by: Chris Ingram
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL. – In 2016 I reluctantly voted for Donald Trump for president. That he was running against the most vile, dishonest, and hypocritical person in American politics made the decision easier, but it was a nose-pincher, nonetheless.
Since his election, I have become a firm believer in Trump. Oh sure, I loathe the childish Tweets, and the ridiculous statements, but sometimes I love his bravado. Most importantly, policy-wise, the only thing I can immediately think of disagreeing with him on is his stale, pandering Cuba policy. That he has shaken up the political establishment (on both sides) and exposed the liberal media for being the fraud that it is, makes me further emboldened to shout “Make America Great Again,” or, more pointedly now, “Keep America Great –under Trump.”
So now here we are in October 2020, and Donald Trump is facing reelection to a second term. By all accounts in the media and the public opinion polls, the prospects of him raising his hand and taking the oath of office for a second time on January 20th seem dim at best.
But the political epitaph of Donald Trump has been written countless times. And Trump supporters will point to all the polls and prognosticators being wrong in 2016. And they are right. The polls and the pundits got it wrong.
Trump not only defied the polls and the political intelligentsia, but he also beat the statistic that 94 percent of political candidates who raise and spend the most money win. He was outspent by Clinton by nearly 2:1.
This year, Trump is down in the polls and is once again being out fundraised late in the game. In August, the Biden campaign and the DNC outraised Trump and the RNC by over $150 million. Team Trump, appearing to have a cash shortage is cancelling paid media buys in several swing states including Iowa, Arizona, and Wisconsin. This is not a good sign.
There are a lot of not good signs for Trump.
But there is reason for hope and mild optimism. Here is the good and the bad of it.
The road to the White House ends at the Electoral College. Forget about “national” public opinion polls. There is no national election. That the media reports on national polls show how ignorant and/or lazy the media is in its quest for quick, easy, and unflattering stories about Trump’s prospects.
Current state by state polling suggests there are only five states that are so close that they are still considered up for grabs. Those five states are: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and North Carolina. Additionally, the states of Maine and Nebraska award their Electoral College votes in part by congressional district. In Maine, this means Trump will likely win one of the state’s four votes, and in Nebraska, he will likely win four out of the state’s five.
Adding up all the other states that are will most likely go to Biden and Trump, gives Biden 290 to 163 to Trump. At this point, Biden already has the requisite 270 Electoral College votes to win. So, a Trump victory amounts to an upset occurring based on a whole lot of “what ifs” happening.
Let’s start with “what if” Trump wins all five of the remaining undecided states – all of which he carried in 2016. That brings Trump’s Electoral College count to 248 to Biden’s 290. So, what is next?
Now look at where Trump arguably should have the best prospect of winning in 2020 based on how he did in 2016. Start with the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska. Trump carried the whole state in 2016, so we will give him that. Trump 249, Biden 289. Twenty-one to go.
Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are the states Trump won in 2016 but is currently so far back in the polls three weeks before Election Day 2020 that these states are not considered competitive. It is worth noting as recently as two weeks ago team Trump viewed Minnesota as a competitive state, though of late, the campaign seems to be withdrawing. For the sake of our “what if” scenario we will consider all five.
In Arizona, Trump currently trails Biden by just 2.4 percent based on the average of five recent polls, and well within the margin of error, meaning it is statistically a dead heat. Arizona has eleven (11) electoral votes.
With its sixteen (16) electoral votes, Michigan is the second-biggest prize of former Trump surprise swing states currently leaning toward Biden. The former VP leads by 7.2 percent based on the average of five recent polls.
Pennsylvania’s twenty (20) electoral votes are the biggest prize of 2012 Trump surprise swing states. If Trump surprises the pollsters and pundits in the Keystone, state, under my “what if” scenario, Trump would need just one more electoral vote to win. Trump currently trails Biden by 5.8 percent based on the average of five recent polls and Pennsylvania will be a key indicator if Trump has a chance on Election Night.
In Wisconsin, Biden bests Trump by eight percent based on the average of five recent polls. The state has ten (10) electoral votes. A repeat of 2016 seems unlikely.
Lastly, Minnesota – which Trump narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016, is currently leaning Biden and not considered to be a viable swing state (except by the Trump campaign a few weeks ago). Trump trails Biden by ten percent based on the average of five recent statewide polls. Minnesota has ten (10) electoral votes. It appears it was foolhardy for Trump to try to make a play for Minnesota a few weeks ago. The state has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Nixon in 1972.
So, let’s go back to the map. Trump still needs 21 electoral votes to get to 270 – assuming he wins all five toss-up swing states. Based on current polling, Trump has his best shot at winning Arizona and its 11 votes. If we put Arizona in Trump’s column the count is now 278 for Biden and 260 for Trump.
Pennsylvania is Trump’s next best hope based on recent polls – where the president trails by just 5.8 percent. If Trump carries Pennsylvania again, he is very likely to be humming “Hail to the Chief” for four more years. But it’s a big “what if” for this to happen.
It is worth watching what happens in Nevada (six electoral votes) and New Hampshire (four) on Election Night as well. Trump lost both states in 2016, but narrowly. Biden leads in both states by six percent and nine percent, respectively. A win in either would be a very good sign for Trump’s prospects, but victory seems unlikely.
Remember, for all intents and purposes, for any of these “what if” scenarios to occur, Trump must win the five key swing states of Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and North Carolina. If he loses any one of these states, it makes making up lost ground the priority, and the trip to 270 all the more difficult because of the reduced number of states that are potentially up for grabs.
The fact that after four years of non-stop Trump bashing by the mainstream media, and the unfortunate timing (and media-inspired hysteria) of the Corona virus Trump is still somewhat viable is a testament to his resolve.
But make no mistake, Trump has failed himself in many ways. Most pointedly, he failed to recognize winning in politics is about addition, not subtraction. Adding voters to your column, not diminishing their numbers.
Boat parades and huge crowds at Trump rallies look great on TV, but I am doubtful they will translate into voters who want four more years of Trump. American voters are sheep, and they are shallow. Joe Biden with his easy-going way, evasive answers, and “I am not Trump” message resonates with hardcore liberals and low-information voters who are easily led to the slaughterhouse.
As a Trump supporter, I want to be wrong about the president’s reelection prospects. But twenty years as a pollster and political consultant in me says it is not going to happen.
Regardless, I am not pinching my nose when I vote Trump this year as I did in 2016. I am a proud Trump voter, hoping to be dead wrong in my prediction and pleasantly surprised when I wake up on November 4th (or whenever we end up knowing who the ultimate winner is) and learn that the president was reelected.
Chris Ingram is a communication, political, and media consultant in Tampa. Follow him on Twitter at @IrreverentView or send him an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.