he system to elect the President of the United States is known as the Electoral College which was established in the Constitution. Unlike the popular vote in every other election, the citizens vote to select their candidate’s preferred slate of electors, who do the formal voting. In order to become president, the candidate must earn 270 of 538 possible electors.
To gain these votes, the candidate must win the popular vote (the citizen’s vote) of states. The state's electoral counts are determined by the state’s representation in Congress. In other words, the number of House members (varies) and Senators (2). For example, New Jersey has 14 electoral votes: 12 from the House and 2 from the Senate. So, California’s vote matters considerably more than Wyoming’s because California has a much higher population than Wyoming.
When the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College, they did not anticipate political parties. With political parties so entrenched in American politics, some states essentially are automatically blue (Democratic) or red (Republican). For example, California, New York, and Maryland almost always vote for Democrats while Alabama, West Virginia, and Idaho typically vote for Republicans. However, not all states typically vote for one party. Some states are considered “swing states”. These states usually determine a presidential election.
In order for former Vice President, Joe Biden, or current POTUS, Donald Trump, to win the 2020 Election, either will have to win a majority of the swing states.
Michigan: Trump or Biden?
In the 2020 Election, Michigan will likely become front and center for both candidates. Despite President Trump winning Michigan in 2016, former VP Biden is having a sizable lead in the state according to multiple polling networks. The polling network Change Research has Biden defeating Trump by a margin of 48% to 43%. Public Policy Polling also has Biden beating Trump by a slightly wider margin of 50% to 44%.
This is troubling news for the former businessman because in 2016, he won Michigan by only .3% points or 10,704 votes. While the polling certainly does not guarantee success for Biden, Trump has barely any voters to lose if he wants to win the Great Lakes State.
Since 2016, Republicans in Michigan have been receiving poor results in other elections. In 2018, Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer defeated her Republican opponent by a 9.5 point margin. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow won re-election by a 6.5 point margin.
Within Michigan, Macomb County seems to be key to winning the state. In 2008 and 2012, President Obama won the county, but in 2016, President Trump won it by 48,348 votes. Keeping Macomb red is vital in order for Trump to win Michigan. Trump won Macomb, and thus Michigan, in part because of his promise to keep jobs in Michigan and stop them from moving abroad.
However, after one General Motors transmission plant closed, one Macomb resident Ryan Hartung vowed not to vote for Trump again after he felt he broke his promise to secure Michigan jobs. “He said that he was going to keep jobs here, keep them from moving to Mexico,” Hartung criticized. Blue-collar white voters like Hartung delivered Trump his Michigan win in 2016, and arguably the White House. The question is: will they deliver it again in 2020?
Wisconsin: Trump or Biden?
Located directly west of Michigan, Wisconsin will also likely be a deciding factor in 2020. Like Michigan, Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by a razor thin margin. Mr. Trump won Wisconsin by .7 percentage points with a 22,748 ballot margin.
Biden has generally been maintaining a lead over Trump in Wisconsin. The poll Change Research has Biden outperforming Trump 51% to 43%. However, the poll Trafalgar Group has Trump barely defeating Biden with the results coming in at 46% to 45%.
President Trump will have to campaign hard in Wisconsin in order to win Wisconsin in 2020. By flipping Wisconsin red in 2016, Trump became the first Republican to win The Badger State since Reagan’s re-election rout in 1984. Like Michigan, white working-class voters attributed much to his success.
In 2016, Donald Trump dominated in rural Wisconsin. White people without college degrees make up about half the electorate in Wisconsin and Trump won that demographic by 28 points. Trump’s promises to shake up the status quo contributed to many voters choosing Trump over Clinton. In addition, turnout for the former secretary of state was limited in the Milwaukee urban areas.
In the 2018 midterm election, Wisconsin Democratic senator Tammy Baldwin was re-elected by nearly an 11 point margin. In the gubernatorial election, Democrat Tony Evers unseated two-term Republican Governor Scott Walker. While incumbent advantage may have contributed to Baldwin’s election success, the Democrats ousted a Republican governor. That is not a good sign for Republicans or for Trump.
Dan Bice, a political watchdog columnist, reported that Wisconsin is “a deeply red state and a deeply blue state. And from time to time, this side wins and this time this side wins. It’s not that we’re moderate, it’s that you have different groups coming out in favor.”
