An Election Night Cheat Sheet and Forecast Based on 2016/2018 Election Results

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The purpose of this article is to provide objective information regarding the election and create a cheat sheet for those who have not obsessively been watching every single poll. The vast majority of observers believe that Biden will win the popular vote and he will win it by more than Hillary Clinton did. Due to his strength with various demographics, Biden has many potential paths to the 270 electoral votes that he needs to win the presidency. 

The 2018 Elections Are Real Results Which Tell Us More Than the Polls Can

My emphasis is not looking at polls, but looking at the 2018 elections as guidance for what is likely to happen with Biden’s presidential bid. 2018 was a very hostile electoral environment for Republicans and Donald Trump appeared to be repudiated, especially in suburban Congressional districts, which abandoned the GOP. Election results in every single swing state except Florida were noticeably bluer in 2018.

Trump Has Been Weakened Since 2018

Since then, Donald Trump has been impeached, failed miserably with regard to preventing the spread of Covid-19 (never even encouraging masks), had a disastrous first debate, and caught Covid-19 himself due to his own negligence. The economic gains that Trump touted have been erased by Covid. My methodology is pretty simple. I take what I think the analogous 2018 election result was and then I generally add 2-4 points, depending on how shifty the voters of that state are. Why 2-4 points? That’s how much value I give for higher turnout which usually benefits Democrats, Trump’s loss of status due to his coronavirus failures, and the resulting flailing economy.

The Likely Clinchers/The Former Blue Wall (WI, PA, MI)  

If you have paid attention the last 4 years to any political pundit, you know that the prior election was decided by Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania last time around. Most pundits are in consensus that Michigan is the most likely to flip of these states. Michigan’s 2018 elections show a state that went strongly blue and there are no signs that things have changed thus far in 2020. Trump’s narrow likely path to victory relies on him capturing Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or both. Pundits are saying that neither of these states are likely to be called on election night.

  • Pennsylvania: Strong 2018 Results for Democrats 

Most pundits feel that Pennsylvania is the weakest link in the former blue wall for Biden. I personally don’t buy that. Pennsylvania’s incumbent Democratic Senator won by 13 points in 2018. It’s incumbent Democratic Governor won by 17%. Incumbency does have advantages, but even assuming that incumbency accounts for a 7 point advantage, PA would have voted against Trump by 6 points in 2018. Forecast Biden wins PA by 9 points, picking up some most but not all of the voters who voted for Democratic Governors and Senators in 2018.

  • Wisconsin: The Split Personality State That Elects Scott Walker and Tammy Baldwin

Wisconsin based on my view is more concerning. In 2018, a Democratic incumbent Senator cruised to reelection with an 11 percent margin of victory, but the Governors race was much closer with the Democratic beating a long-term incumbent Scott Walker by 1.1 percent. Walker had previously won election and re-election for governor in the state. Walker was not known to be a moderate and was a polarizing figure as Governor, reflecting that Wisconsin has the potential to vote Republican. Using the same seven point incumbency handicap for Senate races, I find that Wisconsin would have voted against Trump by 4 points in 2018. Forecast Biden by 6 points.

  • Biden’s Electoral Math without Wisconsin and/or Pennsylvania

Assuming Biden can win all the Hilary states along with Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, he ends up with 278 electoral votes. Below is a table summarizing how the map looks. The most likely substitute states should any of these scenarios occur are Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona. The Trump campaign is advertising it is making a play for Minnesota as well. Wisconsin and Minnesota have the same number of electoral votes, so they are interchangeable on this chart.


Scenario EVs Likely Substitute State(s) to Win (270 EV) 
Lose Wisconsin 268 FL, NC, AZ or 2 Districts (see Spare Change Section below) 
Lose PA 258 FL, NC, or AZ+1 District
Lose WI & PA 248 FL or NC+AZ

The entire battle really focuses on these 6 states and potentially the Congressional Districts in Maine and Omaha. Should Trump lose any of FL, NC, or AZ, most especially Florida, he has lost. The remaining state results are likely academic, because if Biden wins, GA, TX, IA, or Ohio, we are looking at an electoral landslide. It seems implausible that Trump would lose NC, but win GA or TX. The same can be said about the possibility of losing Wisconsin or PA, but winning Iowa or Ohio.  

