I don’t know how I missed this when it first came out but back in October of last year, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin at The Center for American Progress provided a detailed analysis of the 2016 election coupled with projections of changes in voter demographics in 2020 to show what it will take for Democrats to beat Trump this year. See: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/politics-and-elections/reports/2019/10/24/476315/path-270-2020/
Note: Voter demographics refer to changes in the age, racial and other characteristics of voters that occur as people move into and out of the state, come of voting age, get older, etc.
I highly recommend you read this 60-page analysis. It is excellent.
Teixeira and Halpin focus their analysis on what they believe 15 key states that will determine who wins the election in 2020 by getting 270+ electoral votes.
Teixeira and Halpin leave out states that are almost certain to go for one candidate or another such as California which will most likely be Democrat and Mississippi that almost certainly will go for Trump.
Here is a brief summary of their findings and predictions for each of these key states.
In 2016, Trump received 304 votes to Clinton’s 227. Trump carried 10 of the 15 states in the Teixeira and Halpin analysis and Clinton won five. We begin by deducting the electoral votes of the states in this analysis from the 2016 totals for both Trump and Clinton to get the following which represents the votes Trump and Clinton won in 2016 EXCLUDING the states Teixeira and Halpin examined in their study. We start with the following:
2016 Results States Not Examined Below: Trump 124 Clinton 192
ANALYSIS OF KEY BATTLEGROUND STATES
Now, we look at each battleground state in the Teixeira and Halpin study and award electoral votes based upon their analysis. Pennsylvania is first.
Pennsylvania: 20 electoral votes
Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by just 0.7% of the vote. Demographic changes in the voting population in Pennsylvania in 2020 are favorable to the Democrats and might just be enough to flip the state back to Democrats if turnout and voting patterns remain the same as 2016. Democrats can improve their chances by increasing Black turnout, increasing their margin among white college-educated voters and cutting into Trump's 30-point 2016 lead among white non-college educated voters.
Advantage: Democrats due to demographic changes
2020: Trump 124 Democrat 212 We award Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes to the Democrat.
Ohio: 18 electoral votes
Trump won Ohio by 8 points in 2016. Demographic changes in 2020 favor the Democrats but will not be enough to tip the election to Democrats. Democrats need to increase Black turnout to 2012 levels and increase support from white, noncollege voters by concentrating on white women, college and noncollege.
Major Advantage: Trump
2020: Trump 142 Democrat 212
Michigan: 16 electoral votes
Trump won Michigan by just 0.2 points. Demographic changes in 2020 favor Democrats and could give Democrats a win by 0.6 points. If Democrats could get Black turnout back to 2012 levels, they would add to their margin. The greatest opportunity for Democrats in Michigan is to increase their white, noncollege vote. Getting the Democratic white, noncollege vote back to 2012 levels could give Democrats a 5-pt. margin of victory. Teixeira and Halpin say Democrats have their best shot by focusing on white, noncollege women.
2020: Trump 142 Democrat 228
Minnesota: 10 electoral votes
Clinton won Minnesota but by only 2 points. Demographic changes should be enough to give the Democrats another victory in 2020, possibly with a larger margin. They could do even better if they got their support from white, noncollege voters back to 2012 levels.
Major Advantage: Democrats
2020: Trump 142 Democrat 238
Wisconsin: 10 electoral votes
Trump won Wisconsin by just 0.8 points. Demographic changes may be just enough to give Wisconsin to Democrats in 2020 by a thin margin. Democrats can increase their margin of victory by getting Black turnout back to 2012 levels and returning their support from white, noncollege voters, particularly women, to 2012 levels. Those changes would give Democrats a comfortable margin of victory.
Major Advantage: Democrats
2020: Trump 142 Democrat 248
Iowa: 6 electoral votes
Trump won Iowa by 9 points. Demographic changes favor the Democrats but Teixeira and Halpin say Trump will probably carry Iowa easily. Democrats could pull off a win if they could get their white, noncollege vote back to the level Obama achieved in 2012.
Major Advantage: Trump
2020: Trump 148 Democrat 248
Texas: 38 electoral votes
Trump won Texas by 9 votes. Demographic changes favor the Democrats but Teixeira and Halpin say Trump’s 76% to 21% lead over Clinton among white, noncollege voters will be difficult to overcome.
Major Advantage: Trump
2020: Trump 186 Democrat 248
Arizona: 11 electoral votes
Trump won Arizona by 3.5 votes. Demographic changes favor the Democrats largely because of an expected decline white, noncollege voters which are Trump’s base. Teixeira and Halpin say Trump may have difficulty holding Arizona if Democrats can increase their margin among white, college and Hispanics, Asian/other race voters and make some inroads into Trump’s white, non-college voters.
Advantage: Democrats by a small margin
2020: Trump 186 Democrat 259
Colorado: 9 electoral votes
Clinton won Colorado by 5 points. Demographic changes favor Democrats particularly because of an expected decline in white, noncollege voters. Teixeira and Halpin say Democrats should be able to hold Colorado and possibly by increasing their lead with white, college and Hispanic, Asian/other race voters.
