The Speaker
Sunday, 21 July 2024 – 08:58
US Election 2020

Will Trump win the 2020 election? – Trump vs Biden

With Joe Biden securing the Democratic nomination and November fast approaching, the pundits are gearing up to predict the outcome of the 2020 election – it does not look good for President Trump.

Four years ago Donald Trump managed to secure an Electoral College victory with 304 votes to Hillary Clinton’s 227, despite losing the popular vote by more 2.5 million votes, the largest negative votes margin for a winning candidate in American history.

Trump did this by securing small victories in some of the key swing states, flipping six states from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 – some by the finest margins, with Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania all decided by less than 50,000 votes. 

This amounts to less than 1 per cent of the voters in each state, showing just how close the margins were – if Clinton had won these three states instead, she would have won the Electoral College and likely be gearing up for her re-election.

It is no surprise then, that most of the analysis of what could happen in 2020 is focusing on these key rust belt states, with Biden currently leading Trump in every state Trump flipped, bar Iowa.

Current statewide polling shows that Biden holds a lead not just in the key states, but in states that Clinton failed to gain any traction in, such as Nebraska, which Trump won by more than 15 percentage points.

If the election were held tomorrow, it is thought that Biden would win 29 of the 50 states, securing an Electoral College victory of 357-181 – a historic landslide.


However, at this point in 2016, Clinton held an equally unassailable lead over Trump. With just days to go, her lead nationally was in the double digits and she was widely expected to not just hold on to the seats Obama won, but gain even more ground. As Trump’s campaign CEO Steve Bannon said: the “hidden Trump voter” saw him win in 2016.

This projection includes states like Nebraska, which although Biden holds a lead in polling, have consistently fallen to the Republican party – it is unlikely that Biden will flip a 15 point margin from 2016 in his favour this time around.

Equally, many of the rust belt states that Trump managed to flip in 2016 are still extremely close in the polls. Although Biden leads them currently, it is perhaps likely that come election day, this significant lead will struggle to materialise.

That leaves a map with Arizona and Nebraska remaining in Republican hands, with an Electoral College total of 341-197 in Biden’s favour.

Current polling shows little path for a Trump victory, especially given the ongoing pandemic is sending his approval ratings hurtling towards their lowest levels yet and with unemployment rocketing to over 40 million.

Clinton was indeed further ahead in 2016. If Trump can replicate a similar campaign to last time out, which compared and contrasted him against Clinton, winning over voters who disliked both candidates, he could see a path to victory. These were predominantly in the white working-class – a group who had suffered the sharpest relative economic decline since the 2008 financial crisis and were crying out for change.

If there is a similar break in 2020, it is not impossible to perceive Trump retaining some of those rust-belt states where the white working class are concentrated. This would likely see him win Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio; Biden still winning back Wisconsin. In this case, Trump would still be short. 287-251 for Biden. Trump needs Florida too.

Polling gives Biden a small lead in Florida at present, averaging around 3 per cent. With the state favouring conservative social policy – such as pro-life and tough on drugs stances, along with strong support for the second amendment – it is not impossible that a strong anti-Biden campaign could see Trump retain the state.

In this event, Donald Trump will squeak home with the smallest of Electoral College margins, 280-258, just 10 Electoral College votes beyond the 270 threshold needed to win.

Even if this does happen, he would likely still lose the popular vote by upwards of 2-3 million votes, with Biden far more popular amongst undecided voters and with fewer likely to break for third parties than in 2016 – which saw the largest third-party vote share this century.

Clearly the path favours Biden at the moment and the likelihood is he will secure a strong popular vote victory and pick up the votes in the swing states that will see him across the line in the Electoral College.

With Biden far more popular amongst African American voters in 2016 than Hillary Clinton, he will likely mobilise the support to win states such as North Carolina, that Clinton could not carry in 2016. He is decidedly more favourable amongst Hispanic voters too, potentially seeing him carry states such as Arizona and making inroads in Texas – the second largest state by delegates.

Trump won the 2016 election by securing the plurality of voters who liked neither candidate but still voted for a major party. Current evidence suggests that in 2020, they will break for Biden.

This makes it highly likely that he will win many of those states where he has a polling lead, without the same fall off as was seen with Clinton in the final days of the campaign, with North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania all flipping to Biden.

Biden will win, with an Electoral College margin of 333-205 (barring faithless electors backing third parties), and a popular vote margin of 3-4 million.

Although it can be impossible to tell this far out, with myriad potential events and scandals yet to unfold, the current projection appears as though Biden will comfortably win back the White House for the Democratic party – Trump is in a uniquely weak position for an incumbent president.

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