By Ryan Chou
As of October 30th, election day is just a few days away. With over a third of registered voters having already cast their ballots, Tuesday night will likely be even more of a rollercoaster than in 2016. I remember on election night in 2016, I was in 7th grade, and I went to bed watching the swing states starting to split between Trump and Hillary. The next morning, just like many others, I woke up stunned to see Trump as the president-elect. So, what will the 2020 results look like? These are my predictions, and they are reliant on polling averages and typical swings from polling averages. They do not take into account court involvement, voter fraud, voter suppression, or unexpected higher/lower voter turnout, which will potentially cause the results to differ greatly from the polls.
Considering that over 83 million people have already voted, I believe some states are almost completely locked in, and even if a last minute October surprise such as in 2016 occurred, it would be unlikely to make a significant swing one way or the other in time.
My tally gives 125 locked-in electoral votes for Donald Trump and 280 locked-in electoral votes for Joe Biden. 270 electoral votes is the total needed to win the Presidency, so I believe that Joe Biden will likely be elected President of the United States. On a personal level, I do not agree with Biden on everything, but I do believe from a mathematical lens that he will probably win this election, and he is more likely to do so than Hillary Clinton, who was not performing as well as Biden was in the polls this close to the end.
The states I have marked in dark blue or dark red are the locked-in states. Although some are relatively close compared to other states in terms of margins, I do not see a way for either candidate to be able to make up lost ground with just a few days to go in these states, especially considering so many people have already cast their ballots. So, even though Arizona only has Biden leading by 3-4 points, Trump’s slight underperformance in the state in 2016 combined with Biden’s lead holding steady increases my confidence that Biden will ultimately win the state. Other states such as Wyoming have one candidate, in this case Trump, up by double digits, and as a result are far outside the margin of error of any poll and almost impenetrable to upsets.
Wisconsin is the only state I have in a light shade of color, meaning it will probably go to Joe Biden, but it wouldn’t be out-of-this-world if Trump pulled an upset here. But Biden’s lead on average is outside the margin of error of most polls, and a recent Washington Post poll shows Biden up by 17 points, so why isn’t it a solid color? The problem is that in 2016 and to an extent 2018, polling in the Rust Belt region was more wrong than other parts of the country. And in 2016, Wisconsin, on average, had Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by nearly 7 points, yet Trump pulled a narrow, less-than-1-percent margin of victory in the state. Other polls in states such as Pennsylvania were off as well, but a Trump victory was still within the margin of error of their numbers.
Moving on to the toss-ups, these are states that could go either way on election night from my perspective. Admittedly, it looks very strange to have Texas and Georgia as toss-ups, but let me explain. Mitt Romney won Texas by 16 points in 2012, and Donald Trump won by 9 points in 2016. In 2018, Ted Cruz narrowly won his competitive Senate race by less than 3 points against Beto O’Rourke. From this, it is apparent that Texas has been drastically swinging towards the left in recent years. A few polls show Biden leading by small margins in the state, with most others indicating a narrow Trump lead or a tie. However, for Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz, a Democratic overperformance was seen in all three races in the end. Mitt Romney’s margin of victory was 1 point less than the RealClearPolitics average estimated, Donald Trump’s margin was 3 points less than estimated, and Ted Cruz’s margin was just over 4 points less than estimated. Right now, Trump’s average lead according to RealClearPolitics is 2.3 points, but considering that the race for Texas was not competitive in ⅔ of the elections I just mentioned, the Republican base in the state could end up turning out more than in the past; then again, the Democratic base could also turn out more than in the past. So, Texas is staying as a toss-up for now. Georgia is in a similar position to Texas. Georgia has been trending towards the left as well, with a notably close Governor’s race in 2018, where Republican Brian Kemp squeezed by Stacey Abrams, winning by 1.5 points. Kemp underperformed by about 1.6 points according to the RealClearPolitics average in 2018, but Trump over performed by 0.3 points in 2016. So, there is not necessarily a direct indication of Georgia polls consistently ending up being biased towards one side in recent years. As of now, Joe Biden is currently up by 0.8 points in the state according to the RealClearPolitics average, so essentially, the race could go either way.
North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Maine’s second congressional district should not be big surprises as toss-ups. Although Trump carried Ohio and Iowa by nearly 10 points in 2016, the two states have a tradition of swinging between parties by comfortable margins for toss-ups, and the polls are narrow there. Polls also indicate a narrow race in North Carolina and Florida, where Trump squeezed a win in 2016, and they again indicate a narrow race in 2020, so these two states will be anyone’s game right until the states are called. Lastly, as for Maine’s second congressional district, polls generally indicate Joe Biden leading there by between 4-10 points. However, the polls massively missed this district in 2016, with an indication of a dead-heat race in the district ending up as a 10 point win for Trump. As a result, I am not sure about how accurate the polls from Maine’s second congressional district will be, and I do think it is very difficult to tell if the polls get it right this time or if it swings 10 points towards Trump again, so I am characterizing this as a toss-up.
These predictions could ultimately end up being faulty, and I am sure that I will miss some states in the final results. However, I do believe that Joe Biden will come out on top when the fog of Election Night clears up.