National Compass’ Final Analysis Of The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election
This is a look at what National Compass believes will be the outcome of tomorrow night’s election results – but it’s also a reality check on some narratives about the comparison between the dynamic of the 2016 presidential election as versus this one taking place tomorrow.
My assessment has not changed during the last four months, but I decided to postpone the publication of my perspectives so as not to provide fodder for those who might say I provided disincentive to people who ordinarily would skip voting if they thought the election was “in the bag.”
First, how is the national picture in terms of the total vote count, shaping up? As of this writing, reports indicate approximately 98 million people across the United States have voted prior to this coming Tuesday. In comparison, in 2016 – just over 137 million votes were tallied in total after election day.
To many observers, this signifies a record breaking final voter participation in a presidential election – likely more than in the past century.
It seems to indicate something else besides. This election has been widely characterized as less of a contest between two candidates and more a referendum on the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
The remarkable number of people who have been standing in long lines to cast their ballots in early voting appears to be signaling the possibility that Trump will be rejected by historic margins – at least in terms of the popular vote.
Hillary Clinton’s advantage in the popular vote in 2016 – 2.9 million votes, may wind up paling by comparison to the magnitude of Democrat candidate Joe Biden’s, which could be a multiple of that number.
But more important is the eventual sum total of electoral votes, which proved to be Ms. Clinton’s undoing. Most of the discussion about the prospects of this election’s results will center around the electoral vote, for the obvious reason that the final count of those will dictate the winner.
Here is the map based on an analysis of the website, Electoral-Vote.com, with a legend that explains the colors displayed on each state. Their map estimates that Joe Biden will accumulate 368 electoral votes and that Trump will wind up with 170 when the dust settles.
I’m also including a link to an interactive electoral map, so that you can try your hand at forecasting which states will wind up in either candidate’s bucket and what you believe the final tally will add up to.
Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com
The map as I have configured it, leaves Pennsylvania open, North Carolina open and leaves Ohio open, but I consider all three of those states as Biden likely. Without them, Biden takes 319 electoral votes. With them, he takes 349.
Here is the problem in practical terms for Donald Trump in this election. Donald Trump, in 2016, needed all three of the Upper Midwest / Rust Belt states (Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania) to edge Clinton out in the final count.
For the sake of illustration – and you can replicate this on the interactive map; if you take Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin away from Biden and give them to Trump, Trump still loses the election, albeit by only 2 electoral votes.
This illustrates what has happened since 2016. The number of “battleground states” has increased significantly in this cycle. Trump has to run the table in several more states and has zero margin of error. It’s statistically possible, but extremely unlikely, not only in my estimation, but in the view of a large number of reputable analysts, including the following:
- FiveThirtyEight.com – Biden has a 90 percent chance of winning.
- The Economist – Biden has a 96 percent chance of winning.
- Princeton Election Consortium – Biden is expected to receive 351 electoral votes.
- Electoral-Vote.com – Biden is expected to receive 368 electoral votes.
Now, let’s talk about something that has been a topic of wide disagreement and discussion for several months now – the bugaboo of “Trump wasn’t expected to win in 2016 and he defied the expectations and won anyway. What guarantees it won’t happen again? The polls were wrong.”
Although that nearly fits on a bumper sticker, there is a lot to unpack there.
We’ll start with the base argument and work backwards. “The polls were wrong.” Actually, the polls weren’t altogether wrong. Hillary Clinton won 48.2 percent of the total votes cast and Donald Trump won 46.1. The only sense in which pollsters got the election wrong was that they were inaccurate in the three states that narrowly put Trump over the top.
Why did they get those (Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin) wrong? A post election analysis revealed that pollsters missed a particular cohort of the electorate – “Non College Educated White Male Voters.” That was a slender component of voters, (Trump won a combined 77,744 votes more than Clinton), and in all three states, his percentage of victory was well under 1 percent of the vote count. In Michigan it was .023.
Trump, in no uncertain terms, has to get these NCEWMV (Non College Educated White Male Voters) out to the polls again and in even greater numbers than did so in 2016.
