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If The Election Happened Now (And the Magic of Polling)

Andrew has been an Okie for 30 plus years. He has spent the majority of that time complaining about things.


What November would look like now

With everything going on in the world it can be difficult to remember we are still in the midst of a presidential election. The election in and of itself is unique for several reasons, add pandemic and mass protests and you have one of the most consequential elections in our countries history. There is an enormous amount on the line for this November. Taking polling data from RCP and a few other sources we can see what an election would be like if it were held today. Although that in and of itself means very little, monitoring this over time, as the election nears could begin to paint a picture in which we can more clearly understand the momentum of either candidate.

What about 2016?

The 2016 Presidential Election was interesting in that several states broke for Donald Trump that had given Clinton a clear polling lead days before the election. It seemed impossible for many in the country. Democrats watched in horror as they lost crucial state after crucial state by a razor-thin margin. Republicans who despite what they tell you now, we're very much going into November worried, rejoiced as counties came in red.

So what went wrong with the polling?

Nothing. Really.

As a nation, we have realized the shortcomings of polls. Polling in the 2016 election painted a fairly accurate picture. It is all in how the numbers broke down and where they came from. You will recall that Clinton did indeed win the popular vote. She was just unable to pull them from some of the most crucial areas she needed. It broke down to demographics and turn out. Clinton had a number of issues surrounding her campaign. Her likeability numbers were poor (although Trumps were similar) and her campaign had been dogged with allegations of corruption, that regardless of veracity, took a toll on her campaign.

It is impossible to quantify the effect that Clinton had on her side of the ticket and how that will compare to Biden. It is also very difficult to understand pro-trump turnout after the first term vs last election cycle. Also difficult to quantify is the anti-trump vote. Do Donald Trump's negative approval ratings as of late drive a significant amount of "anyone but Trump" voters to the polls?

But what we can do is present the poll numbers as they stand today.

We can also create a different electoral map which I think will be far more accurate, which takes into account what I believe to be an underperformance of Trump in polls. In this map, I am taking the RCP (real clear politics) average for polling in battleground states and giving it an across the board 2 points to Trump. Completely unscientifically. I will refer to it as Trump's Extra Points (TEP)

Election as of 6-10-20 polling. No TEP added

Polling. 2016 Bias Not added.

Polling. 2016 Bias Not added.

Election as of 6/10/20 Trump TEP added

2020 as of 6/10/20 with Trump bias added

2020 as of 6/10/20 with Trump bias added

Only Ohio flips when you factor in Trumps not scientific extra polling points (TEP)

Ohio is the only state close enough the changes with a two-point flip. If history teaches us anything, this election will get tighten as November nears. Two points could end up making all the difference in how our projections work out. I think there will be a lot more red on that map as we get closer.

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Potential Trump Paths to Victory

If you are someone who supports Trump, the polling above may look daunting. It is just that however, polling. It's going to be a little bit off and it's going to change a lot by the time the election comes around. Those differences can change everything, as we saw in 2016. Trump has definite and realistic paths to victory. These are some of the most probable that I see happening.

Trump path to victory

Trump path to victory

Trump Path To Victory Number 1.

Trump has had continued support in the Rustbelt that caught Democrats off guard. Coming into this election, as of the time of writing, Pennslyvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin are all polling in favor of Biden. His leads there, however, are some of his lowest. (up about 3 percent in the polls. When we account for Trump's extra points it's within one point) In this scenario, Trump is able to carry these three states and with the addition of Flordia (another state in which Trump is within striking distance of Biden) and they don't even need Michigan or Arizona.

Biden is ahead on average about 3 points in most of the four states mentioned. I would look for polls in those states to tighten as time passes.

Trump path to Victory 2

Trump path to Victory 2

Trump Path To Victory 2

In this scenario we have Trump winning in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio again but losing Wisconsin. Even with this loss, the Trump campaign could win Arizona (as it was initially expected to do before polling at the beginning of the year which seemed to suggest otherwise) and Nevada. Polling has Trump down in Arizona and Nevada.

That's a tall order in Nevada as it hasn't gone for a Republican since Bush's 2004 re-election. But a much easier feat in Arizona, which hasn't got Democrat since 1996.

Biden Path To Victory 1

Biden Path To Victory 1

Biden Path To Victory One

Here, Biden doesn't flip Arizona or take back Ohio or Pennsylvania which have seen some of his closest polling numbers. In this breakdown, Biden relies on Virginia which voted for him as a vice-presidential candidate twice in 2008 and 2012. Also on Florida, which broke from Trump in 2016.

Biden path to Victory 2

Biden path to Victory 2

Bidens second path to Victory

This is a crazy scenario but I like it. Here Biden is able to pull off a win in Arizona and Utah and is able to lose Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio and still pull off an electoral victory.

Biden has more options

This is unlikely but it drives home the greater point that at this time, Biden seems to have more paths to victory at this time. In this scenario, he could lose Utah and still carry the election. He is also very capable of carrying any one of Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, or Pennslyvania. This is also how 2016 looked this far out for Clinton in many cases, however. Polls will be off by a few points, and they will close in on each other over time. The Pro Trump bias I am adding to each state's RCP average may seem crazy now, but as State polling begins to close in I think it will paint a much closer and much clearer picture. If Biden wants to win of these states his poll numbers need to be outside of the phenomenon of Trump's votes being better than his polling. Right now, his polling suggests, if the election were held today he would win easily. These numbers will tighten before the race. It is just a matter of when and by how much. It is going to be fun to find out.

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