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.

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!

A Month Before the Election!

October 8 is already here, where does the time go! Time to update the map. The electoral geography shown on the map (below) is built on the same premises as my last prediction on August 29—large turnout, disciplined Clinton campaign, chaotic Trump campaign, media surprises, and close polls. Polls will continue to roller coaster, based on the latest actual or perceived scandals rocking the Clinton or Trump campaigns.

The electoral map the morning after Election Day.
The electoral map the morning after Election Day.

This map does not feature any swing states, and it is largely based on recent voting trends—and not so much on erratic and subjective polls. A key factor is an anticipated voter surge that we have not seen since 2008.

Based on this map, Hillary Clinton should win with 369 electoral votes, versus some 169 for Donald Trump. If this is correct, then Clinton will get almost 100 more electoral votes than the 270 needed to become President and 200 more electoral votes than Trump.

On August 29, I explained why Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional district would go for Clinton. However, it looks increasingly likely that Missouri and Indiana could go blue also.

MISSOURI. This state could possibly go to Clinton. Why?

Recent statewide votes in Missouri.
Recent statewide votes in Missouri.

INDIANA. This state could also go blue. Why?

Recent statewide votes in Indiana.
Recent statewide votes in Indiana.

Other purported swing states, like Arizona and Georgia, should stay in the Republican column, even with their large minority populations. Democrats have not won statewide in these states in recent years. It is unlikely that the Clinton campaign could convert solid red states, even if the Trump campaign collapses, because of intense conservative propaganda concerning her (and Bill Clinton’s) actual or perceived sins. In essence, Republican sinners are redeemable, whereas Democrats are not.

Of course, a large win for Clinton in November will not end the controversy, and partisan attacks will continue as Republicans look to 2018 and 2020, following the pattern after Obama’s election in 2008. Speaking of 2018, Virginia may have a large part to play in Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. A Clinton-Kaine win in November will require Virginia Governor McAuiliffe to appoint a successor to Senator Tim Kaine. The odds on favorite seems to be Representative Bobby Scott.

Does Geography Favor Clinton or Trump?

Candles cast light on election.
Candles cast light on election.

In honor of my son’s birthday and before things get too busy at college, I thought to put down a few words—and a map—predicting the presidential election on November 8. These humble predictions are built on a few premises:

  • Voter turnout will be high, averaging 60% or more of eligible voters.
  • The Clinton campaign maintains discipline and resolves computer vulnerabilities. With two successful senatorial campaigns under her belt, she presides over a fourth presidential campaign.
  • The Trump campaign continues its chaotic rampage, alienating key states and ethnic groups. He is a political novice, which appeals to those who despise the “political elite” but is disastrous in a presidential campaign.
  • The media should harass both candidates relentlessly (in their ad revenue race).
  • The polls paint a roller-coaster race, so pollsters can make money (plus polls are increasingly partisan and inaccurate).
States likely to vote for Clinton and Trump on November 8, 2016.
States likely to vote for Clinton and Trump on November 8, 2016.

The electoral geography currently favors Clinton, and she should win with at least 348 electoral votes, versus some 140 for Trump. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to become U.S. President. A brief analysis of key states on the map:

Virginia. Details on why Virginia will go to Clinton can be found in my recent blog, Is Virginia a Swing State?

Florida. Trump has managed to offend the 3.2 million African Americans and 4.8 million Hispanics in the state. Even Cuban Americans, who normally vote Republican, will likely defect. Clinton has 33 more field offices in Florida than Trump. Independent voters should align with the larger Democratic electorate to win Florida for Clinton.

Ohio. At this time, Republican Governor John Kasich does not endorse Trump, meaning a divided GOP in Ohio. With some 35 field offices in the state, Clinton has more than twice the number of Trump offices.  Clinton won her primary in Ohio, but Trump lost to Kasich. All this adds to the likelihood that Clinton will garner the state, as Obama did in 2008 and 2012.

NorthCarolina BathroomCaptionNorth Carolina. Republican Governor Pat McCrory, deeply unpopular due to the “bathroom bill,” is in a close race for reelection; also, a federal appeals court overturned a new voter ID law. Dismissal of the voter ID law would help Democrats get more votes and a larger victory margin. Another close race pits Republican incumbent Senator Burr against Democratic challenger, Deborah Ross, which could determine control of the U.S. Senate. Currently, Clinton has 26 field offices in North Carolina to Trump’s 1 office.

Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Clinton should earn one electoral vote from Omaha, with its large minority population, as outlined in Electoral Geography 2016. The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, is a key Clinton supporter.

