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Who will win the 2020 US presidential election?

This was originally published on 3rd November, 2020, and republished here on 4th January, 2022.

First things first, a confession: up until mid-October I had no intention of writing this article. That may come as a surprise to those who recall my extraordinary accuracy in 2016 (at least compared to the pundits and so-called experts), but in truth that campaign was a rare moment when the politics of the United States did not bore me to tears.

It was, I believed — and still believe — a once-in-a-lifetime moment, a century-defining event that needed to be followed and commented upon because of the way it was going to shape our lifetimes. By their nature, once-in-a-lifetime events only happen once in a person’s life, so I was fully prepared for the obvious to happen at this election, and let it pass by without comment.

But by last month, I couldn’t avoid noticing that the narrative of the campaign from political and media experts seemed to be running in the complete opposite direction to what logic would dictate it should. More than that, the narrative seemed to be a carbon-copy of the 2016 narrative from around the same time in the campaign.

(Image: EPA/Shawn Thew)

It would be one thing if this narrative had come from readily observable phenomena following the 2016 election, which was an event even the ‘experts’ had to admit they were blindsided by and which therefore should have forced them to change their understanding of the political realm. But instead, we saw polls indicating the combined weight of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, running an essentially amped-up but frail and uninspiring version of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, were leading over Trump/Pence by double digits, and the media following the polls writing obituaries for the Trump administration for months on end, in a way that sounded exactly the same as the obituaries they were writing for his campaign in 2016.

This could only mean one of two things: the electorate that Trump had breathed new life into at the last election has abandoned him in droves and the wider American voting population was truly eager to return to business as normal, or the entire narrative of his impending doom was a complete lie, created to further the agenda of parties that want to see him fail even more desperately than they did in 2016.

Both are possible, but which is more plausible?

The Democratic Party has learnt nothing

Back when the media wasn’t treating Biden as an elderly gentleman-hero, there were whispers going around the the Democratic leadership wasn’t too fussed about losing the election, perhaps because they felt they had other means to remove Trump from office, or because they felt that another loss would allow the generational shift that the party has been going through to come into full bloom.

Over the course of 2020, though, those whispers completely evaporated, in favour of throwing absolutely everything they could at a President Trump, which was, to them, the same as presidential candidate Trump, only worse because he held real power. While they’ve avoided some of the attacks they tried in 2016 — such as those about his foreign policy, which would actually give him ammunition to point out his significant foreign policy successes — they have been able to double down on three things: his character, his relationships, and his responsibility for crises.

Despite his weakness during the primaries, the Democratic Party has thrown everything behind Biden. (Image: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

The theory is that by honing in on the president’s perceived weaknesses, they will be able to draw out enough voters who are sick of him, and of hearing about him, and those voters will turn to Joe Biden to return them to the ‘normal’ of the Bush/Clinton/Obama eras. To amplify this strategy, the campaign has also doubled down on making it socially undesirable to support Trump, both by making him out to be a truly evil individual, and also by suggesting that those that support him are complicit in causing deaths, and have a habit of being aggressive and dangerous to safety, freedom and democracy.

All of this, however, indicates that the Democratic Party’s leadership has learned nothing from the last election. In theory, Biden is the candidate to reach out to the disaffected, rust belt Trump voter, but in practice he is a man who has been in politics for nearly 50 years with little to show those same people. If anything, Biden being the best choice to reach them shows up how weak the Democratic Party is on a national level. It has, like many parties of its ilk around the world, almost completely abandoned their old working-class conservative base, and Biden himself appeals more to suburbanites than he does to the working class he’s allegedly representative of.

After all, many of the people that they are trying to reach and bring back to the party of their ancestors are the very folks that are massively supporting Trump, because the Democrats have spent four years suggesting (implicitly and overtly) that they — and the man who has reached out to them and quite often improved their lives — are morally reprehensible.

I have written before about how the Democrats ended up abandoning what was once their core constituency. The article found at that link remains worth reading today, but the core of the Democratic Party’s issue stems from their long-term election strategy, which was predicated on building a ‘rainbow coalition’ of voters from every ‘minority’ demographic, which would one day form a voting majority and ensure Democratic presidencies forever. This strategy blew up in 2016 because the Democrats assumed the working-class conservatives would be too stupid to realise that they had been duped and were no longer represented by the party of their forefathers.

