Do you think you know who will win the election? Well predicting who will win the election is what the folks in Fivethirtyeight do for a living, and in 2016 they told us on Election Day that Hillary Clinton had a 67% chance of winning. Needless to say, they were widely ridiculed when Trump was victorious, but that didn’t stop them. Today, Fivethirtyeight projects that Joe Biden has an 87% chance of winning this election, and that’s a number that has remained fairly stable in recent weeks. But of course their projections are mostly based on the same state polls that were deeply flawed in 2016, and so there is a very real possibility that they will be embarrassed again in 2020.
The mainstream media like to focus on the big national polls that show Joe Biden with a big lead, but the truth is this election is going to be won or lost in just six absolutely critical swinging states. Whichever candidate can win at least four of these six oscillating states, they are almost certain to win the election, and in this article, I will focus on the poll numbers in these six states only.
In 2016, the final RealClearPolitics poll average in Florida had Trump by just 0.2 points, but he ended up winning the state by 1.2 points.
Trump therefore outperformed the polls by one point.
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Right now Joe Biden leads by 1.8 points in the latest RCP poll average in Florida, but if you subtract a point from his lead it would make it a very, very close race.
In 2016, RealClearPolitics’ final average of the North Carolina polls had Trump up 1.0 point, but he ended up winning the state by 3.7 points.
So Trump outperformed the polls by 2.7 points in this case.
Today, the latest RCP poll average shows Biden up 1.2 points, but a 2.7 point swing would put Trump in the lead.
In 2016, RealClearPolitics’ final Arizona poll average was 4.0 points, but he ended up winning the state by just 3.5 points.
So this is one of the rare cases where Trump has underperformed the polls.
Right now, the latest RCP poll average has pushed Biden up 2.4 points, which would appear to indicate that Trump may be in danger of losing those electoral votes.
Arizona is a special case as many people from California are constantly migrating to the state, which fundamentally changes the demographics of the region. Arizona has been drifting for years and that process has accelerated here in 2020.
In 2016, Wisconsin’s final RealClearPolitics poll average reduced Trump by 6.5 points, but he ended up winning the state by 0.7 points.
So Trump topped the polls by 7.2 points in this case.
Right now, Joe Biden leads 5.5 points in Wisconsin’s latest RCP poll average, but a 7.2% shift would put that state in Trump’s column.
In 2016, Michigan’s final RealClearPolitics poll average lost Trump by 3.4 points, but he ended up winning the state by 0.3 points.
So this was a case where Trump topped the polls by 3.7 points.
Today, the latest RCP poll average shows Biden is up 9.0 points in Michigan, and so even after taking 3.7 points, Biden still seems to have a lead.
In 2016, the final RealClearPolitics poll average in Pennsylvania lost Trump 1.9 points, but he ended up winning the state by 0.7 points.
So in this absolutely crucial state, Trump outperformed the polls by 2.6 points.
The latest RCP poll average pushed Biden up 4.8 points in Pennsylvania, but taking 2.6 points from that difference would make it a very close race.
Of course, there’s always a possibility that Trump or Biden could win states that are not currently expected to win. For example, it wouldn’t be a total shock if Biden won Iowa or Georgia, but those states probably won’t be in his column unless there is some sort of landslide.
Likewise, Trump could cause a shock in Minnesota or Nevada, but in either of those cases, Biden is likely to be seriously underperforming compared to the most recent poll numbers.
Ultimately, I believe Florida and Pennsylvania are the two most critical states. If one of the contestants is able to win both, it will be extremely difficult for the other guy to win.
For both campaigns, it will be very important to convince the experts that the experts do not expect to vote in large numbers.
In 2016, hordes of “shy Trump voters” turned up at the polls, and Trump expects it to happen again here in 2020.
For the Biden campaign, the high turnout among young and minority voters is key, but Democratic candidates have been disappointed with young voters on several occasions before.
As of this writing, the numbers show that over 64 million Americans have already voted, and it is expected that we will see the highest level of voter turnout in a presidential election since 1908.
So many Americans are encouraged to vote in this election, and as I said yesterday, most of them think their candidate will win in the end.
Because so many people vote by mail, it will take some time to get the final results, but once a winner is finally declared there will be tens of millions of Americans who will be emotionally devastated.
For many Democrats, four more years of Trump is the worst thing they can imagine. If Trump wins again, some have indicated they will leave the country for good, but many others will take advantage of it as an opportunity to cause enormous chaos on the streets.
For many Republicans, Trump is a hero figure who transcends politics. Seeing him lose would be like their favorite teams losing the Super Bowl, World Series, World Cup, and NBA Finals simultaneously. Trump is deeply, deeply loved by millions of conservatives, and a loss would be more than many of them would be able to bear.
The irony is that most Americans don’t really care too much about Biden in one way or another. Ultimately, this election is about Donald Trump, and very soon we’ll find out if the number of Americans who love Trump is greater than the number who hate him.
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