 

States Too Close to Call (Swing States)

A generic Republican candidate would win the states below, but Donald Trump is a decidedly unconventional candidate and his campaign’s missteps could cost him a number of previously red states, as shown on the map.

Missouri. This state is a target for the Clinton campaign, as it has a history of electing Democrats statewide. The Obama campaign lost Missouri in 2008 by only 4,000 votes. Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, grew up in Missouri, and the state could be won with a large turnout in urban areas; however, this is where Rush Limbaugh country meets Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon is popular, but neighboring Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback is the most unpopular governor in the nation due to conservative policies adversely affecting the Kansas economy–this will likely sway voters in Kansas City and western Missouri.

Montana. Obama lost this state by some 10,000 votes in 2008. Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is highly popular and is running for reelection. Clinton’s campaign organization and endorsements in the state are impressive, whereas Trump seems to be taking Montana for granted.

Indiana. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, could help keep this a red state; however, Democrat Evan Bayh is leading in the Senate race. In addition, the governor’s race is tight, meaning voter turnout should be high, which favors Democrats. Obama won this state in 2008 but lost it in 2012, when turnout was lower.

Arizona and Georgia should stay in the Republican column, even with their large minority populations, but polls show that the race is close in both states.

It’s All About Geography

From a geopolitical point of view, Hillary Clinton will likely achieve an electoral landslide, based on past presidential votes, statewide votes, campaign experience in critical states, and the strategic distribution of field offices. National polls, state polls, pundits, and partisan politics may portray this as a close election, but it should be a blue wave.

Is Virginia a Swing State?

 As a Virginian, I doubted whether my state was truly a swing state as purported by pundits. The term “swing state” can be a bit fuzzy, so I came up with a definition, which is based on recent statewide election results and trends (2008 to 2015). Based on this rational, the Commonwealth of Virginia seems to be turning blue.

Democrats won two presidential elections (2008 & 2012), three U.S. Senate elections (2008, 2012 & 2014), and the governor, lt. governor, and attorney general races (2013). Republicans last won statewide in 2009. Virginia should be even bluer in 2016 because presidential elections increase voter turnout, which is traditionally good for Democrats. Only 41% of eligible Virginians voted in 2014, but this is expected to surge to more than 70% in the 2016 election.

A Blue Virginia?

A blue (Democratic) Virginia makes things tougher for Republicans. The President of the United States is elected based on an accumulation of state electoral votes, known as the Electoral College (see map). The trouble for Donald Trump is that the reliably Republican states in the South and West add up to only 170 electoral votes compared to 264 votes for dependably Democratic states. The winner needs 270 electoral votes to become president. Trump would need all 8 swing states (104 votes) shown on the map, which is a long shot.

Map of electoral votes as predicted on June 25, 2016
Map of electoral votes as predicted on June 25, 2016

Of Virginia Primaries & Wine

Hillary Clinton garnered 503,358 votes (64% of the vote) in the Democratic primary in March. By comparison, in the Republican primary, Donald Trump won 355,960 votes (34% of the vote). Trump will fly into Virginia frequently during the campaign. Yes, he needs more votes, but he also has Virginia properties, including Trump Winery, featuring the largest vineyard in Virginia. The value of Trump property here appears to be greatly enhanced by his candidacy–some think adding value to the Trump brand is a driving reason for his presidential run.

Trump Winery in all its glory, including VIP guests.
Trump Winery in all its glory, including VIP guests.

 

Raising Kaine

Of course, Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine is being considered as Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee. Raising Kaine’s profile helps Democrats in Virginia, even if he is not the eventual nominee. Democrat Donald McEachin will likely take the 4th Congressional seat from Republicans due to a court-ordered redraw of Representative Bobby Scott’s 3rd district, which was described as a racial gerrymander drawn by Republicans. I should add that Rep. Bobby Scott is on the short list to replace the senator if Kaine should become Vice President Tim Kaine. Bobby Scott, who is Black, would be a perfect antidote to Tea Party favorite, Senator Tim Scott, from South Carolina.

Senator Tim Kaine stands out (as well as up) in the U.S. Senate.
Senator Tim Kaine stands out (as well as up) in the U.S. Senate.

Virginia Geopolitics 2016

Virginia Democrats will increase their numbers in the U.S. House of Representatives. Other than taking the 4th district, Jane Dittmar could gain the 5th Congressional district for Democrats. Also, first-term Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock is considered vulnerable in Northern Virginia’s 10th district, where the voting history of the district favors Comstock, but urbanization and minority population growth make it a promising target for Democrats.

No—Virginia is not a swing state in 2016—it actually seems to be a newfound and brilliant blue state.