Fred Dutton, who helped create the modern Democratic Party strategy. (Image: LA Times)

It is abundantly clear that rather than trying to win back that constituency, the party has instead chosen to completely embrace the McGovern/Dutton strategy. This is, as I mention in that piece, exactly what I expected them to do because it is all they know, even though it has a poor election record and very clearly did not work against the current president. They cannot do differently because the party leadership has no experience of any other strategy. Worse, the Sanders/socialist wing of the party has mostly embraced this strategy as well, which suggests that they, too, are rudderless and simply don’t know what else to do, other than allowing another four years of Trump (which they find unconscionable).

This isn’t to say that the Republicans have got it together. In fact, much of the GOP has given little indication that they really understand what’s going along either, but if Trump helps them win more seats in Congress then they’ll go along for the ride while it last. There is also no question that in a country of so many millions of voters, there will be people voting for Joe Biden just to make the Trump train go away. They are people who don’t really care about politics or anything like that. All they really want is a quiet, peaceful life, where the late night shows are light-hearted, the sports aren’t political, the shops are open and they themselves are happy and can keep friends who they don’t agree with.

But that group is a minority, because for every voter thinking that way, there will be more who place the blame for the chaos of the last four years not on the president, but on his opponents. That includes not only the Democratic Party, but also their fellow-travellers in the media.

The media has their own agenda

One of the most significant myths of the last century is that media can be ‘unbiased’, operating without an agenda other than to give us ‘news’. This myth serves media organisations very well, allowing them to pretend that they are above politics and society, able to report on everything that matters (which they also decide) in a way that is completely fair and honest.

The reality is that media organisations are driven by money. To survive, they need people viewing and listening to their product. This means that their primary objective is to report events in a way that grabs the most attention, and select the events to report on that are the most likely to grab that attention as well. They need stories that are sensational, that make people angry, that offer something new, and that can be described simply.

Trump is a natural fit for all those categories, and criticising Trump fits the bill even better — not only because it will make his opponents angry, but because it will also make his supporters angry. Rinse and repeat for four years, and you get massive ratings non-stop!

In person or on your screen, Trump gets eyeballs.

But it would be wrong to characterise the media as solely driven by money. The main reason why most media organisations cannot be ‘unbiased’ is because they are full of people, and people are full of biases. We all operate in our day-to-day lives according to our biases, from basic biases like wanting to stay alive, to more complex ones, such as those regarding our political beliefs. It’s no different for reporters, editors, and all the backroom staff they work with to create articles to read, or reports to watch and listen to.

However, it is invariably the case that news organisations will take a particular line — usually reflecting the biases of those highest up the chain — with which angle to come at stories with, or whether to report them at all. This line will then usually flow down to the on-camera talent and their supporting staff. These people then chat with their colleagues from rival networks and websites on the campaign trail or in the media centre, and usually stick to the people they share opinions with. Also joining the mix, especially in Washington DC, are congressmen, staffers, lobbyists and professors, who repeat this process and exacerbate it further and further. Professions often become interchangable, with journalists becoming staffers, politicans becoming professors, campaign managers becoming lobbyists.

Many of these people get to know each other quite well — including sharing their beliefs. (Image: Getty Images)

Eventually, this incestuous system creates a bubble, and this bubble looks towards anything that affirms its own worldview as true and believable, and anything that rejects its worldview as wrong and even evil. Most members of this bubble today are liberals, who ascribe to liberalism good. They may differ on the kind of liberalism — Democrat identifiers will be more social liberals, whereas ‘traditional’ Republicans are more your Paul Ryan-type classic liberals — but both have much more in common than they do with, say, Donald Trump and his supporters.

Therefore, to reaffirm their own worldview in the face of crushing, impossible defeat, the bubble looks towards something that can be claimed as objective fact and used to shape news and opinion. And nothing fits the bill better than opinion polls.

Polls create fake news

I have more sympathy for polling firms than some other people do. Polling is much harder than it used to be. When landlines were the only way of polling people, firms could expect to have a 50% response rate. These days, that number is more like 2%. This makes polling a much more costly exercise, and also requiring more creativity and/or bloody-minded persistence in order to be accurate.