Did Republicans come out of favor in Wisconsin? Can Trump lead the Republicans back in favor by November?
Pennsylvania: Trump or Biden?
With Pennsylvania bordering the heavily liberal states of New Jersey, Maryland, and New York, one may think that this state will solidly vote for the Democrats. However, Pennsylvania turns out to be a swing state partially because 48 of the state’s 67 counties are rural and thus usually vote Republican. Pennsylvania’s urban areas of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, and especially Philadelphia typically vote for Democrats and keep the state in competition.
In 2016, Trump won yet another close competition and won PA by .7% or 44,292 votes.
The urban/rural divide was on full display in the election as Clinton defeated Trump in Philadelphia County by more than 475,000 votes. However, Trump carried 56 out of 67 counties but still barely won the state.
In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats made gains in The Keystone State. Democrat Governor Tom Wolf and Senator Casey Jr. were both re-elected by wide margins while the Democrats made a net gain of three states in the House of Representatives.
Current polling has former VP Joe Biden leading Trump in Pennsylvania. The poll Trafalgar Group has Biden defeating Trump 48% to 43%. The polling company Change Research similarly has Trump trailing Biden 44% to 50%.
One of the swing counties, Dauphin County, of Pennsylvania has recently become more Democratic. If that is any indication of how the state will go in 2020, then President Trump is in trouble. However, Trump defied the odds in Pennsylvania in 2016, so why can’t he do it again?
Florida: Trump or Biden?
Florida’s 29 electoral votes, tied with New York for third most in the nation, are essential for either candidate to win the 2020 election. According to 270 to win, “except for 1992, when it sided with incumbent George Bush, the state has voted with the winner in every presidential election since 1964." Although a southern state, many retirees from the northern United States settle in Florida and vote for Democrats.
Unlike other Hispanic immigrants, many Cuban immigrants come to Florida and are deeply suspicious of socialism so tend to side with Republicans. As a result of Florida’s diverse population, it is often seen as the ultimate battleground state and a microcosm of the nation at large.
In 2016, Donald Trump bested Hillary Clinton by 1.2% or 112, 911 votes. Trump’s support from white, working class, retiree, and older voters was enough to overcome Clinton’s support from black and Latino voters.
Unlike Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, in 2018, Republicans actually made strides in the state. Then-Governor Rick Scott unseated three-term Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in an extremely close contest. The race for this seat was the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history. With an open seat for governor vacated by Mr. Scott, Republican Ron DeSantis defeated his opponent, Andrew Gillum in another close matchup. However, Democrats did gain two seats in the House of Representatives.
The recent polls in the Sunshine State give a slight edge to Mr. Biden. The poll Trafalgar Group has Trump tied with Biden at 46% to 46%. The poll Change Research has Trump trailing Biden at 45% to 50%.
The results from 2016, the midterms, and polling shows Trump in a better position in Florida than the aforementioned states. However, Florida is far from secured for either candidate. Time will tell who will win Florida.
The Other Swing States
Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida are geared up to be deciding factors in who wins in 2020. However, other states could possibly alter the election’s results as well.
The historically Republican state of Arizona is gradually becoming purple. As a result of immigration, Latinos are becoming an increasing part of the state’s electorate. Also, suburban areas are becoming more blue in Arizona, which is not entirely unique to just The Grand Canyon State. In 2016, Trump won the state, but it was closer than any presidential election in recent history. In 2018, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won a closely contested Senate election, becoming the first Democrat in years to win a statewide office.
North Carolina has also become a swing state. With President Obama winning NC in 2008, Romney winning it in 2012, and Trump winning The Tar Heel State in 2016, North Carolina has proven to be unpredictable. In the 2018 midterms, the Democrats made no gains which is good news for Republicans.
Swing States in the 2020 Election
These six states will most likely determine who will hold the office of president for the next four years. As a result, both campaigns will likely pour their campaign chests into these states.
While President Trump is currently trailing in most of the polls, that does not guarantee his defeat. With about four months to go until November, situations could change and boost the president’s chances of re-election. The economy could be galvanized and the voters could credit Trump for its recovery.
The 2020 election is going to be close. If conservatives want to “Keep America Great”, they need to get out to vote, regardless of what state they live in.