Trump's paths (plural!) to 270 electoral votes and victory
I recently argued that the toss-up states may be different from what media and pollsters present and what you think.
Based my view from the 2016 results, I have the race at 231 electoral votes for President Trump, 183 electoral votes for Mr. Biden, and 124 electoral votes as toss-ups. This implies that there are several paths to 270 electoral votes for a Trump victory.
The Blue Wall Falls Again
If, as in the last time, President Trump sweeps Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, he will have 277 electoral votes. This is without Trump carrying Florida or blue wall holdout Minnesota. In fact, if President Trump were to win Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, he would win with 271 electoral votes. This is without Trump carrying Florida or Michigan.
The South Also Rises
If, as it appears likely today, President Trump wins Florida again, then a win in Virginia gives him 273 electoral votes. Now, I know you have been told that Virginia is blue forever, but as I pointed out previously in the link above, Georgia voted more conservative in 2016 than Virginia voting for leftist candidates in 2016. In the media Georgia is always now a potential swing state, and Virginia is always gone blue forever. Maybe Virginia is gone forever, but the conservative voters in Virginia have been called smelly Walmart people, deplorables, and chumps. They have also been told in western Virginia that their coal-based jobs will be gone forever. Maybe they will just take being called out over and over, or maybe the people in the coal areas of western Virginia, the military families of southeastern Virginia, the people in the peanut country of southern Virginia, the religious people throughout Virginia, and the Virginians who enjoy an open and record-setting economy will blow up in the face of these insults and turn out in large numbers, making Virginia red again in 2020.
The Riot States Rebel
There are a number of states that have faced riots this summer and fall that could tip the balance. If President Trump win Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wisconsin, he will have 271 electoral votes. Each of these states has had riots this summer or fall. Some of these riots have been more serious than others, but any of them might cause enough swing voters in these states to opt for more security and policing and turn these states red.
The Atlantic Wall Crumbles
If President Trump wins the Atlantic coast states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Maine at large, he will have exactly 270 electoral votes. Virginia was discussed above. Pennsylvania is a blue wall state that Trump won in 2016. New Hampshire was the second closest state in 2016, and this time around, it may be missing enough college students in this remote learning fall to tip the balance. Maine at large was a bit less than 3% Democrat the last time and is really a matter of whether a Trump margin in Congressional District 2 is greater than that in Congressional District 1.
Florida and Almost Any Other State
As I said above, right now Florida seems more and more likely to vote for President Trump. It is, after all, a state where the governor, both senators, the attorney general, and the lieutenant governor are all Republicans. If you add Florida's 29 electoral votes to the Trump base of 231, you get 260. That means that Trump will be re-elected if he can win any one of Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, or Wisconsin, each of which has 10-plus electoral votes. Trump can also win re-election if he wins New Hampshire and Nevada with their combined ten electoral votes, four for New Hampshire and six for Nevada. Some of the other possible two toss-up state combinations are Colorado and New Mexico, New Mexico and Nevada, and Colorado and New Hampshire.
The West Goes Wild Wild
So far, I have discussed paths to 270 involving only my view of toss-up states. Now, what if months of nightly riots in Portland cause Oregon to go red? It was almost red in 2000, and it is a very lightly polled state that votes by mail so there are few indications of what effect the nightly riots are having there. Similarly, the CHAZ/CHOP and the riots in Seattle might bring Washington around. This becomes another "The Riot States Rebel" path, as Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington would bring the Trump electoral vote total to 270.
There are other paths to a Trump victory, but other than The West Goes Wild Wild, the above are some of the more conventional wisdom paths. These many paths give us all many states to watch on Election Night.
James Swofford is a professor of economics in the Department of Economics, Finance and Real Estate at the University of South Alabama.