2020: Trump 186 Democrat 268
Nevada: 6 electoral votes
Clinton won Nevada by 2.5 points. Demographic changes favor Democrats but not enough to deliver a win. Clinton won but by a smaller margin than Obama in 2008 and 2012. Democrats need to focus on white, college voters and Hispanics, Asians and other races to try to get back to 2012 or 2008 levels of support.
2020: Trump 186 Democrats 274 Democrat Wins
New Mexico: 5 electoral votes
Clinton won New Mexico by 8 points which was less than the Obama wins in 2008 and 2012. Demographic changes favor the Democrats. Democrats probably will win New Mexico in 2020 and could do better than Clinton by focusing on increasing turnout among Hispanics, Asians, and other races.
2020: Trump 186 Democrat 279
Georgia: 16 electoral votes
Trump won Georgia by 5 points. Demographics favor Democrats but are not enough for a win. Democrats need a huge Black turnout to win, something close to 2012 levels. Democrats need to increase their support from white, college voters by focusing on white, college-educated women. Democrats cannot afford to allow Trump to make gains among white, college voters.
Small Advantage: Trump
2020 Possible: Trump 202 Democrat 279
North Carolina: 15 electoral votes
Trump won North Carolina by less than 4 points. Demographic changes favor Democrats and should narrow his lead. As in Georgia, the Black vote is critical for Democrats who need a Black turnout similar to 2012. Democrats must also increase their share of white, college voters.
Small Advantage: Trump
2020 Possible: Trump 218 Democrat 279
Virginia: 13 electoral votes
Clinton won Virginia by 5 points. Demographic changes in Virginia should be enough to give Democrats another win primarily because of a decline in white, noncollege voters which are Trump’s base. Democrats can increase their margin by getting Black turnout back to 2012 levels.
2020 Possible: Trump 218 Democrat 284
Florida: 29 electoral votes
Trump won Florida by 1 point. Demographic changes favor Democrats and will probably make the 2020 race very close. To win, Democrats need to get Black turnout back to 2012 levels and either increase their margin with Hispanic, Asian and other race voters and/or with white, college voters.
If Trump Wins Florida: Trump 247 Democrat 284
If Democrat Wins Florida: Trump 218 Democrat 313
DEMOCRATS HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN
Regardless of what happens in Florida, Teixeira and Halpin’s analysis suggests that Democrats have a good chance of winning in 2020 by a margin of 37 to as much as 95 electoral votes gaining a total of somewhere between 284 to 313 electoral votes.
That outcome assumes of course, that Teixeira and Halpin’s estimates of the demographic changes in each state are correct AND that the voting patterns of the key voting groups (white, noncollege; white, college; Black; Hispanic; and, Asian/other race) remain the same.
Conclusions-What Must Democrats Do To Win?
Teixeira and Halpin have done a tremendous job of analyzing the available data and you should read their entire report here: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/politics-and-elections/reports/2019/10/24/476315/path-270-2020/
In the conclusion of their report, Teixeira and Halpin note that Donald Trump won in 2016 because of strong support from white, noncollege voters who made up more than half of the total voters in states that put him over the top such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Five of the 15 key states he carried in 2016. In 2020, demographic changes are likely to shift the voting population more toward the Democratic Party core white, college-educated voters, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians, and other races. Trump’s approval rating among these voters is weak and in some cases hostile. Additionally, Trump's popularity among white, noncollege women seems to be declining. The demographic changes and Trump’s lack of popularity among groups that will be playing a larger role in Presidential elections makes it difficult for him to win in 2020 following the same strategy as he did in 2016. How much can he enlarge his already huge lead among white, noncollege voters, particularly when white, noncollege voters are actually declining as a percentage of the voting population?
Demographic changes are working in Democrats’ favor. However, these changes have not yet reached the point in most states where they can tip a presidential race to the Democrats. How can Democrats win? If you review the analysis I just provided, you will notice that returning Black turnout to the 2012 Obama levels is key to victory for the Democrats in 6 of the 15 battleground states in 2020. The second key, which is critical for Democrat’s in 7 of the 15 battleground states is peeling away at least some of Trump’s support among white, noncollege voters, particularly among white, noncollege women. Finally, in four of the battleground states, Democrats need to add to their margins among white, college-educated voters while increasing turnout and their margins among Hispanics.
PICKING A DEMOCRATIC PARTY CANDIDATE
Now, comes the hard part. If Teixeira and Halpin are right, and their analysis is the best I have seen, Democrats need to find a candidate who can:
- Excite Black voters to turn out at levels similar to 2008 and 2012 when Obama ran,
- Appeal to white, noncollege women who voted for Trump in 2016 but are having second thoughts and may be prepared to abandon Trump for a Democrat,
- Increase Hispanic turnout and support, and
- Simultaneously, maintain and/or expand Democratic support among white, college-educated voters.
If Democrats want to have the best chance of beating Trump in 2020, they must find a candidate that can do all four of these things. That's a tall order but necessary. The question is; Can any of the current Democratic candidates accomplish these four things?