2020 Election Series: The Anatomy of a Swing State – October 28th
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Bottom Line: Remarkably this is the second to last update in this series (with the final update coming on Election Day). With under a week away from Election Day, here’s quick backstory for those who may be new to this series...
Each cycle I analyze states that were decided by ten points or less in the previous presidential election cycle. These represent potential swing states that are in play for both parties heading into each cycle. It’s a fluid number which reflects changes in the electorate overtime. In 2016 there were 16 states decided by fewer than ten points. President Trump won 30 states in 2016 including nine of the sixteen swing states which proved key to his victory. Notably, President Trump doesn’t have to retain all those states to win reelection. His margin of victory, with 306 electoral votes, was 36 more than what’s needed to win.
Here’s the current averaged polling in the swing states compared to where President Trump was polling on the same date in 2016. This provides an apples-to-apples temperature check of how President Trump is trending compared to exactly four years ago. Polls can’t be taken at face value without adjusting for samples. As a result, I’m not interested in which candidate polls suggest are leading in a particular state but rather where Trump is tracking compared to four years ago.
Polling averages October 27th, 2016 compared to October 27th, 2020:
- Arizona: Flat
- Florida: Flat
- Georgia: Trump -2
- Iowa: Trump -2
- Michigan: Trump -3
- North Carolina: Trump +1
- Ohio: Flat
- Pennsylvania: Trump +1
- Wisconsin: Trump +1
Over the past week President Trump’s pacing:
Improved: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa
Unchanged: North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin
Declined: Michigan, Pennsylvania
My theme this week has been that it’s beginning to look a lot like 2016, everywhere you look. That generally shows up here as President Trump’s pacing against four years ago improve in four state he won, was unchanged in three and declined in two. There is one notable change with this update. His pacing in Michigan, relative to the size of his win in 2016, has now fallen into territory where Biden picks up Michigan in this second to last update. Otherwise the news looks encouraging for the President where he’s pacing well enough to carry the other eight states, including North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by larger margins than four years ago.
Now for a look at Biden’s current pacing compared Hillary Clinton four years ago today:
- Colorado – Biden +4
- Maine – Biden +6
- Minnesota – Biden -3
- Nevada – Biden +3
- New Hampshire – Biden +4
- New Mexico - Biden +7
- Virginia - Biden +1
Improved: Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico
Declined: Minnesota, Virginia
There’s a significant storyline on the Democrat’s swing state scale as well. Joe Biden is actually pacing better than Hillary Clinton in all of the swing states she carried but one. That one is Minnesota and notably the pacing has slipped enough for Minnesota to flip to Trump’s column for the first time this cycle. Minnesota has been the most reliable state for Democrats going back to 1972. In fact, it’s the only state won by Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan in 1984. Polling in Minnesota was among the worst four years ago. An average of Election Day polls in 2016 showed Hillary Clinton with a nine-point lead in Minnesota. She only carried it by 1.5%. The only reason it wasn’t a bigger story is because she still carried the state, and the election outcome didn’t hinge on it regardless.
As I’ve increasingly been asked for my opinion of how this election is shaping up this week, I’ve offered up this opinion (which I might change in my final analysis based on data changes between now and Tuesday). If President Trump wins just one of, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin - he’ll be reelected. As of this second to last update - his pacing against the same polls at the same time as four years ago, factored against the actual outcomes in each state suggests that once again he’s pacing three of the four which would result in a very similar outcome as four years ago. Back to where I started in this story.
As of this week’s analysis, President Trump is pacing a 300-238 Electoral College victory. To be continued on Election Day.