|Donald Trump:||Joe Biden:||Toss Up:|
Our interactive presidential election map is currently based on the consensus of the following forecasts:
- Cook Political Report, October 28, 2020
- First Read, October 27, 2020
- Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, October 8, 2020
- Inside Elections, July 17, 2020
For more on these, check out our brief review of the electoral college forecasts.
Make Your Own Electoral Forecast
To create your own forecast for the 2020 election, click on the states in the map to toggle them between Democrat, Republican and Tossup and watch the electoral map tallies change. You can even download your custom map and even share it on social media.
We’ll be updating the consensus map as more forecasts come in. Check back often or sign up for our email list.
It Takes 270 to Win
The winner of the presidential election must win the majority of the electoral votes — that is at least 270 out of the 538 available.
Because most states allocate their electoral votes on an “winner-take-all” basis — the exceptions being Maine and Nebraska, which split their electoral votes by congressional district — the candidate who wins enough states to reach 270 electoral votes becomes president.
Winning the national popular vote doesn’t matter, as we saw most recently in the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections where the winner of the popular vote actually lost the election. That’s led to many efforts to reform the Electoral College over the years.
There is actually one way to win the presidency without getting 270 electoral votes. If the election results in a 269 to 269 electoral vote tie, then the House of Representatives convenes to choose the president.
The 2020 Map Begins with Florida
In 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by roughly three million people but won 304 electoral votes and the presidency. Based on recent polling, his chances of winning the popular vote in 2020 are at least as challenging as they were in 2016.
That suggests his best hope for re-election might be to once again assemble an Electoral College majority without winning the popular vote.
Any review of the various 2020 Electoral College combinations should begin with Florida, a state key to all presidential fortunes since the 2000 presidential election.
If Trump were to win Florida again, Democrats would need to recapture three Midwestern states in the Rust Belt — or find substitutes — to win the presidency. If Democrats win Florida, any one of the three Rust Belt states would secure the presidency, unless Trump can pick off another blue state that Democrats won in 2016.
Rust Belt vs. Sun Belt?
The key to President Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election was that he carried three “Rust Belt” states that many expected Democrats to win: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton was so sure of her victory in these states that she didn’t even campaign in Wisconsin.
Trump won these three states by less than a combined 80,000 votes, or just .06% of the 137 million votes cast. But that was still enough to get Trump to the 270 to win.
It’s obvious by playing with the interactive electoral map that if Democrats can flip all three states back to their column in 2020, then they can win the election (assuming they hold all of the other states Hillary Clinton won in 2016.)
But if Democrats lose all three states again, then they would need another path to the presidency. Some say Democrats could pursue a “Sun Belt” strategy and perhaps win Florida plus North Carolina, Arizona, Texas or Georgia. All of those states went to Trump in 2016, but there are some indications from early polling that at least some might be among the battleground states in play in 2020.
A Changing Electoral Map
In recent modern elections, there have been a dozen or more truly competitive battlegrounds which could result in many various paths to 270 electoral votes.
That’s changed in recent years as polarization has increased, resulting in red and blue strongholds with bigger victory margins. For instance, despite the narrow popular vote margin in 2016, more than two dozen states were decided by margins of 15 percentage points or more. In 1988, when the popular vote margin was seven percentage points, there were just 17 states which were won by such big margins.
One way of looking at how the electoral map has changed in recent years is to evaluate which states are most likely to provide the electoral votes needed to secure 270.
During the 2008 and 2012 elections won by Barack Obama, Virginia and Colorado were the tipping point states. But because of Democratic gains among college-educated voters in these states, both have moved sharply toward the Democrats in recent years.
In contrast, even though Ohio was the most important battleground in the 2004 election, underlying trends have moved it towards the Republicans in recent elections.
In 2020, many political analysts think that Wisconsin, where Democrats will hold their national convention in 2020, could prove to be the tipping point state in a close election.
The 2018 Midterms Were a Warning for Trump
For President Trump, the best path for re-election is the exact same one that handed him the presidency in 2016.
But Trump got a major warning sign during the 2018 midterm elections when the three all-important Rust Belt states delivered big victories to Democrats.
Democrats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan swept the races for Senate and governor, and picked up valuable House seats, defeating Trump-backed Republicans at all levels.
Whether this was a fleeting backlash or a preview of the 2020 electoral map remains to be seen, but the outcome in those key states will be important to watch as the campaign progresses.
2020 Presidential Election News
Here are the latest headlines on the 2020 presidential race from Political Wire:
- Biden Holds Wide National Lead
- Trump Needs to Win States Where He’s Never Led
- Jeff Flake Cuts Ad for Biden
- Bracing for History
- Nearly 70% Say Election Is Stressing Them Out
- Democrats Crushing GOP In Senate Ad Spending
- More Battleground State Polls
- Minnesota GOP Offered Third Party Candidate $15K to Run
- Trump Ads Told Facebook Users Wrong Election Day
- Clinton Hopes to Be a Biden Elector
- Van Drew Walks Back His ‘Undying Support’ for Trump
- Trump Isn’t Coming to Lindsey Graham’s Rescue
- Quote of the Day
- Biden’s Path to 270 Widens
- Biden Is Vastly Outspending Trump
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