2000 Redux? Why 2020 May Come Down to Florida Again

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

In 2016, a week before the election I was asked by a former client to put together my best guess of an electoral map.  2016 was an interesting year as most polling firms got it horribly, laughably, and disastrously wrong.  Despite the horrible polling, I took some time to adjust polling for the election and applied these new figures and turnout models to the electoral map.  What I got was a Trump victory, north of 300 Electoral Votes.  Normal battleground states of Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio were red…. Very red.  Normally blue states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, were now purple, leaning to red. I submitted the resulting map to my former client and went about my life.

On Election Night 2016, I was standing in the living room of the house I had just closed escrow on that day.  As I thought, despite my map, that Clinton was headed to victory, I was disengaged from watching the results.  Soon, my phone started to buzz busily on the old, 70’s style tile countertop.  Among the texts I was receiving, one was from my former client.  “Nailed it!” he said, posting in referencing my submitted electoral map.  Short of flipping Wisconsin and Nevada, (I had Wisconsin going to Clinton and Nevada going to Trump) I would have had the perfect map.  Of 538 available votes, my map was off by just 4 electoral votes.

2016 was just 4 years ago, and I am confident in saying that my map was equal parts educated guessing, dart throwing, and middling polling analysis.  Now in 2020, I am seeing the same mistakes of 2016 being made all over again only this time, I am seeing a throwback to 2000.

First, let’s not pretend like current polling is anywhere near accurate.  While I admit Trump is likely not doing as well as he was in 2016 in some states, he is doing better than he previously did in others.  Missouri for instance, went to Trump by 18.5% on Election Day, despite only polling in at 7.7.% in the polls leading up to the election. Currently, Trump is holding an 8.0% lead in Missouri.  Polling for Biden in other battleground states does not look good for his campaign, as Biden does not currently beat Clinton’s pre-election polling in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.  In North Carolina, Biden currently only holds a .4% lead on Trump, despite Clinton’s .6% lead in pre-election polls and Trump winning the state on Election Day by 3.7%.  Pennsylvania is another similar story, with Biden holding a 4.3% lead on Trump, compared to Clinton’s 5.8% lead in 2016.  Trump ended up winning the Keystone State by .7%.  In Michigan, Biden leads Trump by 4.2% in polling, however, Clinton held a 5.2% lead in the state at the same time in 2016.  Trump won Michigan by .3% in 2016.  Another interesting state is Ohio, where Biden is outperforming his predecessor Clinton (by 4.1%) in pre-election polls, but not enough to overcome the 8.1% margin Trump won the state by in 2016.

Right now, RCP has listed Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida as toss-ups. Based upon current polling, 2016 results, and a little gut intuition, I say that the whole race will come down to Florida.

Let’s give Biden Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire.  He leads in all of those states by margins greater than Clinton in 2016 and/or Trump lost those states in 2016.  That will give Team Biden 253 electoral votes.  If the election were held today, I believe Trump would walk away with Texas, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia.  Trump is outperforming 2016 polling in all of those states and/or Biden is underperforming Clinton’s 2016 numbers and/or Trump won those states in 2016.   That leaves us with a few split-electoral vote states (Nebraska and Maine) which we will award based upon 2016 numbers, as they were all won by double-digit figures.   With an electoral count of 256 to Trump and 253 to Biden.  We have just one state for which to account:  Florida.

What is my guess for Florida? Flip a coin.   First, Trump won the state in 2016 by 1.2%. Polling leading up to the election had Trump leading Clinton by 0.7%.  That means that Trump outperformed the polling by 0.5%.  Currently, Biden leads Trump in the state by 1.6% according to the RCP average.  Of the ten most recent polls (among the factors how RCP calculates their average), two have the race tied, four give Biden a 3 point lead, Biden has 4, 5, and 6 point lead in three separate polls, and one gives Trump a 3 point lead.  The Democrat firm, Change Research, conducted three of the ten polls, with Biden’s lead narrowing from 6 points to just 3 in less than a month. Most of the results of the different polls are within the margin of error or, at the most .3% out of it. In other words, Florida is a statistical dead heat.

News out this week that Team Biden is gearing up for a lengthy battle after election day, hiring attorneys familiar with the process (as covered by Nick Arama), shows that things are much closer than the MSM wants to admit.  Are we gearing up for a battle after election day?  Perhaps.  The issue for Trump is a repeat of 2000 will likely have a negative result for him.  If we assume that SCOTUS liberal and conservative judges split 4-4, (Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh vs. Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) that leaves us with Roberts as the deciding vote.  Roberts has not been kind to Trump or his interests in ruling and could likely be the single vote that decides the outcome of the 2020 election.