2020's battleground states are not the ones you think

It is well known that in November 2016, a little over 136.5 million Americans voted in the presidential election.  What is less well known is that according to the election results at Wikipedia, a slight plurality more Americans voted for conservative candidates — Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Evan McMullin — than voted for candidates of the left — Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein.  (There were a scattering of votes for other candidate that are less easy to categorize, and for that reason, I will ignore them.)

The discussion that follows implicitly takes the view that President Trump will be better able to attract the conservative voters in 2020, as a known quantity, running for re-election than he was able to in 2016 as a political unknown.  Also, the Libertarian party 2020 nominee is not a former statewide office-winner like Johnson in 2016, but someone with less political experience.  Additionally, one might argue that the limited foreign entanglements, reduced government regulation, lower taxes, criminal justice reform Donald Trump is the best Libertarian candidate on the ballot in 2020, but that could be a topic and an essay for another day.

When one looks at the conservative minus liberal vote in 2016 on a state-by-state basis, the biggest surprise is that there were four states where more voters voted for conservative presidential candidates than liberal candidates, yet President Trump did not win their electoral votes.  Those states are Maine, with two electoral votes decided by the statewide vote; Minnesota, with ten electoral votes; Nevada, with six electoral votes; and New Hampshire, with four electoral votes.  That totals 22 electoral votes that President Trump did not win despite more voters in those states voting for right-leaning candidates than left-leaning candidates.  Interestingly, in Nevada in 2016, as is true in 2020, the Libertarian candidate was on the ballot, while the Green Party candidate was not on the ballot.  Certainly, no matter what the polls say right now, one would think those states are in play in 2020.

Additionally, there are a total of 11 states including the 4 mentioned above where the conservative minus liberal vote totals were within 5% points no matter which candidate won.  Those 7 additional states are Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.  A table with these 11 states and their difference in the conservative minus liberal vote and the conservative minus liberal percentage vote in 2016 is below:

2016 Close State Vote and Percentage Differences

State

Conservative-Liberal Votes

Conservative-Liberal Percentage

Colorado

-30,702

-1.1%

Florida

276,571

2.9%

Maine (at large)

1,712

0.2%

Michigan

131,377

2.7%

Minnesota

-31,222

-1.1%

Nevada

10,182

0.9%

New Hampshire

21,545

-2.9%

New Mexico

-905

-0.1%

Pennsylvania

141,066

2.3%

Virginia

-121,394

-3.1%

Wisconsin

98,350

3.3

Notice that President Trump won 4 of these 11 states while losing the other 7, including the 4 states where more voters voted for candidates of the right.  The closest state, surprisingly, was New Mexico, where voters voted for candidates of the left by one tenth of a percentage.

So far, I have claimed to you that states like Colorado, Maine (at large), Nevada, and Virginia are toss-up states despite the media acting as though these were forever Democrat states.  You may be asking yourself, what about other states the media tell me are toss-ups?  What about Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and maybe some others?  Well, in the table below are those states with their 2016 Trump less Clinton percentage vote difference along with the conservative minus liberal vote percentage difference. 

Other Key State 2016 Trump-Clinton Percentage and Conservative-Liberal

State

Trump – Clinton Percentage

Conservative – Liberal Percentage

Arizona

3.6%

6.4%

Georgia

5.1%

8.0%

Iowa

9.4%

15.5%

Missouri

18.6%

21.3%

North Carolina

3.7%

6.1%

Ohio

8.1%

10.5%

As you can see, these states were mostly outside the 5% threshold for the Trump less Clinton measure and well beyond it for the conservative minus liberal measure.  Of course, the media will tell you they are toss-ups, but Colorado and Virginia are solid Democrat states.

So even if, again this year, the media delay calling Georgia until 11:33, I will be looking most closely at Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin on Election Night 2020.

It is well known that in November 2016, a little over 136.5 million Americans voted in the presidential election.  What is less well known is that according to the election results at Wikipedia, a slight plurality more Americans voted for conservative candidates — Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Evan McMullin — than voted for candidates of the left — Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein.  (There were a scattering of votes for other candidate that are less easy to categorize, and for that reason, I will ignore them.)

The discussion that follows implicitly takes the view that President Trump will be better able to attract the conservative voters in 2020, as a known quantity, running for re-election than he was able to in 2016 as a political unknown.  Also, the Libertarian party 2020 nominee is not a former statewide office-winner like Johnson in 2016, but someone with less political experience.  Additionally, one might argue that the limited foreign entanglements, reduced government regulation, lower taxes, criminal justice reform Donald Trump is the best Libertarian candidate on the ballot in 2020, but that could be a topic and an essay for another day.

When one looks at the conservative minus liberal vote in 2016 on a state-by-state basis, the biggest surprise is that there were four states where more voters voted for conservative presidential candidates than liberal candidates, yet President Trump did not win their electoral votes.  Those states are Maine, with two electoral votes decided by the statewide vote; Minnesota, with ten electoral votes; Nevada, with six electoral votes; and New Hampshire, with four electoral votes.  That totals 22 electoral votes that President Trump did not win despite more voters in those states voting for right-leaning candidates than left-leaning candidates.  Interestingly, in Nevada in 2016, as is true in 2020, the Libertarian candidate was on the ballot, while the Green Party candidate was not on the ballot.  Certainly, no matter what the polls say right now, one would think those states are in play in 2020.

Additionally, there are a total of 11 states including the 4 mentioned above where the conservative minus liberal vote totals were within 5% points no matter which candidate won.  Those 7 additional states are Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.  A table with these 11 states and their difference in the conservative minus liberal vote and the conservative minus liberal percentage vote in 2016 is below:

2016 Close State Vote and Percentage Differences

State

Conservative-Liberal Votes

Conservative-Liberal Percentage

Colorado

-30,702

-1.1%

Florida

276,571

2.9%

Maine (at large)

1,712

0.2%

Michigan

131,377

2.7%

Minnesota

-31,222

-1.1%

Nevada

10,182

0.9%

New Hampshire

21,545

-2.9%

New Mexico

-905

-0.1%

Pennsylvania

141,066

2.3%

Virginia

-121,394

-3.1%

Wisconsin

98,350

3.3

Notice that President Trump won 4 of these 11 states while losing the other 7, including the 4 states where more voters voted for candidates of the right.  The closest state, surprisingly, was New Mexico, where voters voted for candidates of the left by one tenth of a percentage.

So far, I have claimed to you that states like Colorado, Maine (at large), Nevada, and Virginia are toss-up states despite the media acting as though these were forever Democrat states.  You may be asking yourself, what about other states the media tell me are toss-ups?  What about Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and maybe some others?  Well, in the table below are those states with their 2016 Trump less Clinton percentage vote difference along with the conservative minus liberal vote percentage difference. 

Other Key State 2016 Trump-Clinton Percentage and Conservative-Liberal

State

Trump – Clinton Percentage

Conservative – Liberal Percentage

Arizona

3.6%

6.4%

Georgia

5.1%

8.0%

Iowa

9.4%

15.5%

Missouri

18.6%

21.3%

North Carolina

3.7%

6.1%

Ohio

8.1%

10.5%

As you can see, these states were mostly outside the 5% threshold for the Trump less Clinton measure and well beyond it for the conservative minus liberal measure.  Of course, the media will tell you they are toss-ups, but Colorado and Virginia are solid Democrat states.

So even if, again this year, the media delay calling Georgia until 11:33, I will be looking most closely at Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin on Election Night 2020.