Both big and small, old and new polling firms aren’t getting involved as much this election cycle. The failure of the system last time around has left many terrified of what happens if they get it wrong again, and as badly or worse. But the circumstances of voters in 2020 make those same firms even more likely to have a big miss than they did even in 2016. The kinds of voters most likely to be oversampled are even more likely now to be the ones responding to the polls. The kind of social pressure being placed on certain voters is making it even harder to find them, or for them to be honest, especially in live calls and non-anonymous questioning.

Part of the creativity required from pollsters to try and get reasonable results leads them to asking other questions, and its notable that when looking at pretty much any data other than headline opinion polls, it’s Trump who is ahead. Who do voters generally think will win? Trump. Who are their neighbours voting for? Trump does significantly better, which suggests that people are more likely to admit that their neighbours will vote Trump even when they themselves will do likewise. Registered voters of which party approve of their candidate more? Republicans.

The question of whether voters think they are better off than four years ago has a good record for incumbents, and Trump has the best result on record. Reported enthusiasm to vote, along with unofficial statistics like yard signs, biscuit sales and rally numbers all point to Trump. And, in terms of real data, the polling gap in predicted early voting to actual early voting points to Trump, as does Helmut Norpoth’s primary model, which has an exceptional record.

Barack Obama has been scrambling to encourage people to vote over the last week. (Image: Andrew Harnik/AP)

This is why, when looking more closely at the campaign, one sees signs that neither side believes the media/polling narrative at all. It’s well known that Trump and his team believe polls are ‘fake news’, but Joe Biden’s account on Twitter has also repeatedly told followers not to trust the polls, and the Democratic staff/supporter strategy has involved a lot of repeating comments along the lines of ‘don’t be overconfident, go out and vote!’.

Given that we know that a) registered Democrats are much less likely to vote on election day, in person and b) are much less enthusiastic in the support of Biden than Trump voters are of their candidate, this indicates that the Biden team is genuinely concerned that they have nothing like the kind of lead the polling was indicating (if they have a lead at all).

When I began writing this article on the 10th October, Biden was up by around 8 points on 2-candidate polling aggregates. Unsurprisingly, within the week a host of polls came in showing that the race was ‘tightening’, an event so predictable that I wrote this sentence before said polls even came in. I did not have to change a word of this paragraph, and yet it is just as true on the date of publication as it was on the date of writing.

Every day, the polls have gotten closer and closer, particularly in the state rather than national polling. Now, the day before the election, state polling in the most significant, most regularly polled states — Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania — has narrowed to the point where Trump is often ahead. The idea that voters have completely changed their minds in a matter of weeks to justify this kind of shift is an absurdity.

(Image: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

What is far more likely is that the above issues have led some pollsters in completely the wrong direction, and now as real numbers are coming in that suggest that having Biden +17 in Wisconsin is a bit silly, they’re having to mirror their polls closer and closer to Trump. It’s notable that the most accurate polling firms from recent years have had much smaller movements, though the fact that they are also moving better for Trump shows that they, too, struggle to nail Trump’s support because of how difficult it is to poll people accurately.

These more accurate firms are usually not connected to a media organisation or a university, and as such they rely entirely on having an accurate record in order to receive funding from clients in future. By contrast, firms which are connected to a news organisation are just as much trying to create news as they are trying to be accurate, and if that news organisation exists in the kind of bubble I mentioned before, you can see how that is a recipe for disaster.

A number of firms that would normally publish last-day polls have gone completely silent, which strongly suggests they do not believe what they are putting out. Some other pollsters and forecasters, such as polling gatekeeper Nate Silver, have suddenly begun to hedge their bets, even though they have spent months talking up how difficult it would be for Trump to win, and pooh-poohing pollsters that have dared to say the election is close or leaning to Trump is certain key states.

Reality is biting, and it could well turn out that the entire media/polling narrative was an total fraud, showing that the Democratic Party, their partners in the media and the pollsters employed by them both have no interest in giving us, the general public, factual information. They run to their own drum beat, push their own agenda, and want to convince us to come along for the ride with them.

