ANALYSIS / OPINION:
Despite President Trump’s consistent and enduring deficit in national inquiries, a closer examination of the Electoral College’s map indicates that its paths to victory remain open.
At this point in the campaign, there are only a handful of states really up for grabs. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that the president will, for the most part, win where he won in 2016 and where he currently holds a narrow lead – Georgia, Texas and Iowa.
Let’s also assume that Mr. Trump wins Florida, which has been back in his column for a few months. Likewise, assume that Mr. Biden wins all the states Hillary Clinton won in 2016, as well as a state – Arizona – that Mr. Trump won in 2016 but has been steadily moving away from him for 60 days and in which the ticket is damaged by the apathetic effort of Senator Martha McSally against Mark Kelly.
Since Mr. Trump received 306 electoral votes in 2016, he can afford to lose 36 votes this time (25 if Arizona turns around) and still be reelected. To refresh the memory, in 2016, Mr. Trump won in each of the remaining contested states – Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Michigan (16), North Carolina (15) and Wisconsin (10).
To get back to the White House, Mr. Trump has to win (again) in Pennsylvania and win either Michigan or North Carolina, and win in Wisconsin or Minnesota. Another, less likely route is to win Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin in case they lose Pennsylvania.
Mr. Biden must either return Pennsylvania and another among Michigan, North Carolina or Wisconsin, or, in the event he loses Pennsylvania, he must win Michigan and North Carolina. Either way, Mr. Biden has to hang on to Minnesota.
There are other scenarios involving New Hampshire and Nevada, but their likelihood is low and decreasing.
Pennsylvania is the key to the election. If Mr. Trump loses him, he won’t win. If Mr. Biden loses him, he has to shoot an inside straight and win Michigan and North Carolina or Wisconsin, and keep Minnesota. This pattern of victories is unlikely.
The good news for Mr. Biden is that he currently has leads in all of the disputed states.
In Pennsylvania, his average lead in the Real Clear Politics “poll of polls” is 4.3 percentage points, although Mr. Trump matched him in a recent poll. Also, it’s probably wise not to get too excited about the idea that Republicans have overtaken Democrats in the last 18 months or so in Pennsylvania. Democrats still have a 750,000 registration advantage in the Commonwealth.
In Michigan, Mr Biden’s average lead is 4.2 percentage points, but a survey in mid-August put Mr Trump down 2 points. In Wisconsin, Mr. Biden’s average lead is 6.7 percentage points. In Minnesota, Mr. Biden’s average lead rebounded a bit, but is in the high numbers.
North Carolina is very close, with candidates trading the lead for much of the past three months, and the state is also host to very close races for governor and the US Senate.
As the campaign moves towards its outcome, the campaigns themselves will tell us what they think of the competition in various places where they deploy candidate and substitutes and spend donor money.
Biden’s team will likely focus on Pennsylvania, likely excluding other states. The Trump team will be spending time in Pennsylvania, but also North Carolina, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Election day is just over six weeks away, so those final decisions on where to spend time and money will decide the outcome.
• Michael McKenna, columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. Most recently, he was Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
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