Is it too early to start looking at the 2020 Electoral College Map? In light of some of the predictions I am reading from both Democrats and Republicans I think a good look at the map might sober up many of the propagandists from both sides.
The key to the Trump victory in 2016, in my opinion, was the win in PA, WI, and MI. The so called Blue Wall crumbled and enabled Trump to claim 306 electoral votes, to 232 for Clinton. Of course there were other factors, including the Clinton loss of FLA and OH, but more on that in a bit.
In Pennsylvania Trump’s 2016 win was narrow, with a margin of 1.2%, getting him the big 20 electoral votes of the state. Trump also had more votes in PA than Clinton and Jill Stein combined, so the Trump win, while narrow, was convincing (shocking?) enough. In Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) the Trump margin was under 1% (.77%), and the combined Clinton/Stein vote exceeded the Trump vote by a very narrow amount (8300 or so votes out of more than 2,900,000 cast.) In Michigan (16 electoral votes) the Trump margin was even smaller, again less than 1% (.23%) and the combined Clinton/Stein vote exceeded the Trump number by 40,759 out of about 4.8 million cast.
There will be substantially more sophisticated looks at the map than mine, but there are some things I believe today that, if true, make predictions of an easy win by either side more propaganda than science. As a Democrat I look at the states of Florida and Ohio (especially Ohio) and just do not believe that the Dems can win there. If that is true then the battle shifts to the three states highlighted above. And if that is indeed the battleground for 2020 then despite the outstanding mid-term results for Democrats a Trump re-election is distinctly possible.
Let’s look at the first map, which shows the difficulties involved in this race. This map has Trump losing two of the three states from above (PA and MI)but winning Wisconsin. If he holds everywhere else where he won in 2016 he ekes out a victory. These three states will not necessarily march in lockstep, and as we can see two out of three (all else being equal) will not do it for the Democrats. The current polling has Joe Biden beating Trump in all three states, but at this stage those numbers do not mean much.
Let us look at the map with the Democrats running the table on the three states and winning the Electoral College with 278 votes. Even in that scenario Trump still is sitting at 260, and looking to pick off New Hampshire, where the Clinton margin of victory was under 1% (.4%), and Nevada, where Clinton had a margin of 2.4%. If he lost all three of the target states but flipped New Hampshire and Nevada he wins, with exactly 270 electoral votes.
And now let us look at the nightmare scenario, an offshoot of the top map. Under the original scenario the Democrats manage to win both Michigan and Pennsylvania but Trump wins Wisconsin and wins the electoral college 270-268. We modify that by having the Democrats take the second Congressional District in Maine, which they lost in 2016. That would be worth one electoral vote, and would throw the election to the House of Representatives.
My assumptions will likely be dismissed by some. Writing off Florida for the Democrats may be harsh, but in a big mid term surge for Democrats they could not beat a truly sub-par Republican candidate for Governor in 2018. Ohio, to me, just seems out of reach. Election results seem to bear that out. Clinton had some dreams of stretching the map a bit, but those ambitions should be secondary, in 2020, to accomplishing what is clearly achievable. Regaining PA, MI, and WI for the Democrats will make a Trump re-election very difficult. I would think that heavy Democratic resources will be poured into those states. You can count on Trump pouring it on in those three states, with presence and finance, and his current low poll numbers are no guarantee of victory for the Democrats. He will bring substantial campaign activity to New Hampshire, Nevada, and Minnesota (where the Clinton margin was 1.5%), looking to steal one of those.
If somebody tells you that the 2020 election is a “lock” for either party tell them that they need to read an electoral map. The 2020 election cycle is going to be one tough slog.