How the election plays out

Rather than going through every state, let’s first acknowledge that this election is going to be very similar to the last one, just as the campaign has been. Both candidates know that, and voters know that too. Therefore, if Trump is going to lose, we have to identify which states he’s going to lose to Biden that will give the latter the presidency. Here’s the map as it stood in 2016:

Let’s get some of the more wild suggestions out of the way first. Texas is not turning blue. There are long-term trends which suggest it may one day become that way, as the cities become larger and larger, but this isn’t because of first-generation Texans. Polling routinely shows that it is third-generation or further Texans who are more likely to vote Democrat, even though their grandparents were Republicans through and through. It is the people moving to Texas from California, New York, Illinois, Oregon and the like that are backing the Republicans, because they’re escaping what they see as bastions of liberalism.

(Image: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Likewise, Georgia is a non-event this time around, which is why few of the larger pollsters have bothered to go there. Many have tried to talk it up as a ‘swing state’, but it very unlikely to be close. Biden’s campaign does not appeal to the voters that he would need to bring out, and the polling firms that have him ahead have some of the worst records in the past decade (such as Quinnipiac). The early voting figures all show that Trump’s support there is at least as solid as last time. On the flipside, Virginia is not going to turn red. While Trump will no doubt increase his vote share in the rural areas of the state, mostly in the west (as he did last time), the DC suburbs in the north of the state are not shrinking, and they will heavily favour Biden.

Georgia and Virginia stand at opposite ends of the same equation, so when you hear about them being ‘in play’, don’t believe it unless there is very solid evidence behind it.

Similarly, Colorado is out of the question for Trump. Though it may be one of many states where Biden’s numbers are lower than expected in college counties (due to universities closing up and dispersing college students back to their homes, where they are less likely to be swept up in get-out-the-vote efforts), Trump would have to overcome a fairly liberal mountain, which has grown ever since the legalisation of cannabis there a few years ago. The rural and working class voters he appeals to, even in neighbouring states, don’t have the same kind of reach in Colorado.

Now with those out of the way, let’s get to the meat of the matter.

Iowa We’re starting with the Hawkeye State for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is considered a swing state — though an atypical one — and as such it may be a reflection of other similar states demographically, such as Ohio and Wisconsin. Secondly, one of the most reliable polling firms in the nation, Ann Selzer for the Des Moines Register, has put Donald Trump ahead by 7 points in the state, which is the same margin she gave him in 2016 (he ended up winning the state by 9).

This is significant not only because it shows Trump has real support in certain demographic groups that are being underrepresented in polling, but also because Selzer in the first pollster with an uncontroversial reputation to put Trump ahead, and by a significant margin at that. Previously, the firms that had been suggesting the race in swing states was close and/or favouring Trump were all ones that could be disregarded as Republican, partisan or one-trick polling firms. Selzer cannot be dismissed in this way, which has left others to scramble to justify how she could’ve ended up with a different result to what they expected.

We can expect Trump to win Iowa.

Arizona and North Carolina These two states, along with Georgia, have been to Democrats what Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were to Republicans until 2016. Always hoping, but never able to make it happen. Unlike the latter trio, these states are not direct neighbours, and one (Arizona) is on the other side of the country. But every election cycle seems to move them a little closer to the Democrats, or at least threatens to.

John McCain's influence on the politics of Arizona shouldn’t be underestimated. (Image: Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Arizona belongs to a certain kind of Republican that Trump doesn’t necessarily have a lot in common with. There are, to this day, whispers that the GOP establishment in the state remains more loyal to the late John McCain and his worldview, and would be quite happy to make life as difficult as possible for Trump, including sending out uninspiring Senate candidates and not challenging any potentially suspect moves by Democrats.

Nevertheless, Trump has been making significant polling gains in the state and, crucially, those gains are coming through in polling for Republican Senator Martha McSally, who is up for re-election. This is likely a reflection of suburban voters, especially women, who preferred a McCain-style politician finally opening up to pollsters about their support for Trump.

North Carolina has been a constant battleground between the two major parties, not only for getting votes, but also for the process of the election. Democrats regularly accuse state Republicans of suppressing votes, while Republicans return fire with accusations of voter fraud, which have only been exacerbated by the deadline for absentee ballots at this election being a whole nine days after election day. Pushing all that to one side, though, allows us to see that the numbers coming out from early voting are very similar to those of 2016, and maybe even a little better for Trump than last time, when he won the Tar Heel State by nearly 4 points.

Both these states would require Biden to make similar gains in order to win them over, but where are these gains meant to come from when they’re not showing up in state polling or in early voting? Until proven otherwise, there simply isn’t enough reason to think that these places will finally go blue. There are still enough suburban Republicans willing to vote for Trump in Arizona, and not enough of the McGovern ‘coalition’ willing to vote Biden in North Carolina.

