Just prior to the 2016 presidential election, I remember agonizing whilst writing my final forecast on the election. Should I stick with my call, made at the beginning of the year, that Trump would win the election, or go with the overwhelming consensus of the Pundocracy that Hilary Clinton would be America’s first female president?
Well, in the end I stuck with my forecast, based on my reading of the fundamentals, that Donald Trump would likely win the election. And we all know what happened next.
So, I’m in the same situation again and this blog post will be my final forecast on the election. Much has happened since my last blog post and here is my take. Trump’s second debate performance was considerably better than his first and he scored a win among the small but potentially vital pool of undecided voters. Frank Luntz focus group of undecided voters, where he went down badly in the 1st debate, overwhelmingly favored Trump after that final debate.
The undecided voters agreed that Biden came across as elderly, weak and at times confused. President Trump, on the other hand, was described as controlled and presidential. Not surprisingly, afterwards, only 1 undecided voter planned to vote for Biden, 8 were for Trump with the remaining individual was torn between not voting and voting for Trump.
So, overall, 1 – 0 to Trump.
Since then, the mainstream polls have narrowed a bit although they still show a strong lead for Biden in the national vote, and lesser so, in the battlefield states.
However, the early voting trends so far suggest a different story and Florida is the canary in the mine. As reported in the Politico recently, turnout among core Democratic demographics, particularly younger Hispanic and African-Americans is down whilst turnout among Republicans has been strong. In Nevada, turnout in rural white areas has been sky-high and the evidence suggests that this is happening across the country.
If, and it is a big if, we see those fired up white rural Trumpian demographics turn out in the Sunbelt and Rust Belt states tomorrow in the numbers some are projecting, a Rural Wave will be unleashed on the Democratic Party.
Massive turnout from the rural white population, some of them who have never voted before, will give Trump the victory in the majority, possibly, in all of the Rust Belt. This would be in line with the primary data from Washington State election results discussed in my last post.
Michael Moore, one of the few figures from the American Left who forecasted the electoral shock of 2016, is warning that the enthusiasm levels among Trump’s blue-collar base is off-the-charts and Democrats should not be complacent going into this election. I agree with him.
The Democrats haven’t helped themselves either by only late in the stage adopting a get-out-the-vote ground strategy of knocking on doors. If the Democrats lose this election that will be a key post-election theme.
Looking at the polls that were reasonably accurate in 2016, Trafalgar Group (which factors in potential “shy Trump” voters) is indicating that Trump will win across most of the Rust Belt and Sunbelt. Only Minnesota – that stayed Democrat in 2016 – will remain in the Biden camp if their last poll was right. The Big Data/People’s Pundit pollsters are showing a close but still competitive race in the Rust Belt battlefield states. They do not factor in “shy Trump” voters, but every poll shows that voters themselves think such a thing exists.
Interestingly, their underlying polling data suggests that suburban voters are the most likely to be shy in their vote. Does that suggest that Trump will out-perform expectations among suburban voters on Election Day, like he did in 2016? We will find out soon enough.
Both Trafalgar Group and Big Data/PP are saying that late-breaker voters are moving to Trump on the back of the economy which is the number one issue for voters, not Covid. We saw the same thing in 2016, with late-breakers going for Trump not Biden. Now if you accept the premise that the mainstream polls are inflating Biden’s lead as Moore himself thinks, the shift among the remaining undecided voters to Trump is significant.
There is a real risk that even with the above; e.g. turnout differential among key Democratic and GOP groups, a possible “hidden” Trump vote among primarily suburban voters and the remaining undecided voters swinging to Trump that Biden could still edge it out in tight battlefield races. And that is why I stick to my call that there is a 40% probabilistic chance of a Biden win.
On the flip side, the likely Rural Wave coming, strong early voting data for the Republicans, poor turnout among millennial minority voters and the signs that undecided voters are swinging to Trump all suggest to me that Trump has a good chance of winning most, if not all, of the Rust Belt states. Robert Barnes, a political obsessive and betting genius says that given the similar demographics across the Rust Belt, then it is likely that all states will vote in a similar way. In other words, it is likely that either candidate will win the Rust Belt sweep.
He also makes a very good point that based on history, it is highly unlikely that a candidate can win Florida but lose the Rust Belt. Of course, it is possible, just very unlikely. With even mainstream polls showing a very tight race in Florida, it would be odd if Trump won Florida with a decent margin but went on to lose the entire Rust Belt.
So, my overall prediction is that Trump will win Florida, probably comfortably and with-it Arizona and North Carolina which have similar demographics.
President Trump faces a tougher battle in the Rust Belt States, and here, I am cautiously confident that he will likely edge out Joe Biden in the majority, if not all, the Rust Belt battlefield states. The biggest risk, however, to my forecast is that this prediction is proven wrong.
I also think that New Hampshire is now likely to go Republican, partly due to the collapse of the student vote that weakens the Democrats but also the energized turnout of rural New Hampshire for President Trump.
I have also made a last-minute change, tilting Nevada, to a tight win for the Donald.
Whilst this is my baseline case for Trump’s electoral college map, I do think there is an outlier chance that the Rural Wave could overwhelm the Democratic defenses in safe Democratic states like Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and so on. Whilst unlikely, that could push the final tally closer to John Greer’s forecast of 350 electoral college forecast. As I said, unlikely but not impossible depending upon the turnout today.
I have placed a series of modest political bets on this outcome via Betfair but have played it cautiously given the risks (40% in my estimation) that I get the Rust Belt wrong and Joe Biden wins the race. However, given the fundamentals, the registration and early voting data and the odds, it is worth a punt. I remind everybody that you should never bet money you can’t afford to lose.
We will find out shortly (hopefully) if I am wrong.
On a wider note, however critical this election may be, ultimately, it is a contest for two elderly white men for the presidency, with both becoming lame ducks by the last year or so of the presidency.
Bigger things are going on. The Long Descent has started, hundreds of millions are facing starvation as a consequence of Covid lockdowns and there are early signs of a religious war brewing between the Muslim world and Europe with innocents being beheaded on a nearly daily basis. Once this election is over I will be covering these massive issues on this blog.
Note: I made a number of minor changes to this blog post on 03.10.2020 (moving my final forecast from 320 to 326).