William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution – and an expert in slicing and dicing the various components of the American electorate, notes:
“I think it’s very important” to the outcome next month. That’s the only reason he won by the skin of his teeth in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2016., Rural white voters in particular didn’t turn out dramatically more in 2016 than in previous elections, but when they did, they voted strongly for Trump, providing the then-first time candidate with the edge he needed to win the White House.”
Has that equation changed? Pollsters have re-calibrated their survey methodology to, if anything, err considerably on the side of caution when factoring in the NCEWMV in their 2020 polling. It is a certainty that this will not be a blind spot this time around.
In 2016, Trump took 62% of that vote, but according to a number of polls, including the NBC / Marist College poll, he has lost 10 percent of that contingent and Biden has picked up 14 percent from Ms. Clinton’s numbers. Among whites in general, not specific to their education status, Fox News finds that , for example in Ohio, Trump has lost 11 percent of the white voters he had in 2016, while Joe Biden has picked up 11 points.
The larger problem for Trump, is that his margin with those white voters in all categories – the core of Trump “base”, is razor thin.
He has to retain 100 percent of them, but also needed to expand the base outward to capture a large number of independents, people who are prone to vote third party and potential crossover Democrats.
The evidence indicates that he has done none of the above, but has also lost a percentage of evangelicals – a block that, it could be argued, was even more essential in his win in 2016. Trump has, by various accounts, also lost elderly voters in several swing states, most notably Florida.
In a the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll to track the expected senior vote, Joe Biden led Trump by 27 points (62% to 35%). In a CNN/SSRS poll also from last month, Biden led Trump by 21 points (60% to 39%). And it is not as though Trump dominated this voting segment last time around. He won them by just 7 points.
NBC spoke to some senior voters in Florida – an absolute must win state for Trump, and got these indications of why the numbers have flipped as they have:
Jane Cater, 81, of the Fort Lauderdale area, said she was “disappointed” with Trump’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But that isn’t the sole source of her discomfort with the president.
“It’s also the way he talks,” Cater, who plans to vote early for 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. “You know, I just would like this to end.”
Larry, a retiree in Miami who asked for his last name not to be published, told NBC News he has always supported Republicans. Although Trump’s demeanor bothered him in 2016, support for the future president’s tax policy overrode those concerns. Not this year.
“I can’t do it this time,” he said. “I’m just sick of all of his shit. And my grandkids said they won’t talk to me if I vote for him again.”
In the crucial swing states of Florida and Pennsylvania, Biden is up with the 65 plus voter category, by 8 points and 22 points respectively. What mostly accounts for this? It is largely a factor of Trump’s gross negligence and politically weaponized mismanagement of the coronavirus.
The president’s handling of the coronavirus appears to be the biggest driver of why his support has dipped among Republicans. Some 29 percent of Republicans said Trump has done a “fair/poor” job on the coronavirus. About 92 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of independents agree.
But seniors are far from the only elements among the voting population that spell doom for Trump. Let’s consider women voters.
Trump is down and Biden is up among women generally and in particular in the all important battleground states. Economist / YouGov, (New York) Times / Siena College and Quinnipiac, found Biden up with female registered voters by (in order), 20, 23 and 26 points at the end of October in their nationwide polling. In the swing states – all of them, Biden is ahead with women by an average of 11 points.
In Pennsylvania, Biden is up by 12. In Florida, he’s up by about 7.5 percent. Women traditionally turn out to vote in higher numbers than men to begin with.
Biden is getting more support in the Pennsylvania counties Hillary Clinton won in 2016, according to the Franklin & Marshall College Poll. Clinton won 11 of 67 counties: Allegheny, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery and Philadelphia. Biden is polling higher than she did in those counties, particularly among college-educated women.
The gap between Trump and Biden among likely female voters is even larger in suburban Philadelphia, which is among the most must win areas in the state. Biden leads in the city and its suburban counties by about 45 points, according to the F&M poll.
