10 Days to Nov 3

Trump Vs Biden — Closer than it looks

Read on, If you are interested and follow the US elections. A long one though. Let me know your thoughts.

I find the US Presidential Elections the best reality show on earth after the Indian elections. It is a colorful event that has history, statistics, glamour, stupidity, character, media, and people. A quack psephologist, and the best one among 6-year-olds, I am drawn into it big time! I’ve even tracked the primaries in 2008 (Obama vs Hilary) on an everyday basis.

As usual, I have been tracking and analyzing the mood, the events, and the media polls about 2020 elections. Here are some thoughts from my 2020 election diary jottings:

We all know that since Reagan in 1980, excepting for Bush Sr, every president has been re-elected. However, these re-elections have no single pattern, as can be seen from this data…

Reagan re-election in 1984 — Added 7% vote share, added 5 States, and added 36 EC votes to his first term tally. This was a Bahubali performance, as his first election was a landslide victory, and he added to that tally.

Bush Sr re-election in 1992 — Lost 16% vote share, lost 20 plus States, and lost 250 plus EC votes from his first term tally.

Clinton re-election in 1996 — Added 6% vote share, added 1 State, and added 9 EC votes to his first term tally.

Bush Jr re-election in 2004 — Added 3% vote share, lost 1 State, and added 2 new States, and added 15 EC votes to his earlier tally.

Obama re-election in 2012 — Lost 2% vote share, lost 2 States, and lost 26 EC votes from his earlier tally.

Reagan, Clinton, and Bush Jr have all bettered their first terms. Let us call it the ‘Plus Road’ scenario.

Bush Sr lost the second game completely. Let us call it the ‘Disaster Road’ scenario.

Obama did worse than his first term. Let us call this the ‘Minus Road’ scenario.

Now, let’s consider the 2020 re-election of Trump.

Going by the approval ratings of Trump before the pandemic, he should be on the Plus Road, and the game would be over for Biden. But now, the probability of the Plus Road scenario is miniscule, say about 10%.

The pandemic has indeed hurt his chances badly. Although Arizona and Georgia are leaning towards Biden, many more States must have a similar inclination to lead to the Disaster Road scenario. But that doesn’t seem to be happening; the probability of the Disaster Road scenario is still miniscule, say about 5%.

Hence, the more likely scenario, with 85% probability, is the Minus Road scenario.

Let us go deeper into the Minus Road scenario.

Take a look at the last 3 elections — 2008, 2012 and 2016.

  • McCain in 2008, Romney in 2012, and Trump in 2016, won the List A States (given at the end of the write-up). It’s likely that Trump will win these States in 2020.
  • Obama in 2008, Obama in 2012, and Hillary in 2016, won the List B States (given at the end of the write-up). It’s likely that Biden will win these States in 2020.
  • Obama in 2008, Romney in 2012, and Trump in 2016, won the List C States (given at the end of the write-up). It’s likely that Trump will win these States in 2020.

So, for List A, B, C states, the score is -

Biden = 232 EC votes (B List States)

Trump = 205 EC votes (A and C List States)

Let’s call this the ‘Base’ position.

Now take a look at the remaining 101 EC votes from List D States (given at the end of the write-up). These States are what the media are obsessed with!

Obama in 2008, Obama in 2012, and Trump in 2016 won these States. I have divided List D States in different blocks…

Block 1 = 75 EC votes (Florida 29, Michigan 16, Pennsylvania 20, Wisconsin 10)

From the prism of 2016 election results, Trump won these 4 States by less than 1.2% margin. These were the tightest of the races. On the Minus Road, it is likely that Trump loses 2 or 3 of these States.

From the prism of history, in the last 10 presidential elections, Republicans won 6 and Democrats won 4 nationally. When it comes to the Block 1 States, the tally between Reps and Dems looks like this…

Florida 7:3

Michigan 4:6

Pennsylvania 4:6

Wisconsin 3:7

The Democrats — Gore and Kerry — won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin even in their lost course. From a purely history perspective, we can cast aside Hillary’s loss as an exception, and allot Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to Biden.

