Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading in enough battleground state polls in election 2020 to secure the White House. But we all know what happened in 2016, when President Donald Trump surprised the pollsters by defeating Hillary Clinton.
How it all plays out today is anyone’s guess.
However, we have explored 12 possible predictions and outcomes that show you different paths to the presidency for each candidate. There are other pathways, of course, but these are some of the most likely and the most interesting, in no particular order.
Here’s what you need to know:
How Biden Could Win
Biden Wins Florida
If there’s any state to watch on Tuesday, it’s clearly Florida. It’s rich in electoral votes (29) and the polls are pretty tight. Trump barely won the state in 2016, and we all know what happened to Bush v. Gore. This is an almost must-win state for Trump. Almost, but not quite.
To show the dominance of Florida, in this map, we gave Biden Florida and Pennsylvania, but we gave Trump other battleground states, like Wisconsin and Michigan, that polls show he is unlikely to win (unless, of course, they are wrong). In other words, if Biden takes Florida, he can survive some Trump upsets in other closely watched states.
Maine’s Congressional District Puts Biden Over the Top
Did you know that there are two Congressional districts lurking out there that could put Biden (or Trump) over the top? They’re in Maine and Nebraska, and they each count for a single electoral vote. That’s not a lot – unless the count is super close.
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, as the Bangor Daily News reported.
This scenario presumes that Trump wins key battlegrounds like Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona. Biden still wins in this scenario, and it’s thanks to Nebraska and Maine.
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 “a single-digit advantage.” Obama won the district in 2008, but Mitt Romney won it in 2012, according to Fox News
Biden Wins North Carolina
If Biden wins North Carolina, it’s a much tougher map for Trump. Indeed, Biden could lose Pennsylvania and still become president if he pulls off a victory in North Carolina.
Biden Wins Back the Trifecta of Midwestern States That Clinton Lost in 2016
We all remember how Trump surprised the country by winning a trio of Midwestern states that had been blue for years during presidential contests: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Biden is winning in most polls in those states, and if he does win them all back, he’ll win the election.
Biden Wins Georgia
Could Biden win Georgia? It’s possible, and it would make it much harder for Trump to win the election.
If Biden wins Georgia, he can weather a surprise Trump win in another battleground state – say, Michigan.
Biden Wins Arizona
If Biden flips Arizona, Trump won’t even win with Pennsylvania in his column.
How Trump Could Win
Winning Without Florida
It’s possible Trump will win Florida. If not, can Trump win the election without Florida?
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.
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.
Trump Wins Minnesota
This would be a major upset because Minnesota hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since Nixon. But who knows? If Trump wins Minnesota, he could lose Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the three states he won in 2016, and still win the election. He needs Nevada for this scenario to work, though.
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.
Trump Loses Arizona but Still Wins the Election
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.
Trump Loses Georgia but Wins Wisconsin & Pennsylvania
Could Trump lose Georgia? It’s possible, based on the polls. He could still win the election if he wins Arizona and some combination of the rustbelt trifecta – say, if he wins Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, too.
Those rustbelt states could be critically important to Trump and, in many scenarios, he doesn’t need to win all three.
Maine’s & Nebraska’s Congressional Districts Elect Trump
Maine’s 2nd Congressional District went narrowly to Trump in 2016 after not going for a Republican for years, but polls show Biden with a slight lead there now, 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 a single-digit lead. 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.
The Election Ties
Is it possible the election ties? Yes. There could be a 269-269 split in electoral votes. 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 goes 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 between the two top electoral vote recipients in choosing the vice president.”
The site reports that each state gets one vote for president in the House under this scenario, and a candidate needs 26 states to win. The majority of delegates for each state would cast the single vote, so Republicans would have enough states to pick the president. They’d surely pick Trump.
In another scenario that would result in a tie, 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.