Florida and Ohio My 2016 prediction made a significant point regarding these two bellwether states: Ohio predicts the presidency, and Florida is predicted by the presidency. Since 1896, Ohio has only twice not predicted the presidency: 1944 (a wartime election which gave Franklin D. Roosevelt a fourth term), and 1960. Trump won this state by 8 points in 2016, after polling had him only slightly ahead. His early gains were a strong indication that the rest of the rust belt and the mid-west would be turning out for him and, notably, few seriously think Biden has a chance in the Buckeye State this time around. Accordingly, Trump removed ads from Iowa and Ohio a few weeks ago to spend elsewhere, and the Biden campaign has spent little time there.

Ohio has been a bellwether state because it represents the median of the United States (ie. ‘middle America’). It leans a little Republican, but not too much. It has an urban/rural divide, but not too much. No one city overwhelms the rest of the state. Whichever candidate enthuses Ohio the most will also enthuse the average American the most across the whole nation. This differentiates it from Florida, which is why it is more predictive than the Sunshine State, as Florida represents the whole of America via each of its constituent ‘parts’. The south-east, around Miami, is very different to the panhandle in the north-west, which is different to the Orlando suburbs, and so on.

You could always split the difference and live here, in the small town of Florida, Ohio. (Image: Wikipedia)

Each section of Florida plays out differently, but because each reflects different areas of the nation, you can comfortably expect Florida to go whichever way the election as a whole goes. This is why the state was so tight in 2000 — the country as a whole was split evenly, so naturally Florida was as well. The problem for Joe Biden is that of all the states that are considered battlegrounds, Florida is giving Trump some of his best results in polling and in early voting calculations, and polling firms are barely bothering to cover Ohio, even though it is a bellwether (as it’s also got good numbers for Trump).

It is hard to imagine that the Ohio/Florida maxim will come undone at this election. Perhaps one day Ohio will reach a point where it no longer represents middle America, but there hasn’t been any significant shift that indicates that time is now, while Florida will always be important thanks to its unique makeup. Biden must either win both of these or, at the very least, break the maxim in half, because if Trump does win both it is a short step to him confirming the maxim as true once more. But where does Biden have a shot? He’s virtually inactive in Ohio, and Democrats in Miami are exceptionally concerned about turnout, because early voting margins are thinning and Democratic voters are much less likely to turn out on election day.

The absolutely desperate need that the Biden campaign has to have to win these states is clear once you see how the map looks if Trump does indeed win them:

Now, one might argue that this overstates Trump’s strength. But how so? Trump is leading polling in Ohio and North Carolina, and is only 1 aggregate point behind in Arizona and Florida which, given that includes at least a couple of totally unreliable pro-Biden polls with poor records (eg. Quinnipiac +5 in FL), might as well be a Trump lead, and that’s in polling which, as discussed, is very likely understating his vote to a greater extent than last time. The early voting split by party also shows a much narrower lead for Democrats than their staff were hoping and expecting, with far more Republicans preparing to vote on election day.

There is no indication here that Biden is going to crush anything in these states, but these are the states he needs in order to demonstrate he is going to win. If he can’t win these, the alleged national polling lead evaporates, because the demographics of these states are going to be reflected elsewhere as well.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s just get a couple of districts out the way next.

Maine and Nebraska’s 2nd Districts These two states split their electoral college votes by district as well as overall state winner. Trump won both of these in 2016, with Maine’s 2nd being considered among the most rural districts in the entire country, and Nebraska’s 2nd being an urban and suburban district based around Omaha. The difference between them can be seen in the history — Trump was the first Republican to win the Maine district in nearly 30 years, whereas he won the Nebraska district by a much thinner margin than Mitt Romney did in 2012.

Both have polls giving Biden a slight edge, but given the problems that pollsters are having, it is not difficult to imagine that those problems are being exacerbated in small districts that are either a) hard to reach and/or b) affected by social desirability. Trump had a large margin of victory in Maine’s 2nd in 2016, and I expect that will be repeated. Nebraska’s 2nd is harder to gauge, but for the sake of the argument we will say that Trump will just hold on to it, given that Clinton couldn’t take it last time.