Most pundits are saying we won’t know the results in PA or Wisconsin until days after election night, because of their mail in voting rules, so the measure of how things are going for Joe Biden on November 3 will be the election results in FL, NC, and AZ. 

The Insurance/Election Night States (FL, NC, AZ)

  • Arizona: The Revenge of McCain Voters

Trump won Arizona by 3.5 points in 2016. By 2018, the moderate suburban Republicans in Arizona appeared to rebel against him and the party. Krysten Sinema, a moderate Democrat won election to the Senate by 2.4 points, a 5.9 point swing from Clinton’s results in Arizona. Trump is likely viewed more unfavorably, so I believe Biden will beat the 2018 results by 3.5 points. Forecast Biden by 5.9 points.

  • North Carolina: The Urban South

Trump won North Carolina by 3.7 points in 2016. NC did not have a Senate or Governor election in 2018, but a rough measure of where it stands can be gained by looking at its State Supreme Court election. In that election, a Democratic candidate won over 2 Republican candidates with 49.9% of the vote. I conclude that NC was evenly divided in 2018 and swung 3.7 points from 2016.  Early voting numbers appear to be encouraging with over 20% of voters I this election being voters who didn’t vote in 2016.  That stat includes people who moved to NC and some 18-22 year olds, but it very encouraging. The state is less swingy than AZ so I’m adding 2.5 points for Biden from the 2018 results. Forecast Biden by 2.5.

  • Florida: The Frozen Swamp

Florida has confounded pundits time and again. 2018 was no exception. Polls showed Democrats cruising to victory by good margins, but the election results were much different. Florida is so different, because every other state has shown clear signs of moving in favor of Democrats during the Trump administration. Trump won Florida by 1.2 points. Moderate Democrat Bill Nelson lost his Senate seat by .1 points in 2018, just 10,000 votes. In the Governors race, the Republican candidate Ron DeSantis who all but kissed Trump as part of his campaign won by .4 points.

I call Florida the frozen swamp, because the rest of the country shifted noticeably, while Florida stayed frozen. Each Midwest state discussed herein shifted by approximately 5 points or more. Texas and Arizona shifted by more than 5 points. Even Florida’s southern counterparts, Georgia and North Carolina shifted by 3 points in 2018 from 2016. While the rest of the country shifted, Florida shifted by a measly one point.  Nelson is more parallel to Biden, so we can assume Florida shifted by about 1 point in favor of Dems. It appears that Republicans have cemented Latino support, particularly Cuban support in and around Miami. Older voters and how their preferences have changed in light of Covid-19 is the wild card in this state. Given its frozen status in 2018, I see Florida shifting by 0.5 percent. Forecast, a shaky win by 0.4% for Joe Biden. We will be in recount territory if Florida is the decisive state, but most likely it will not be. 

The Spare Change (Omaha and Maine-2) 

Maine and Nebraska award one electoral college vote to the candidate who wins each Congressional District in their state. This allocation usually doesn’t matter, but in 2016 Trump picked up an Electoral Vote from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District wining it by 10 points. In 2008, Obamaha was born when Barack Obama won Nebraska’s Congressional District containing Omaha. Hilary Clinton closely contested Omaha in 2016 losing it by 2 points. Most election prognosticators believe that Omaha will go for Biden and see Maine-2 as a tossup or lean Trump territory. As the chart above demonstrates, both districts could be decisive if Biden loses Wisconsin and can’t win FL, AZ, or NC. Omaha is also likely to be decisive if Biden loses only Pennsylvania, but secures AZ’s electoral votes without winning FL or NC. Forecast, Biden wins both Maine-2 and Omaha’s Congressional District.