From the prism of current media polls, after reducing silent voters’ swing, Biden leads in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump is gaining in Florida.

Looking at the Block 1 States, from the 2016 election results prism, history prism, and the current media polls prism, Biden is likely to win 2 or 3 States, and add 30 or 46 EC votes respectively to his tally. Consequently, Trump is likely to win 1 or 2 States, and add 29 or 45 EC votes respectively to his tally. This would lead to two sub scenarios under the Minus Road scenario:

Sub scenario 1

Biden = 46, Trump = 29

Adding the base to it, Biden = 278, Trump = 234

Sub scenario 2

Biden = 26, Trump = 49

Adding the base to it, Biden = 258, Trump = 254

I am assigning a probability of 60% to the sub scenario 1, and 40% to sub scenario 2.

Block 2 = 6 EC votes (Iowa)

When it comes to the Block 2 State, the tally between Reps and Dems is 4:6. But in 2016, Trump’s margin of victory was healthy here, unlike in the Block 1 States. There is a good chance that Trump may retain this. If Trump were to win Iowa, the tally till now will be:

Sub scenario 1 — Biden = 278, Trump = 240

Sub scenario 2 — Biden = 258, Trump = 260

Block 3 = 18 EC votes (Ohio)

In the last 10 presidential elections, the winner of Ohio has gone on to become the President. As per the media polls, Ohio can go either way, as the polls are tight. Trump won by a lead of 8% points in 2016. It is not likely that Trump loses his entire lead. So he is likely to win Ohio. Now the tally stands at

Sub scenario 1 — Biden = 278, Trump = 258

Sub scenario 2 — Biden = 258, Trump = 278

At the end of all computations, if sub scenario 1 were to happen, Biden will win, and if sub scenario 2 takes place, Trump will win.

Let us quickly go over the scenarios and their probabilities, which we began with…

Probability assigned to the Plus Road scenario is 10%, to the Disaster Road scenario is 5%, and to the Minus Road scenario is 85%. The Minus Road scenario has two alternate sub scenarios 1 and 2, with probabilities 60% and 40% respectively. This means the probability of sub scenario 1 is 51% (60% of 85%), and probability of sub scenario 2 is 34% (40% of 85%).

Putting it all together,

Plus Road with 10% probability will lead to Trump victory;

Disaster Road with 5% probability will lead to Biden victory;

Minus Road sub scenario 1 with 51% probability will lead to Biden victory;

Minus Road sub scenario 2 with 34% probability will lead to Trump victory.

Overall, Biden victory is 56% likely, and Trump victory is 44% likely. That’s close!

Conclusion

In my view, it is going to be a hard election for Trump to win. But it is not as hard as the media is making it out to be. Trump should not consider himself as lost, as he has more chances to win than the media forecasts.

Biden should consider himself not a favorite, but still has the potential to upset the election. With all his voters turning out to vote and a decent third debate, he may well cause the second upset to President re-election in 40 years.

After all this, if I were to pick a clear winner today, there’s none.

Notes

List A States — Alaska 3, Alabama 9, Arkansas 6, Arizona 11, Georgia 16, Idaho 4, Kansas 6, Kentucky 8, Louisiana 8, Missouri 10, Mississippi 6, Montana 3, North Dakota 3, Nebraska 4, Oklahoma 7, South Carolina 9, South Dakota 3, Tennessee 11, Texas 38, Utah 6, West Virginia 5, Wyoming 3.

List B States — California 55, Colorado 9, Connecticut 7, District of Columbia 3, Delaware 3 , Hawaii 4, Illinois 20, Massachusetts 11, Maryland 10, Maine At Large 2, Maine District One 1, Minnesota 10, New Hampshire 4, New Jersey 14, New Mexico 5, Nevada 6, New York 29, Oregon 7, Rhode Island 4, Virginia 13, Vermont 3, Washington 12.

List C States — Indiana 11, North Carolina 15.

List D States — Florida 29, Iowa 6, Maine District Two 1, Michigan 16, Nebraska District Two 1, Ohio 18, Pennsylvania 20, Wisconsin 10.