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The Race For President And How To Watch Election Night Like A Political Professional

by Government Affairs Team | Sep 28, 2020

Written by: Bob Helland

Election day is November 3rd and early voting is already underway in many states.  To understand how the presidential race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will be decided means focusing on several battleground states.  Here’s your guide to watching these states like a political pro.

The race to 270 electoral votes.   Winning the White House means winning the Electoral College.  Here’s  how that works:     Each state, and the District of Columbia, has a number of electoral votes, which in most cases are awarded in a “winner-take-all” manner to whoever wins the popular vote on election night.   There is a total of 538 electoral votes and whoever wins at least 270 of them wins the election.  So the race for the presidency becomes a math problem:  What combination of states will add up to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House? 

When it comes to the electoral college, not all states are created equal.   For one thing, many states can be considered to already be in the “Red” or “Blue” column, even before casting their votes.  Now, that is a gross generalization – there are Democratic and Republican voters in every state in the union.  But when considering that most states allocate their votes by majority (the exceptions being Maine and Nebraska), the number of truly competitive states decreases.  This map of the 2016 race showed that 10 states were decided by less than 5% of the vote:  Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.    These are the battleground states where you will see both campaigns focus their attentions in the remaining days of the campaign. 

Polls that show a candidate leading nationally only have limited value.  Remember, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led in almost every pre-election nationwide poll.  She even won the popular vote, receiving 2.87 million more votes than President Trump.  Trump still won the White House, however, because he received 304 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 227. 

In the days leading up to the election, I am watching the polls in these states, to determine how the race is between Trump and Biden.   A look at the latest polling for many of these states indicates tight races, many within the margin of error.     

On election night, I will be looking within these states to see how many people are voting.  I will be looking at Milwaukee, Wisconsin; cities in the Rust Belt like Youngstown, Ohio and Scranton, Pennsylvania; and the “I-4 corridor” in Florida, between Tampa and Orlando.  Turnout is key. 

GCSAA has a webpage devoted to the 2020 elections. You can find out how to register to vote, which states allow early voting, and more.  You can also find out who the candidates are running in the races where you live.