Barring a massive polling error or legal tangles that turn the election on its head, it’s looking like Democratic challenger Joe Biden has a bit more flex in getting to the winning target of 270 electoral votes than incumbent Donald Trump who is banking on Florida and Pennsylvania to deliver four more years in power.
As you gear up for a longish watch party beginning the evening of November 3 EST (early November 4 IST), here is a handy checklist.
Biden’s best case scenario is to win back three states where Trump staged an upset victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
If Biden gets all the states Hillary won in 2016, how would the math look at that point? 232 electoral votes. If Biden wins Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan in addition, he sails comfortably past 270.
The reason pollsters are going so big on Trump’s path through the lens of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan is that he won all these three states with razor thin margins against Clinton. Biden will have to do just 1 point better than Clinton did in 2016 to strike a devastating blow.
A lot of narrow Trump wins and some reliably red states in 2016 are suddenly in play: Arizona (11), Texas (38), Georgia (16), Nevada (6), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6), Ohio (18). (The numbers in parenthesis indicate each state’s electoral votes).
Trump, who moved his official residence from Democratic New York to Florida last year, must find a way to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes. If Trump takes Florida and Pennsylvania, he would still have to carry most of the states he won in 2106 to cross the 270 mark.
After decades of staying solid red, Texas is getting purplish. Biden-Harris are within striking distance. Biden victories in Iowa, Georgia and Ohio, which Trump won in 2016, would take the Democrats’ number beyond 300.
Biden has fashioned much of his 2020 campaign persona as the “scrappy kid from Scranton”, in Penn State, which is likely to see the toughest fight for his White House campaign, both on the ground and if post-election legal battles bubble up. Both sides have lawyered up.
In the last week alone, Trump is trying to shore up a bunch of states he won in 2016 because polls are running close. Trump has seized on Biden’s call to shift towards clean energy, framing it as a grave risk for jobs in Pennsylvania.
Oh, and two more wild cards before we go. More than 90 million Americans have voted and there’s still 48 hours to go before election day arrives. In states like Texas, the total early vote has shattered records, crossing the total 2016 vote count with three days to go. The US is nine months into the coronavirus pandemic and has just set the worst kind of world record for Covid-19 cases – 99,321 new Covid-19 cases the day before Halloween.
The latest RealClear Politics poll average puts Biden ahead by a shade over 3 points in a total of six key battlegrounds: Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and North Carolina.