Electoral College Predictions: How Trump Can Win

electoral college predictions

Getty Biden vs. Trump

With the election looming, it’s time to get into the electoral college prediction game. How can President Donald Trump win? He’s behind in national and many battleground state polls, but what’s his pathway to potential victory?

Here are some of the electoral college pathways that could keep Trump in the White House. To be sure, there are many pathways for former Vice President Joe Biden to prove victorious as well. We also did an article outlining Biden favorable maps, which you can read here.

It’s generally held that the key battleground states are Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (the trifecta of rust-belt states that Trump narrowly won in 2016); Florida; North Carolina; and Arizona. Nevada with only 6 electoral votes is a battleground that matters but less so. Georgia has become a contested state. Texas is somewhere out there vaguely in play (but probably not really). Trump doesn’t have to win all of the Midwestern states to win; any of them makes his life easier, though. Most scenarios assume Trump will win North Carolina and Arizona.

To be sure, each of the scenarios below would have to defy the polls. Of course, that’s what happened in 2016, although the election was so close that it was basically in the margin of error. Oddsmakers are mostly predicting a Joe Biden victory. The best argument for a Biden victory is that Biden is not as polarizing to voters as Hillary Clinton was and can win back some of those voters who defected for Trump or stayed home. The best argument for Trump is that he beat the odds before.

There’s also the outlier single electoral vote Congressional districts in Maine and Nebraska. Could they decide the presidency?

We used the RealClearPolitics customizable map to create the following scenarios.

Here are some of the electoral college pathways that could get Trump elected.


1. Winning Without Florida

It’s boring to create maps with Trump winning Florida because that’s pretty much the given in every scenario. He has to win Florida. Or does he?

Here’s one almost sure thing. If Trump doesn’t win Florida, he probably won’t win the presidency. However, that provokes an interesting question. Can Trump win the election without Florida? We ran a scenario that gives Florida to Biden. Florida has a whopping 29 electoral votes.

Yes, there are different ways for Trump to win the election without Florida, but it means he would have to win pretty much every battleground state. He wins without Florida or Wisconsin in this map if he picks up every other battleground:

Here’s a scenario where Nevada goes blue (likely, according to the polls), as does Florida, but Trump still wins by picking up Wisconsin.

If Trump loses Florida, though, there’s another sure thing: He needs Pennsylvania. There aren’t many combinations that get him the presidency without Florida, but there are a lot of ways to lose.


2. Pennsylvania Puts Trump Over the Top Without Michigan & Wisconsin

Pennsylvania and Arizona are a magic combination for Trump. If he gets those two states, he can win without Michigan and Wisconsin. This scenario also gives Nevada to Biden. Everything else would have to go right for Trump, though, in the battleground states.

Biden has enjoyed a consistent lead in Pennsylvania, but it’s tightened slightly.


3. Trump Wins Minnesota

If Trump wins Minnesota, he can weather losing a combination of other states. For example, he could lose Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the three states he won in 2016, and still win – if he pulled off a surprise upset in Minnesota and picks up another state, say Nevada.

Trump has been campaigning in historically blue Minnesota, which has been the focal point of riots and protests over the death of George Floyd, and he’s been running a law-and order message. He’s behind in the polls, but that’s true of all of the battleground states.


4. Trump Loses Arizona But Still Wins

Arizona is a critical state for Trump. Things get a lot tougher if he loses Arizona. If Trump loses Arizona, he needs Wisconsin, Michigan, or Nevada, all states where he’s trailing in the polls.

Here we give him Michigan. You could swap Wisconsin or Nevada for Michigan in the above map and still come out with a Trump victory.


5. Trump Loses Georgia But Still Wins

Could Trump lose Georgia? It’s possible, based on the polls. He could still win with such a big loss if he wins Arizona and some combination of the rustbelt Trifecta – say if he wins Wisconsin and Pennsylvania too.

You’re seeing how important each of those rustbelt states could be to Trump and, in many scenarios, he doesn’t need to win all three.


6. The Election Ties

Is it possible the election ties? Yes. There could be a 269-269 split. Here’s how:

This scenario gives Biden a lot of battleground states, but gives Trump the two Congressional Districts, Florida, and Pennsylvania. What happens if the election ties? History.com reported that it happened once before – in 1800. The Constitution holds that a tied election would go to the U.S. House of Representatives: “[I]f there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President.” Radio.com reports that the Senate would choose the vice president.

The site reports that each states gets one vote for president in the House under this scenario, and a candidate needs 26 states to win. A majority of delegates would cast the single vote, so Republicans would have enough states to pick the president. They’d surely pick Trump.

Here’s another way you can get to a tie. In this scenario, Trump needs Wisconsin (as well as the other battleground states of Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and so on, but he can lose Pennsylvania and Michigan. This scenario sees the candidates splitting the two congressional districts. You could, of course, swap either congressional district and still get a tie, and you could swap Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes for Wisconsin’s.


7. Maine’s & Nebraska’s Congressional Districts Carry the Day

Maine’s 2nd Congressional District went narrowly to Trump after not going for a Republican for years, but polls show Biden with a slight lead, according to WABI5. This led Donald Trump Jr. to recently say the district could determine the election.

Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District could go either way. According to Fox News, Trump narrowly won the district in 2016, but a recent poll put Biden up by 1. Obama won the district in 2008, but Mitt Romney won it in 2012, according to Fox News.

Nate Silver, political data prognosticator, predicted, “It’s all going to come down to the recount in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District.”

Let’s say that Trump wins both of the Congressional districts. This scenario requires him to win one of the three Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or Michigan. We gave him Wisconsin in this map, but could have gone with either of the other states.

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