President Donald Trump likes to brag that his 2016 victory was historically large — even though he lost the popular vote by about 3 million ballots, an inconvenient fact he explains away with wild and unfounded allegations of mass voter fraud.
But a divisive presidency and a lack of support among independent voters doesn’t mean he’ll lose his bid for reelection in 2020. Far from it.
When there are only two viable options, like there are in American elections, and the country is split, like it certainly is, there are no sure things.
American elections aren’t about the popular vote. They’re about the 538 electoral votes. It takes 270 to win.
Most states, as most people know, aren’t really in play — they’re either red states or blue states. California and New York are going to the Democrat. Much of the South and the Midwest are going to the Republican.
Just a handful of competitive states remain. Some political handicappers like the Cook Political Report list five toss-up states in 2020 worth a combined total of 86 electoral votes.
- Arizona – 11 electoral votes
- Florida – 29 electoral votes
- Michigan – 16 electoral votes
- Pennsylvania – 20 electoral votes
- Wisconsin – 10 electoral votes
Trump won them all in 2016, although his margin of victory was just a few thousand votes in some of them.
The race for 2020, regardless of the national mood in which a majority opposes the President, will be waged in those states.
Assuming Trump can win all the states that are either solid or lean towards Republicans (and this includes states like Texas, North Carolina and Georgia that Democrats hope might be in play), he can win the presidency no matter how many people show up to oppose him in Democratic strongholds like New York and California.
His path is much easier if he can win in Florida and it’s notable that in 2018, while Republicans lost the House of Representatives, they won two key statewide races there.
Even without Florida, he’d win the White House if he can keep the rest of the Rust Belt and Arizona.
It’s pretty much impossible for him to win if he loses Florida and Pennsylvania. The political handicappers at Inside Elections think Pennsylvania is now in the “tilt Democratic” column.
Trump knows he’ll have to perform well in those Rust Belt states and Florida again. He’s played to that base while in office — white and working class voters in the Midwest — focusing on issues like immigration and trade that resonate there. And he’s promised to bring back manufacturing jobs, although that sector has slowed in recent economic data.
Democrats, who have focused on appealing to minority and college educated voters, will try to win some new states like Arizona, North Carolina and maybe even Texas.
But as long as the country is split into red states and blue states with only a few swing states in between, even an unpopular President, like Trump, can win reelection.