Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Gaming Out the 2020 Electoral College

Cook Political Report's Amy Walter is out with their latest electoral college ratings. It all seems very reasonable to me; in addition, Walter makes good use of the data from my Path to 270 report, which I always like to see.
Bottom line: Biden, 232 lean/likely/solid Dem; Trump, 204 lean/likely/solid Rep. Only six toss-up states: Michigan-Pennsylvania-Wisconsin plus Arizona, Florida and North Carolina (map below). From her write-up:
"Biden starts with a slight lead in the Electoral College math. Right now, 232 electoral votes sit in Lean/Likely or Solid Democrat. On the GOP side, 204 electoral votes are in the Lean/Likely/Solid Republican column. There are six states (and one congressional district) in Toss-Up: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska's 2nd district. Those add up to 102 Electoral votes.
To get to 270, Biden can't lose any of the states currently in Lean/Likely/Solid Democrat and has to win 39 percent of the electoral college votes in Toss Up. Trump needs to hold those in the Lean/Likely/Solid Republican columns, plus he needs to win more than two-thirds (66 percent) in the toss-up column. ...
[W]hat you will notice about this map that the more diverse the state, and the higher the percentage of white, college voters, the more likely it will be in a Democratic-leaning column. For example, Colorado not only has a significant Latino population, but there are almost as many white college voters in the state (40 percent) as white, non-college voters (41 percent).
The higher the percentage of white, non-college voters, the more likely that the state sits more safely in a GOP-leaning column. For example, Texas and Georgia, once considered long-shots for Democratic gains, are now in Lean Republican. These states not only have significant (and growing) non-white populations, but, as we saw in 2018, the dense suburbs in and around metro centers in these states have also become more Democratic...
Trump's path to the White House is anchored in Florida. Under our current ratings, there is only one scenario out of twelve possible for Trump to get 270 electoral votes without winning the Sunshine state....
If Trump holds Florida, the next most important states for him are in the industrial Midwest and that infamous trifecta: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump can afford to lose two of these states and still win the Electoral College (assuming he wins all the other states in Toss Up). But, he can't lose all three.
Of the three, Wisconsin looks the friendliest to Trump. Not only has polling consistently shown his job approval ratings higher here than the other two states, but demographically, this state is also the best suited to Trump. The electorate is overwhelmingly white (90 percent), and it has the highest percentage of white, non-college voters (almost 60 percent) of the three.
Demographically, Minnesota looks a lot like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. And, it was very close in 2016. Clinton won the state by less than 2 percent.
But, a fantastic analysis of the 2016 election results by Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin (which I have linked to throughout this column), finds that Minnesota had a higher percentage of white college voters (36 percent) than the other three. These voters supported Clinton by 21 points. And, while Clinton lost white non-college voters here by a hefty amount (21 points), it was better than her showing in Pennsylvania where she lost among those voters by 30 points. This isn't to say that we should expect the state to perform the same here in 2020 as it did in 2016. Instead, it's important to note that states with a higher population of white, college-educated voters will be more amenable to a Biden candidacy. The higher the non-college white population, the stronger the chance that Trump carries that state.
North Carolina is a new-comer to our Toss-Up category. Trump carried the state by 3 points — an improvement from previous GOP showings here. Romney won here by 2 points in 2012, while in 2008, McCain lost the state by less than one point. According to the Teixeira and Halpin analysis, Trump won white, non-college voters in this state by a whopping 51 points — the largest margin among white, non-college voters of any other state in the Toss Up category. And, while the state has been growing and suburbanizing, it is still far behind Virginia in the percentage of white college voters (28 percent to Virginia's 33 percent).
To win here, Biden needs both a stronger showing in the suburbs than Clinton did, while also getting strong African-American turnout and making a moderate improvement over Clinton's anemic 23 percent showing with non-college white voters."
So:: what's your map? All can play!

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