Now let’s look at the map again, and observe what these districts going to Trump again does to Biden’s chances.

All Trump needs at this point is any of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Nevada with New Hampshire.

This is why the Biden campaign has been so focussed on Pennsylvania (he’s the kid from Scranton!), with a bit of time in Michigan as well. Clinton won Minnesota, Nevada and New Hampshire, so the Democratic Party is hoping that they don’t have to worry about them, and concentrate entirely on stopping Trump’s run in the rust belt this time. But this strategy relies on Trump slipping up in an Arizona or Florida or North Carolina, and not winning more than one of the states he nabbed last time from the stranglehold the Democrats had over them.

Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin It is entirely conceivable that either candidate could win all three of these. The polls suggest one thing, everything else suggests the other. It is also very much possible that these will be split between the candidates. That doesn’t help Biden, though, even if we were to give him Arizona (for example), unless he could restrict Trump to only winning Wisconsin. The problem with that, though, is that these states are matched, and what happens in one tends to reflect (and be reflected) in their neighbouring states.

When looking at neighbouring states in the above map, the first thing that should stand out is Michigan. Michigan was only a Trump victory by 11,000 votes last time (compared to the smaller Wisconsin’s 23,000 and the larger Pennsylvania’s 44,000), which would suggest that it is the easiest to win back for Biden. But looks can be deceiving, because while Trump made gains over Romney in working class areas of the state, he lost votes in some of the more suburban areas, with middle class Republicans. This is true across the country, but is especially notable in Michigan when considering areas like Grand Rapids.

These voters are showing signs that they may be swayed this time around, though it is no guarantee. Furthermore, Biden is not looking any stronger than Clinton in areas like Detroit, and is arguably actually significantly weaker among African Americans in particular (which is much less likely to show up in headline polling, but is coming through once you dig a little deeper), which means that the advent of early voting in the state may not be as much of a boon for Democrats as they were expecting.

No-one’s really sure whether John James, GOP candidate for the Senate in Michigan, is running ahead or behind Trump. (Image: Cory Morse/MLive)

Those suburban Republicans could certainly have a significant impact in Wisconsin. The south-east of the state is home to the “WOW counties” — Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington — which are to the north and west of Milwaukee. Trump lost some 30,000 votes compared to Romney in this area, even though Clinton didn’t make any gains from Obama.

These are likely to be partly responsible for the polling gap in 2016 and this time as well, where voters are saying they will vote for Trump’s opponent in order to be socially desirable, but in reality they either don’t vote or vote for Trump after all. Wisconsin as a whole is a bit of a mix — one part Michigan, one part Minnesota, one part Iowa. Whatever happens in those three states will tell you what happens in Wisconsin, and vice versa. That should concern the Biden campaign, because in none of those states is there any significant move towards the Democrats from last time.

If Michigan goes to Trump again, Wisconsin will follow. If Michigan votes for Biden, Wisconsin may or may not follow. Biden needs Michigan to swing back enough to the Democrats to overcome the ‘Iowa’ part of Wisconsin, and hope that Minnesota isn’t also moving more towards Trump. And then, he needs Pennsylvania.

The Keystone State has been the centre of the campaign, with Trump hosting rally after rally there, and Biden following suit once his campaign realised he was in trouble that the public polling wasn’t showing. Biden’s comments on oil and gas have also seriously damaged him in areas of the state that were already leaning towards Trump, and it’s in this state where we see so clearly that Biden’s real appeal is in the urban and suburban areas.

We know that Trump voters are going to turn out in huge numbers on election day, as the state does not have in-person early voting. We know that Philadelphia is the cornerstone of the Democratic strategy in the state. Because of this, the result will mostly come down to what happens in the suburbs of Philly, and to a lesser extent how much additional turnout Trump can get across the rural parts of the state.

It’s also virtually guaranteed that the state’s outcome will end up in the Supreme Court, even if it’s clear from other results what the final outcome of the election is. Both parties will be using allegations against each (much like those in North Carolina) to delegitimise the result not only in the state, but across the nation. But it is too difficult for us to try and predict whether fraud or suppression will make an extra difference here than it would in any other election, so let’s just assume that everything is as it appears. Who wins Pennsylvania?

