Mon. May 20th, 2024

The Electoral College question looming over 2024

By 37ci3 Apr7,2024



There are two scenarios that could explain where the 2024 election is now. In one, President Joe Biden is locked in something close to a 50-50 contest with former President Donald Trump.

Biden, on the other hand, is trailing as much—perhaps more—than national polls suggest.

The answer largely depends on whether Trump and the Republicans maintain the Electoral College advantage they’ve gained in the last two presidential elections.

In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2 percent — but Trump’s performance among certain demographics and in certain states meant she defeated her 306 to 232 in the Electoral College. (The margin of the final history book was later changed from 304 to 227, due to “faithless” voters.)

In 2020, Biden topped Trump by 4.5 percentage points in the popular vote, giving him the same number of Electoral College votes that Trump won four years earlier – 306.

And if the trend continues into 2024, Biden may need to win the popular vote by 5 points or more to get the 270-plus Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.

But two election trends are not a guarantee of future results. Another school of thought about 2024 is that the GOP’s Electoral College lead may not be as clear as Trump makes gains with Black and Latino voters, including in states that don’t come close to deciding presidential elections like California and New York. did. . Slightly better margins for Trump in these big, blue states could align the national vote and the tipping point state vote more closely.

The question, however, is how big that decline could be — if at all. This is important information to help gauge what national surveys actually mean, but it’s also shrouded in mystery.

“With Trump’s gains among Hispanic and Black voters, the GOP’s favorability may drop 1-2 points — but it won’t disappear,” said David Wasserman, senior editor and election analyst for the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter.

“In other words, I think Trump could lose the popular vote by 2 points in November and still have an excellent chance of carrying Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada. moment,” Wasserman added.

A case for the GOP to maintain its Electoral College lead

When political analysts discuss Electoral College bias, they are referring to the difference in the popular vote versus the difference in “battle point” status, that is, the decisive state in which the winning candidate clears the necessary 270 electoral threshold. to win the presidency.

For much of the past 70 years, swing states have followed the popular vote closely.

For example, in 2012, Barack Obama won the popular vote by almost 4 percentage points, and he won by more than 5 points in his highest point, Colorado.

But that changed under Trump, when the Electoral College bias rose to its highest level since 1948 — toward the Republican Party.

Part of the explanation was Trump’s particularly strong showing among white working-class voters in the Midwest and Rust Belt battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Another explanation was that Democrats overperformed in states like California and New York, which in our current political landscape are not key to deciding presidential races.

“Biden won by about 7 million votes [in 2020]”, ” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, the GOP half of the bipartisan team that conducted the NBC News poll. “He won California by 5 million votes; he won New York by 2 million votes.”

“That means the vote in the other 48 states and D.C. is essentially equal,” McInturff said.

Also, the Democratic advance in Texas — from 41% of the vote in 2012 to 46% in 2020 — further underscores how the three most populous states have shifted toward Democrats relative to the nation under Trump.

With Biden and Trump up for re-election in 2024, it wouldn’t be too hard to see a repeat of both extreme performances — Trump’s with white working-class voters, Biden’s with voters in places like California and New York. .

A case of the GOP losing its Electoral College lead

A year ago, however, political number crunchers Nate Cohn The New York Times and J. Miles Coleman and Kyle Kondik University of Virginia Center for Politics He predicted that 2024 could be different from 2016 and 2020.

With national polls showing Trump doing better with black and Latino voters and Democrats doing better in the 2022 midterms in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania than in California and New York (compared to past results), they argued that GOP-backing The Electoral College. bias can be reduced.

“If in fact Trump is improving with younger and more diverse voters — which I think is a controversial proposition, but the polls are now showing it — that could give him better margins in states like California, Florida, that he’s already going to win or lose. and New York,” Kondik told NBC News.

“So I think the GOP margin in the Electoral College may be smaller in 2024 than it was in 2020,” he said.

Indeed, the latest high-quality California polls to show Biden leads Trump by about 20 points in the state in a head-to-head matchup, down from Biden’s roughly 30-point margin of victory in California in 2020.

As Cohn said in a New York Times op-ed last year: “At the very least, the fact that the national polls are tied today does not mean that Mr. Trump is leading in the states most likely to decide the presidency.”

Where the battlefield voting currently stands

Currently, Biden and Trump are locked in a competitive contest nationally, according to head-to-head polls, but Trump holds a small but consistent lead in several of his best battleground states, though those results are generally inaccurate.

And polling averages point to a pro-Trump Electoral College bias in some battlefields and not in others. Now, a big caveat: Use polling averages to measure accurately because of the polls’ different methodologies, different margins of error, and different reputations, it can be problematic where the presidential race is currently being held. But they can be useful for getting a broad idea of ​​how national surveys can differ from battlefield surveys.

According to the RealClearPolitics average, Biden and Trump are essentially tied in national polls.

They’re also tied in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which show little or no GOP support in those states — a shift from the final results in the last few elections, when those states tilted a few points to the right of the national poll. vote.

But Trump is ahead in other battleground states, including Michigan, which some analysts believe could be a turning point in 2024.



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