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.

 

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.

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.