All eyes are on the so-called battleground states with the general election now less than two weeks away. Providing any kind of accurate analysis of how the respective candidates will fare in these states is no easy task, however. The difficulty lies in two areas: identifying true battleground states – as opposed to states that one side or another might like to think are in play – and determining how accurate the polls are in these states. When the dust settles on the morning of November 4 – even if there are mail-in ballots still to be counted in some parts of the country – we will likely know who will occupy the White House, come January, by the votes already counted at that point in eight key states.
Of course, 2020 is no ordinary year – and no ordinary election year. States are in play today that, in previous election cycles, had been considered safe for one party or the other. Additionally, states with fewer electoral votes may have a more significant impact this year if the race turns out to be as close as some are predicting. Then, of course, one must factor in the silent voter – indefinable by definition. The silent voter certainly made all the difference in 2016, when all but a few polls predicted a decisive victory for Hillary Clinton.
Almost synonymous with electoral problems, Florida looms particularly large in 2020 – even by Floridian standards. A large Latino community – distinct for the fact that it contains many refugees and exiles from socialist countries – appears likely to favor President Donald Trump, unlike Latino communities in other parts of the country that vote heavily in favor of Democrats. The Sunshine State also is home to a great many retirees who, for the most part, will probably lean toward the incumbent.
Balancing out the political landscape in Florida, though, is the fact that registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in all the most populous counties. This year, Republicans have closed the gap in voter registrations.
Though, by and large, Republicans dominate state politics in Florida, it truly is a battleground state. The margin of victory, whichever presidential candidate wins, is likely to be slim indeed. Those 29 electoral votes will prove decisive, however.
Along with Florida and Pennsylvania, Ohio is another state upon which the hopes of White House aspirants always lie. Since 1976, the Buckeye State has voted Democrat five times and Republican six times in presidential elections. Barack Obama carried Ohio twice, but then the state swung to Trump.
According to NBC affiliate WLWT5, Democrats have massively outpaced Republicans in voter registrations this year, which could spell trouble for the president. Apart from 2008, this year marks a voter registration record in Ohio. The state has had its fair share of problems with mail-in ballots this year and some speculate that the state’s 18 electoral votes could go to the candidate who has the fewest ballots thrown out.
There is perhaps one clue as to which way the state will go, though: Busken Bakery chain, in Cincinnati, sells red and blue cookies at election time. By the sales of these treats, the bakery is said to have correctly predicted the winner of the last nine presidential elections. This year, Trump is looking good as red cookies are selling faster than the blue ones.
In terms of electoral votes, Arizona is the jewel of the Southwest, with 11. It has been a solid red state, but it is considered a toss-up these days. Other than voting for Bill Clinton in 1996, Arizona has not chosen a Democratic candidate for president since Truman in 1948. Democrats have worked hard to court the state’s growing Hispanic population, and Republican Senator Martha McSally faces a difficult re-election race this year.
Since mid-August, Republicans have registered 30,000 more new voters than Democrats, according to an Associated Press report. The entire population of the state comes in at a little over 7.2 million. The race is tighter than anywhere: The RealClearPolitics average of polls gives Mr. Trump a lead of 0.2%, while Rasmussen Reports has a one percentage point lead for Joe Biden.
The Tarheel State seems to be following the fate of Virginia: a southern state gradually turning from conservative Southern Democrat to Northeast Liberal (if liberal is, indeed, the right descriptive to use for today’s leftists). Whether the backlash against a heavy-handed and totally irrational response to the COVID-19 outbreak on behalf of its Democrat governor will figure into the presidential election is hard to tell. Except for Barack Obama’s razor-thin victory in 2008, no Democratic Party presidential candidate has carried the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
That could be seen as a sign, though; the fact that North Carolinians broke with their red state tradition to select Obama in 2008, only to reject him in 2012. Trump won the state in 2016 by a margin of 49.8% to 46.2%. The voting totals are getting tighter, though, and there is little doubt that this state is no longer red but purple. Neither Trump nor Biden can afford to lose its 15 electoral votes and be assured of victory.
As with Florida and Arizona, Republicans in North Carolina are beating Democrats in the race to register voters. More than two million ballots have already been cast in the state for the 2020 elections.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.