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.


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.