The Road to Two-Seventy

This week, the swing states did not move as one. This is not the first time this has happened, but this week did produce some interesting results. Team Trump clawed Florida, twenty-nine votes, back into the purple column and took Ohio, eighteen votes, and Iowa, six votes, to a statistical tie. Despite this, Trump did not actually gain any votes. In fact, he lost one. Maine Second saw another huge swing, as a Trump lead of 8% became a Biden lead of 4%. Elsewhere, Biden’s leads continued to climb in North Carolina, fifteen votes, Georgia, sixteen votes, and Arizona, eleven votes, while Trump’s lead fell again in Texas, thirty-eight votes, this time by 0.3%, down to 1.4%. The President did make some progress this week, but, this close to 3 November, he is now having to sprint a marathon. After these shifts, President Trump’s assumed electoral tally now stands at one-hundred and sixty-three votes to Vice-President Biden’s three-hundred and fifty-one votes, with twenty-four votes tied. Nationally, Biden increased his lead over Trump by 0.4%, up to 10.5%.

The Ohio shore of Lake Eerie. This week, the Buckeye State became tied, as did Iowa. (Photo: Mike Toler/Pixabay)

Follow the Leader

This week, the swing states split into two groups: those with continued Biden momentum and those with shifts towards Trump. Pivotal amongst the latter group was Florida. This week, the Sunshine State became a swing state once again as Biden’s lead fell by 0.4%, down to 3.9%. But with only a fortnight to go, this swing is but a drop in the ocean. Team Trump have been pumping money into Florida, particularly into their get-the-vote-out operation. They will probably have expected more of a swing. Just to the north, Georgia moved more blue. Biden’s lead in the Peach State increased by 0.4%, up to 1.3%. Crucially for Team Trump, they were again unable to shift the dial in North Carolina this week. Biden’s lead in the Old North State increased by 0.3%, up to 3.1%. With so little time left until the election, it is now very possible that North Carolina is lost to Team Trump. But it is Ohio and Iowa that were the real surprises of the week. Ohio is the cornerstone of any Republican path to the White House. Despite de facto pulling out of the Buckeye State last week, Team Trump have shifted the dial. Biden’s 0.9% lead has evaporated and it is now a dead heat, albeit one where Trump does appear to have the slightest of advantages. Similarly in Iowa, the huge swing towards Biden last week is gone. The Hawkeye State is now quite literally the most purple in the nation. Both Biden and Trump are polling at 47%. Potentially, Biden has a minute advantage. As always, Team Trump also need to keep an eye on their assumed states. Once again, the President’s leads in South Carolina, Kansas and Montana all fell. In Alabama, Mississippi and Idaho, voters moved from Trump to undecided. In ruby red North Dakota, it now looks as though there will be a strong third-party vote. But all is not rosy for Team Biden either. Biden’s leads in the pivotal states of Pennsylvania and Minnesota fell. Biden’s path to the White House has to include these two states. That being said, in Wisconsin, the probable national tipping-point state, Biden’s lead increased by a further 0.4%, up to 7.7%.

The Pendulum States

This week, early voting got underway in more states, including Georgia. In Georgia, people queued for hours in the damp autumn weather. Interestingly, despite controversial moves by the state government, the turnout of black voters appears to be up – in particular, black women. Black women are among the demographics who are the least likely to vote. But, generally speaking, when they turn out, they turn out. In 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama was able to amass huge turnouts of black women. In 2016, that same enthusiasm was simply not there for Hillary Clinton. This apparent increase also indicates that there might well be a large turnout in this election. This makes for a more interesting, potentially tighter, race. It is estimated that about twenty-million Americans have now voted, with early turnout significantly up in swing states like North Carolina, Ohio and Florida. But, as things stand, the bulk of ballots will not be cast or received until the eleventh hour. As such, it is still worth Team Trump’s time to go hard in the battlegrounds. As was seen in Florida in 2016, turnout is key. Trump might be massively down in some states, but in Ohio, Iowa and Georgia, it is still close enough that a strong Republican turnout could alter some key races. This week, in addition to Florida and Iowa, Team Trump began to campaign vigorously in Texas. The Lone Star State is not naturally a purple state. Interestingly, localised polling is indicating that Dallas, a red city, is now purple. If Biden takes Dallas, then he could tip Texas, despite Trump’s current lead there. As such, Team Trump is campaigning hard in the city, working to shore up every last vote and making sure that every ballot that is set to go their way is actually cast. Come what may, Dallas is indicative of a state that is rapidly changing and diversifying.

