OPINION: Countdown to the 3rd: Trump will win on Election Night

Trump’s projected Pennsylvania victory will win him the presidency next week

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MADE ON 270TOWIN

Trump will beat Biden, but narrowly. It’ll come down to Pennsylvania and 20 electoral votes. This election map predicts the Nov. 3 breakdown, which foresees Biden taking battleground states of Michigan and Wisconsin, while Trump sweeps the South and some parts of the Rust Belt.

JACOB HERSH, Evergreen opinion editor

“There is no future. There is no past. Do you see? Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet.”

-Dr. Manhattan, “Watchmen”

There’s an old adage in politics: “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.” The leaning of the Buckeye State has accurately predicted every presidential election since 1888, with the exception of Kennedy in 1960. Fitting then that a predicted narrow Trump win in Ohio (1.5 percent lead on FiveThirtyEight at the time of my writing) would indicate an equally narrow win for Trump nationally on Nov. 3.

Yes, dear readers, it’s that time. I postponed for weeks, and thought I had bought myself enough time to adequately immerse myself in the uniquely deranged electoral subculture of 2020. Come last weekend, I was pounding Red Bulls until 2 a.m., desperately trying to get some last-minute political osmosis into my R&R-soaked brain.

Right from the beginning, if you prefer not to slog through 1,000 words of justification, I see Trump taking the election, but very, very narrowly. In fact, I’m predicting a slim 20-point electoral win. Percentage-wise, that garners Trump 51.9 percent of the Electoral College – one of the narrowest margins in electoral history, and around 4.5 points down from his 2016 victory of 56.5 percent.

To do this, Trump’s going to have to win some of the hotly-contested battleground states. I looked at states that were polling the two candidates within around 5 percent of each other on FiveThirtyEight.

At the time of this writing, Biden has a 3 percent lead in Arizona, a 2.4 percent lead in Florida, a 2.5 percent lead in North Carolina, a 0.5 percent lead in Georgia, a 1.2 percent lead in Iowa – and crucially, a 5.1 percent lead in Pennsylvania. Remember that number, it’ll be important soon.

Currently, Trump has a 1.5 percent lead in Ohio and a 1.3 percent lead in Texas.

In terms of battleground states, I forecast Biden taking Michigan and Wisconsin, snagging 26 electoral votes.

Trump, on the other hand, has the very real potential to come back from Biden’s marginal leads in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina and Arizona. We saw it happen in 2016, and it’s not out of the question to assume it’ll happen again. Georgia goes to Trump fairly easily, as does Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina. Florida may be tougher – I’m predicting within 2 points at most, but Trump will still take it.

He’ll also preserve his smaller leads in Ohio and Texas – though it may be the last time Texas goes red for a while. Texas’s flirtation with Democratic electoral politics might last for a few years after Trump’s reelection, but it’s likely that it’ll eventually swing back. That’s not particularly relevant, but it’ll be interesting to watch Texas in the future.

Biden takes Michigan, Wisconsin and Virginia with comparative ease – he’s got 8 percent, 6.9 percent and 11.4 percent leads, respectively. Michigan, last election cycle, was highly important to the integrity of the overall race, and it still is today. However, a sweep of those battleground states will not necessitate a Biden win, as we’ll see on Election Night.

As of now, there’s still one unaddressed state up for grabs – Pennsylvania. If you’ve been keeping track of this hypothetical, Trump and Biden are now neck and neck with 259 electoral votes each. Each candidate needs 270 to win. I don’t mind disclosing there were multiple circumstances in the simulations I ran where they tied – dead even with 269 electoral votes each. In that case, there would be a tie-breaking vote in the House, which has never technically happened in the history of American politics.

Pennsylvania, however, is going to be where the next president is elected — I think the 20 electoral votes are going to go to Trump, but by a very slim margin. Last election, he won Pennsylvania by 1.1 points, which wasn’t the tightest margin, but it was fairly damn close. Michigan’s 0.2 points made it the tightest win of either of the candidates in 2016, for what it’s worth.

Why do I believe this? Most of my reasoning is focused around the Republican distrust for mail-in ballots, signifying a larger surge on Election Night itself. For Biden’s state wins, it’s based on poll numbers that seem to be decently rock-solid, or at least built on a firmer foundation than the sketchy numbers of 2016.

But for Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania is partially motivated by statistics and partially by looking at past results. However, I’m also attributing a good proportion of my Pennsylvania theory to gut instinct, and that’s not something I can expound upon, or even explain.

It’s bad writing and it’s worse commentary, but it’s a working theory. Perhaps it’s some arcane Hersh race memory from three generations of Episcopalian Linton Street Eagles supporters, hearts clogged with cheesesteaks and Allentown barbecue.

Regardless of reasoning or instinct, Pennsylvania will go to Trump, and that will win him the election.

To recap, Biden takes the blue wall of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, while snapping up Virginia and Nevada in the process. Trump takes Georgia, Florida, Texas and Iowa, and in the end, crucially, Pennsylvania.

This weird dichotomy of Rust Belt states – Ohio and Pennsylvania, giving Trump a second term – feels like some sort of metaphor that I’m too stupid to grasp. Maybe if I was a John Updike or Don DeLillo type, I could fashion a second Trump win into some kind of allegory for the American Dream.

But I’m not, and barring a New Yorker internship; I doubt I’ll ever ascend that high into literary stardom. I’m but a humble columnist, eating very bad Mongolian beef with cold kimchi and trying to make sense of American politics. God willing, I’m almost done. Nov. 3 is almost upon us, and after it’s over, I can go back to being dumb as hell online.

For better or for worse, Trump is getting a second term.