in old and declining manufacturing cities. Trump’s raucous rallies tapped into a deep animosity felt by millions of American workers who felt they were losing their jobs and economic security to globalization and immigration. Ever the consummate showman, Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” campaign captured the hopes and needs of these disaffected people.

Map 2: Trump takes the Midwest and Florida.
Map 2: Trump takes the Midwest and Florida.

Map 2 shows the fruits of Trump’s Midwest appeal. A Republican presidential candidate had not taken Pennsylvania (Pa.) and Michigan (Mich.) since 1988, nor Wisconsin (Wis.) since 1984. Trump garnered enough votes in these states, along with the swing states of Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa, to win the election. Why did Clinton lose? Was it due to Alt-Media, Russians, the FBI, Obamacare, Bernie Sanders, or Jill Stein? Maybe, but essentially 2016 became a change election, and Trump became the change candidate.

  • National vote. Trump won the official electoral vote (304 to 227), but Hillary Clinton got the popular vote (65.8 million to 62.9 million). This is only the second time since 1888 that the popular vote winner was defeated.
  • Wisconsin. Trump won this state by 22,748 votes, with Trump receiving 1.4 million votes versus 1.38 for Clinton. Lower voter turnout in Democratic Milwaukee County alone cost Clinton some 39,000 votes, based on Obama’s 2012 vote. Historically low voter turnout in Wisconsin was blamed on a new voter-ID law and lack of enthusiasm for Clinton’s candidacy.

Obviously, Trump used electoral geography to his advantage, winning the election by converting Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin with a total of 77,744 votes out of 136.6 million votes cast nationwide and getting 46 electoral votes from these 3 states. Both campaigns faced adversity, but troubles lingered for Clinton, whereas Trump dispatched controversies quickly, often with intense media bashing. It appears that many Democratic voters became disillusioned in the final weeks and did not vote for president.

Trump’s election is part of a predictable cycle where an “outsider” from the opposite party wins the White House. Outsider Democrat Bill Clinton defeated Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1992; next, outsider Republican George W. Bush bested Democratic Vice President Al Gore in 2000; then first term Democratic Senator Barack Obama won against veteran Republican Senator John McCain in 2008. American voters often choose change and those who are largely unseasoned and untested in the ways of Washington, DC.

The Night Before Election 2016

I believe in past votes rather than polls in this election. Polls are skewed because of technology limits and ideological slant. Based on past voting trends,

Since 2008, Democrats have done well in statewide elections with greater voter turnout.
Since 2008, Democrats have done well in statewide elections with greater voter turnout.

I can see Hillary Clinton taking Florida and Rubio losing his Senate seat. The election looks to bust records on voter turnout. Looking at the graph (above), I can see how a higher turnout will reward Democrats.

If Hillary takes Florida, then there is no way for Donald Trump to win. I offer the following map as insight on how the electoral map will look on or after Election Day (Nov 8).

A prediction on Clinton's landslide map.
A prediction on Clinton’s landslide map.

Hillary Clinton should build up a large electoral lead, winning the states President Obama won in 2012, plus North Carolina (won by Obama in 2008) and Arizona (never won by Obama). Arizona was targeted by the Clinton campaign due to the large and fast-growing Hispanic population, the close 2012 U.S. Senate election, and current polls. Obama was able to turn red state Indiana to blue in 2008 due to frequent visits. The Clinton family, Bernie Sanders, and others have campaigned in Arizona to drive up the vote for Hillary Clinton. With some 32 field offices, the Clinton campaign looks to register enough new voters to turn Arizona blue on Election Day; in comparison, the Trump campaign does not have a significant ground operation in Arizona.

Tomorrow we should know whether this geographic analysis is correct–or if I have missed something major. Oh yes, I also predict that Democrats will pick up 4 to 7 Senate seats. Wish me (and the country) luck!