- “Trump has a big problem with college-educated women,” said Terry Madonna, veteran pollster and political analyst at Franklin & Marshall. “They are the reason he trails in the polls. Biden’s lead with them is bigger than Clinton’s. It’s a huge element in this election.”
Biden is blowing past Trump with self described independent voters. A caveat here. Some election analysts believe that most people who identify as “independent”, are in reality, voters who lean in one direction between the two major parties or the other.
Whether that is true and to what extent, the picture still does not look good for Trump. Case in point – Georgia. Biden leads among independents by 51 to 41% in the Peach state. This seriously puts that state in play for the Democrats and Biden.
In Pennsylvania the F&M poll shows 46 percent of likely voting independents favoring Biden, while 30 percent choose Trump.
The strongest wild card in this election, could turn out to be minority voters, particularly blacks. According to Pew Research, The black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6% in 2016 after reaching a record-high 66.6% in 2012.
At the beginning of the campaign, black voters were considered to be somewhat lukewarm about Joe Biden. Time has changed that equation. Blacks find Biden’s choice of a running mate – Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, a very engaging element in their assessment of Biden, along with a general sense of alarm about the increased intensity of Trump’s explicit race baiting on the campaign trail.
If black voter turnout returns to any semblance of historic levels, blacks showing up to vote in places like Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit and Philadelphia, will catapult the Democratic ticket into the win column.
Biden’s 40-point lead with Latino voters, expected to comprise about one-fifth of the electorate – will certainly be a significant factor. Biden is even picking up support from second generation Cuban voters in South Florida.
Millennials have typically been no shows in the last 3 national elections, but there seems to be a substantial upward trend that was identified in the 2018 mid-term elections, where for the first time, they began passing boomers and the 65 plus age bracket in voter participation. There is no indication in any polling that they are going to be retreating into the margins in 2020.
But even with all of this, there is still a strong degree of trepidation about the election results due to the unpleasant surprise of 2016. This is where I like to use the illustration of a “Black Swan” event.
What is a Black Swan event or theory? I borrow this term from the world of finance and economics.
Investopia defines a Black Swan event as:
an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, severe impact, and the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight.
In the context of the 2016 election, the key factors that contributed to it being a Black Swan event, were the following:
- Hillary Clinton, in terms of a candidate, was a personality that had extremely high negative factors among persuadable voters. Republicans had long despised her and moderate voters’ perceptions of her ranged from concerned to alarmed.
- Clinton and her campaign mobilized non-college educated white male voters and white voters (including a small but by no means insignificant number of registered Democrats) more generally, to come out in larger numbers than any other voting contingent and vote against her and for Trump.
- Hillary and her campaign ignored hubby Bill’s exhortation for Hill to go out to the upper Midwest and Rust Belt and talk to those disillusioned voters and assure them she wasn’t overlooking them and their concerns.
- Lastly, but probably most devastatingly, former FBI Director James Comey stepped forward 11 days before the election, to announce that the bureau had retrieved a new trove of her emails and were examining them for any signs of criminal wrongdoing.
In contrast, here in 2020, Joe Biden is a national figure that calms Americans (other than hyper-paranoid Trump followers). Biden is a uniter, not a divider and has run a consistent campaign of which that is a leading theme.
Next – in this election, the most important issue to the broad swath of the electorate is the COVID-19 pandemic. Personal safety is foremost.
I need not remind you that Biden is ahead by a 2 to 1 margin, in terms of his standing on this issue and how voters anticipate he will lead in the midst of it.
Nothing else is close. Not the wall, not the trumped up spectre of an invasion of the suburbs, not Hunter Biden’s fictitious hard drive and not the nebulous and amorphous prospect of “more socialism.”
There is not a third party factor in this election, either – beyond the fact that the parties that are on the ballot, portend to take more votes from Trump than from Biden, because they are positioned as an alternative for people who refuse to vote for Trump, but are shying away from marking the ballot next to Biden. No Jill Stein quotient in play.
None of the components that factored into 2016 are in evidence here in 2020 leading into election day. This will be no Black Swan election. Vote if you haven’t already done so, but take a chill pill, OK?