OK, everybody, time to put myself on the line with 2020 election predictions. Take this for the little it’s worth. I’ve been wrong before (I was in 2016) and will be again. But us pundits will pundit, so here goes.
In the big one, Joe Biden will defeat Donald Trump in the race for president. I don’t think we will have to wait days to know who won either. We may not have official results for a while, but when we go to bed on election night, we will have a pretty good idea who won. Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, for instance, will have most of their absentee and mail-in ballots counted. If either candidate wins two out of three (or even all three), that will give us a good idea what is happening nationwide. The crucial battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin don’t allow any ballot counting until election day, so official results may be a few days away. But we will know how many absentee and mail ballots are out there, roughly where they came from, and some idea of how they are likely to break.
After that, if its close, we will have to wait for the lawsuits, but historically they are not likely to swing anything. If it’s a big victory, we can largely ignore them.
And I do think it will be a “big enough” victory. Going out on a limb, I have the electoral college at 335-203 for Biden. Of the swing states, I think Biden carries Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. I’m least sure about Florida and North Carolina, but in the end neither changes the Biden victory. And, he has the potential to pick up Georgia, Iowa, and Ohio as well, although I think in the end the those states barely stay Republican. Texas is a perineal pipe dream for Democrats.
The popular vote margin will be something like 52-46 (with around 1.5 percent for Jorgensen).
Of course, the polls could be wrong, but I don’t think so. First, they were less wrong in 2016 than most people believe. The final RealClearPolitics average of polls showed Trump trailing but within the margin of error in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Trump won those states by a combined total of less than 80,000 votes.
Second, its hard to see many Hillary voters switching to Trump this time around, but I expect more than a few Trump voters (and Johnson voters) to switch to Biden.
Third, Biden is at or above 50 percent in most polls. Hillary was always short of that. Trump is stuck in the area of 42-45. Biden goes up and down a bit, but Trump’s share has been remarkably stable. Fourth, there aren’t many undecided voters left. Trump, therefore, he must either win over Biden voters, or more plausibly vacuum up a lot of people who didn’t vote in 2016.
And finally, this time Trump is the incumbent. In 2016, he was the outsider alternative. People were willing to give him a shot as an alternative to more of the same. This time, he’s in charge. Moreover, Biden, for all his faults, is simply not as disliked as Hilary was. Undecided voters tend to break against incumbents, and I expect that to be true this time as well. As I noted, there aren’t many of them left, but those that are will not likely boost Trump.
I think Democrats take the Senate too, though not by as big a margin as they hope. They will easily lose a seat in Alabama, but win seats in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. That would give Democrats a technical majority if they also win the presidency (Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the tie-breaking votes). Democrats would need one more win to make for a clear majority. Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina are all in play, and I expect the Democrats to pick up one of them. The Purdue seat in Georgia is probably most at risk, but remember that winning in that state requires 50 percent plus one of the vote or there’s a runoff. Democratic gains will be smaller that hoped because I think a lot of voters may decide to hedge their bets, voting for Republican senators to check a Biden administration’s potential swing to the left.
Finally, in the House, I expect the Democrats to pick up 7-10 seats. That doesn’t sound like many, but few House seats are really competitive anymore, and Democrats already picked up most marginal seats in 2018.
All this adds up to, if not quite a Blue Tsunami, at least a Tall Blue Wave. Not, I think, much of a mandate though. Mostly, this election will be a rejection of Donald Trump and Trumpism within the GOP, not an endorsement of a particularly left-wing Democratic agenda. In factI may have more to write about this post-election, but it is fair to say that the biggest promise of the Biden campaign was a return to normalcy, a no drama presidency, not a new adventure in divisive politics.