Florida. Florida. Florida.
Boring, I know. But it really is the big prize this year. A Florida loss would be devastating for the Trump campaign and a serious blow to Biden, depending on how he loses.
Remember, the Electoral College decides the outcome of this election, not the overall popular vote. Both Donald Trump and George W Bush were elected to office without winning the most votes. A candidate, instead, has to win at least 270 Electoral College votes (I refer to them as “points” when I explain it to my kids). Each state has a given number of Electoral College votes based roughly on their population size and congressional representatives. In most states, if you win the popular vote in that state, you win all the Electoral College votes (or “points”) from that state.
Keep in mind there are certain “blue” (Democratic) states and “red” (Republican) states. They are essentially states where there is little or no contest. For instance, Biden is undoubtedly going to win California’s 55 votes while Trump will easily win Tennessee’s 11 votes and Alabama’s 9 votes.
Enter the “swing” or battleground states like Florida. It has 29 votes, which is a lot. It can “swing” in either direction. Trump’s ground game is extremely strong there and Republicans have spent loads of money trying to hold onto it. A loss is a clear signal the country is done with him and would most certainly be a near-fatal blow.
A Biden loss in Florida is more conditional. A decisive loss (more than two percentage point margin) would, of course, be a very, very bad sign. A squeaker (less than two per cent) would be better news for him since it shows that voters were not willing to go all in for Trump and close races could help him in other states.
More importantly, Biden has more paths to victory than Trump does. Even if he loses Florida, he could pick up three or more of these states to help close the deal: North Carolina (15 votes), Pennsylvania (20 votes), Ohio (18 votes), Michigan (16 votes) and Wisconsin (10 votes).
Of course, if either candidate wins all five of those states, the race is effectively over regardless of whether they win the sunshine state.
Pay attention to North Carolina and Pennsylvania in particular. Those two states will be early indicators of voters’ preferences and both campaigns have put a lot of time and effort there to get out the vote. If Trump manages to win Florida, North Carolina AND Pennsylvania he is in great shape. The same holds true for Biden.
Other key states that could help. If Biden wins Georgia or Texas, Trump is done. Not too long ago, those two states were deeply Republican. In 2020, Democrats are campaigning hard to steal one of them. A swing to the Democrats means the anti-Trump sentiment in the country is very strong. Texas has a whopping 38 votes so not winning it is a death sentence for Trump (I have serious doubts he will lose it, for the record).
Iowa, Arizona and Nevada are also important places. If the race is close, as the East Coast and Midwest polls close, these three states will be key to victory. Arizona, with 11 votes, could put Biden over the top. It has only voted for a Democratic president once in the last 60 years.
Minnesota (10 votes) has not voted for a Republican president since 1972. Trump has spent a lot of time there and believes he can win it. If he does, that would be a big steal for him and could easily be the nail in the coffin for the Biden campaign.