The Outliers

This election has some interesting swing states, to say the least. Alongside this, some traditional swing states are not in the picture. Two such states are New Hampshire and Nevada. Biden has built up solid leads in these states, particularly in New Hampshire. But the absence of these two states does pose a good question: just when does a swing state cease to be a swing state? New Hampshire, four votes, used to be a reliable swing state, but it has been wrong in two of the last four elections – and has not voted for a Republican since 2000. However, the Granite State is still considered purple because of its raw vote numbers. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won there by less than three-thousand votes – and Trump won a majority of the state’s counties. Similarly, in 2004, the state was decided by roughly nine-thousand votes. New Hampshire has a strong unpredictable streak. There is normally a healthy third-party vote there, especially for the Libertarians. New Hampshirites are also known for their willingness to cross the aisle. The state tends to elect moderates from both parties. Put together, these factors make New Hampshire an unpredictable place. That being said, Biden currently leads by 11.4% in the Granite State. If he does win there by that sort of margin, then New Hampshire may shift to being a blue state. Similarly, Nevada, six votes, was wrong in 2016. The Silver State last voted for a Republican in 2004. But, as in New Hampshire, it is raw vote numbers that keep Nevada in contention. In 2016, the state was the most reflective of the national popular vote. Hillary Clinton won the state by 2.4%, compared to her 2.1% win nationally. Additionally, Nevada, like Florida, is driven by turnout. Palm Springs and Ely are Republican. Las Vegas and Reno are Democratic. Wherever turnout is strongest decides the winner. This time around, Biden is leading by 6.4%. If Nevadans do back Biden by that sort of margin, then, like New Hampshire, Nevada might become a blue state.

A wintery lake in New Hampshire. It is entirely possible that, after 3 November, the Granite State will become solidly blue. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Tightest Races

In addition to the ties in Ohio and Iowa, Georgia and Texas are also tight, at 1.3% and 1.4% respectively. But, in some ways, this is an irrelevance for Biden. As things stand, he does not need Georgia and Texas. In fact, he also does not need both Ohio and Iowa. Biden can lose every swing state and district and suffer an upset in a smaller state like Maine, four votes, or Oregon, seven votes, and still win. In this scenario, however, Biden would need to hold the Rust Belt, including the crucial state of Wisconsin. As things stand, the map is still a lot easier for Biden than it is for Trump. These four tight races alone are not enough for the President. In the remaining fortnight, Team Trump need to push ahead in every swing state and make inroads in Wisconsin as well as another large state. Their key target to this end appears to be Pennsylvania, twenty votes – a state that Trump won in 2016. But, currently, Biden leads in the Keystone State by 6.8%. Whether or not Team Trump can achieve this is a huge question mark. This week, Trump did gain ground in some key races. But, if the President is to win this race, then he will have to turn a jog into an Olympian-like sprint next week.

The National Picture

This week, the second presidential debate should have taken place in Miami, Florida. However, Trump refused to participate as the organisers wanted to hold the debate remotely due to the President’s illness. Instead, Trump held a one-man town hall, also in Miami. Biden did the same in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both men dodged questions. For Trump, it was about the Covid-19 outbreak in his administration. For Biden, it was about packing the Supreme Court should the Democrats also win the Senate. This happened as Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings got underway inside the US Capitol. Biden’s town hall was largely inconsequential. Trump’s, however, descended into farce. The President did not wear a mask, did not confirm if he had now tested negative for Covid-19, stated that he would like to kiss every person in attendance and spent a lot of the event arguing with the moderator, Savannah Guthrie. Ultimately, Biden’s event drew in more television viewers than Trump’s did. Elsewhere, the outbreak in the White House continued to worsen as it emerged that fourteen-year-old Barron Trump had previously tested positive, but has now recovered. Not only did this add to the consensus that the White House has not been transparent about the outbreak, but it stood in direct contrast to the actions of Senator Kamala Harris. Two people in the Senator’s close team have tested positive for Covid-19. As such, she is self-isolating and being regularly tested. The dichotomy between these two approaches to the virus appears to be attracting the attention of voters. This could well impact the polls, particularly in the two states that are currently tied. Only next week will tell for sure.

This Week’s Swing States

State Leader

Margin

2016 Winner

Arizona Biden

3.8%

Trump

Florida Biden

3.9%

Trump

Georgia Biden

1.3%

Trump

Iowa Biden Advantage

Tie

Trump

Maine Second Biden

4%

Trump

Nebraska First Trump

2%

Trump

North Carolina Biden

3.1%

Trump

Ohio Trump Advantage

Tie

Trump

Texas Trump

1.4%

Trump

Note: A state is considered to be a swing state if the leading margin is 4.0% or less. A state is considered to be a safe state if the leading margin is 10.0% or greater

Luke Sandford