The Pink Urban/Suburban South (GA, TX) 


  • Georgia: The Story of the Split Peach

Georgia this year is being listed by political pundits as a true toss up state. Georgia voted for Donald Trump by 5.1 points in 2016 giving him 50.4 percent of the vote. By 2018, Georgia swung another 3.7 points blue when Stacey Abrams lost the governor’s race there by a narrow 1.4 point margin. 50.2 percent of voters voted for the winning governor candidate. Suburban voters around Atlanta in particular rebelled against the GOP in 2018. Georgia appears to be a highly inelastic state, but the environment also is worse for Trump and the GOP. Forecast, Biden wins Georgia by 0.6 percent.

  • Texas: The State Has Transformed and Trump Just Ain’t Dubya

Donald Trump won Texas by 9 points in 2016, but 47.8 percent of the population didn’t vote for him. In 2018, Democrat Beto O’Rourke showed that Texas could at least be close. He captured 48.3 percent of the vote and lost his Senate race to Ted Cruz by a mere 2.6 points. The polls in Texas were 3.5 points redder than the end result. Polls in Texas today are closer, so a similar polling error would result in a Biden win. As of this writing, almost 7 million people have voted in Texas so far, about 70% of the number who voted in 2016. There’s a potential narrow path to victory if new and low propensity voters show up and vote Democrat. Forecast, Trump wins Texas by 0.6 percent.

The Pink Midwest (IA, OH)

Ohio voted for Donald Trump in 2016 by 8.1 points. In 2018, Ohioans split their ticket voting incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown by 7 points and voting for a Republican Governor by 3.7 points. It seems like the Ohio Governor race is more indicative of where the state stands and that is my baseline for this election. Ohio appears to be more elastic and it clearly is willing to vote Democrat for federal office, so I’m shifting it 3 points from the Governor’s election. Forecast Trump wins Ohio by 0.7 percent.

Iowa voted for Donald Trump by a shocking 9.4 points in 2016. In its Governor race in 2018, it voted for a Republican Governor by 2.8 points. Iowa appears to have extremely swingy voters who can vote for either party. The pundits rate it as a tossup, but believe it slightly favors Donald Trump. I am shifting Iowa by 4 points. Forecast, Biden wins Iowa by 1.2 percent

Trump’s Casino Offense (NV) 

This article assumes that Biden wins every Clinton state including Nevada in its analysis. I personally believe that if Trump is going to pick off a Clinton state that it is likely to be Nevada. Nevada voted for Clinton by 2.4 points in 2016. In 2018, Nevada’s incumbent Republican Senator lost reelection by 5 points. In a normal situation, one would anticipate Nevada going for Biden by 7 or 8 points. Nevada Democrats really rely on turnout operations involving the casinos in Las Vegas and Reno to give them a lead. In light of the coronavirus and the perception Democrats are more pro-shutdown, I feel strongly that Nevada is a state to watch. Forecast, Biden wins Nevada by 4 percent.

Forecast Summary for 2016 Trump States

Biden has a commanding position in this forecast, because he actually has over 400 electoral votes that he is within one point of winning. There are over 100 electoral votes in this forecast where I project a state being decided by less than one point. I project that Omaha goes Biden and that Biden will get all of Maine’s electoral votes, so my final projection is 357 electoral votes for Biden. What will worry me on election night is if Trump appears to be winning in both Arizona and North Carolina (I don’t have faith in Florida deciding a close election). That would mean that Biden is likely purely reliant on the blue wall states to win.


State 2016 2018 paralell election(s) 2020 Forecast EV
PA -1.2 +6 +9 268
WI 0.8 +4 +6 278
AZ -3.5 +2.4 +5.9 289
NC -3.7 Even +2.5 304
IA -9.4 -2.8 +1.2 310
GA -5.1 -1.4 +0.6 326
FL -1.2 -0.1 +0.4 355
TX -9.0 -2.6 -0.6
OH -8.1 -3.7 -0.7


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