(Image: RSBN)

As may now seem familiar, Biden is simply not racking up support in the places he needs it. Clinton wasn’t able to win Pennsylvania with lower support in Philadelphia than Obama got. Biden appears to be getting even less support than Clinton from the same groups. Trump, meanwhile, appears to be bringing out even more low-propensity voters than last time which, while not significant when looking at an individual county, adds up when the entire state is full of said people.

Generally I avoid pointing to specific campaign moments as being crucial to deciding votes, but Biden’s unforced error on eliminating oil is exactly the kind of thing that would convince someone who doesn’t normally vote in a working class area to go out and re-elect the candidate who supports him keeping his job.

While Michigan and Wisconsin aren’t quite the same as Pennsylvania, they do reflect a similar kind of voter. If Biden can’t bring them out in the most historically Democratic-friendly state of the three, there is little reason to think he can do so in the other two either. This is presumably why the Biden camp is sending Kamala Harris to Detroit tomorrow, as a kind of plea to typical Democratic voters to go to the ballot box.

Many of them haven’t voted yet despite the party’s enormous early voting campaign, and they actually may not be voting at all. Furthermore, these are the states where Trump will receive significant support from non-Republican registered voters, even though plenty have already changed their party affiliation in the past four years. If Biden can’t grab Pennsylvania, it’s over. If he can, he still needs something else.

Minnesota, Nevada and New Hampshire Now at this point, the map is looking pretty similar to 2016. In fact, it would be entirely reasonable to say that I should call it a day right here, give the last three states to Biden, and be done with it all. After all, if the same election is going to be run twice, we shouldn’t be surprised when the same result happens twice as well.

But even discounting the mathematical unlikeliness of the same result happening twice, it also seems to me that the three remaining states are the real toss-ups, all very different to each other, but united by the fact that while none would be a surprise Trump win, they all have varying degrees of “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Minnesota was famously the only state won by Democratic candidate Walter Mondale in 1984 against Ronald Reagan, and has not picked a Republican since 1972. Nevada’s Clark County has a habit of turning out in huge numbers for Democrats, regardless of how well the Republicans do elsewhere in the state. And New Hampshire tends to do its own thing, regardless of what the rest of the nation thinks.

Frustratingly for prognosticators like myself, the state with the most to prove, Minnesota, also has the most reasons to suggest it will flip, whereas the state that most regularly flips, New Hampshire, has the least reason to do so. New Hampshire also robbed me of a perfect record last time by less than 3,000 votes, which makes it personal (though obviously this is a one-way feeling).

Why would you care about the opinion of some random of the internet when you live here? (Image: Britannica/Mark R. Ducharme)

I think ultimately, it will be Nevada — the piggy in the middle — that stays blue. Trump hasn’t been able to seriously campaign there, and the voting can be quite unusually spread across the state. There is every possibility that the usual get-out-the-vote doesn’t work in Clark County like it normally would for Democrats, but if it’s tight I think Biden will just pip it, rather than Trump. New Hampshire, on the other hand, will probably just turn the other way, not by much, but given the margin last time it only takes some college students to stay home/go back to their home states to change the result.

This leaves Minnesota as, I think, the truest toss-up. Trump tried to have a large rally there, but government restrictions limited the crowd size in the venue (though not outside of it). His campaign has poured money into it. Minneapolis has been ground zero for the unrest that’s taken place throughout the year. Iron Range, a historically working class Democratic region which was the only area of the state outside of Minneapolis to vote for Clinton, is going to shift to Trump in large numbers, but will Minneapolis suburbia turn out for him? Will the unrest throughout the year turn them toward Biden instead? What matters most to a voter in St. Paul come the 3rd of November?

Trump often says that if he had made one last rally in Minnesota in 2016, he’d have won the state. He’s probably right, and this is quite possibly the best chance he has of winning it. If he wins Iowa and Wisconsin, and he gains back some of suburban vote he lost last time along with getting the Iron Range onside, I think that will be enough to tip the scales his way in the North Star State, leaving us with a final map like this:

This election is make-or-break for many. The movement that exploded onto the world stage in 2016, in Britain first and then into the United States, is still viewed by many in the political and media elite as backwards, small, irrelevant and wrong. This election will be the ultimate test of who is right, a battle between those who believe that the United States in 2020 is fundamentally good, and those who believe it is fundamentally bad. Something, and someone, has to give. But who will it be?


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