Don't Expect a Contested ElectionBreaking News
tags: Donald Trump, 2020 Election
On a hundred-odd Zoom meetings, webinars, and conference call speeches that I’ve participated in over the past two months, virtual attendees continue to raise the possibility of a contested presidential election, even though the chances of that have been getting smaller all the time. Every day that Trump remains behind in the polls, outspent badly and with the early vote gushing in, the cone of uncertainty narrows, and the odds of such an upset goes down.
Joe Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes seems pretty straightforward: Hold all 20 states (plus the District of Columbia) that Hillary Clinton carried four years ago, which total 232 electoral votes, just 38 short of the majority threshold of 270. Then win each of the three states that Clinton lost by eight-tenths of a point or less: Michigan (0.2 percentage points) Pennsylvania (0.7), and Wisconsin (0.8). That gives him 278 electoral votes, eight more than needed. Biden will likely also carry two congressional districts that eluded Clinton in 2016, Nebraska’s 2nd District and Maine’s 2nd, giving him 280 electoral votes. That would represent a “skinny” Biden win.
A big Biden win would bring in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, and might also include one or two states from the next tier, mostly likely Georgia or Iowa, although don’t count out Ohio or Texas. Generally speaking, Trump is underperforming his 2016 pace by 3 to 8 points, depending upon the state or district.
The Senate is increasingly less a case of whether Democrats will take a majority, but how large will it be. The chances of the GOP keeping its losses down to a seat or two are dropping; I am thinking that a five- or six-seat gain is becoming highly possible. The three most likely GOP incumbents to lose are Martha McSally in Arizona, Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Thom Tillis in North Carolina. Right on the bubble are Joni Ernst in Iowa, Susan Collins in Maine, and both Georgia seats. A touch back from that are Steve Daines in Montana and Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, as well as the open seat in Kansas. All three states are likely to be won by Trump, so look for a possible repeat of 2016, when every Senate race went to the same party that won the presidential race there—the first time that had happened since the start of direct Senate elections in 1914.
What I am wondering is if this will be one or the rarest species of national elections—a wave election in a presidential year ending in a zero, meaning it will reverberate for a decade thanks to the coming redistricting. There are not a dozen Republican Senate seats that could fall, as Democrats suffered in 1980, but Joe Biden may well replicate Ronald Reagan’s 10-point victory over President Carter. The odds are it will be a bit less, perhaps in the 53 to 44 percent range, with 3 percent going to independents and write-ins, half of the number from four years ago.
We’ll soon know. It won’t be long now.
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