I owe you this post after teasing you last week with news that Democrats weren’t hitting their targets at a certain point in Nevada’s early voting. Jon Ralston has been Nevada’s most highly regarded elections analyst for years, a guy with a track record of calling the final outcome correctly based on early-voting numbers — even though any self-respecting data nerd will tell you that one should never read too much into early numbers. He was tooting his horn about his prior results on Twitter this morning:
2010: Reid (cc: @jmartNYT)
2014: Red wave
2018: Sisolak and Rosen
Is this my Wooden/Notre Dame year? (I hate Notre Dame, so maybe.)
My predictions for Tuesday. https://t.co/xQ8TU5OCUj
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) November 2, 2020
Predicting Reid’s victory in 2010 was especially impressive considering that was the year of the big red wave, when the money and tea-party excitement behind Sharron Angle made it seem likely that Reid would be sent packing. A few days ago Ralston noted that Democrats were slightly *underperforming* their targets in early voting this year, a big deal potentially. Nevada only has six electoral votes but there are scenarios that aren’t terribly unlikely where those votes are decisive. If Biden flips Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia and Trump wins the remaining battlegrounds, Biden is president with 274 electoral votes — assuming Nevada remains in his column. If Trump pulls the upset there, it’s 270-268 for the president. Biden could also win Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nebraska’s Second District to get to a 270-268 win. But if Trump flips Nevada, it’s 274-268 for POTUS.
Nevada matters. With early voting having concluded, Ralston sounds confident that it’s staying blue.
The math is simple: The Clark [County] Democratic firewall — at 90,000 and counting because more mail is coming — should be more than sufficient for a Biden win even under the most optimistic Trump scenarios.
It’s almost impossible for Trump to win the rurals by as much as Biden will win Clark.
And that leaves Washoe County.
Barack Obama won Washoe. Clinton won Washoe. Biden will probably win Washoe — or come close.
There also are not enough votes left to change the dynamic for the GOP, which had hoped for a huge Election Day turnout to overcome the Democratic lead. The Republicans would have to absolutely swamp the Democrats on Tuesday — with Trump winning Election Day by double-digits — and that just does not happen here.
Ralston was confident in a Clinton victory in Nevada four years ago and was proved right — barely. Trump turned out enough voters to make it a 2.5-point race in the end. This year he sees Biden winning by four, 49/45. I won’t second-guess him, but that bit at the end about how Republicans couldn’t possibly turn out enough voters to make up for the big Democratic lead reminds me eerily of Dem strategists early on Election Day 2016 marveling at how Hillary was hitting her numbers in Florida and had amassed enough of an early-vote lead that Trump couldn’t hope to mobilize as many working-class white voters as he’d need in the panhandle to make up the difference. Well, guess what.
If Nevada ends up off the board for Trump then Minnesota is his only hope, realistically, of flipping a blue state. And Minnesota is in the same midwestern belt as Wisconsin and Michigan, where Biden’s expected to win comfortably. In order to pull the upset tomorrow, Trump may have to get it done exclusively by holding enough of his 2016 states to get to 270. And if MI and WI are off the board too, that leaves him with no margin for error — he’d be at 280 EVs with Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, Iowa, and even Texas all in play.
I won’t you leave on a bummer note, though. IBD/TIPP published its national poll this morning and they see the race tightening to a three-point Biden lead. As IBD is forever reminding readers, their final national poll in 2016 was one of only two in the country to show Trump ahead. (And as I’m forever reminding readers, that means they got it wrong, not right. Clinton won the popular vote, which is what national polls aim to measure.) Anyway — Biden 48.8, Trump 45.6, says IBD, considerably closer than most other national polls have things. If that’s the margin we end up with tomorrow night, that’s a very winnable race for the president.
The IBD/TIPP presidential poll suggests Trump has widened his advantage among rural voters, nosed ahead among independents, and narrowed the gap among black and Hispanic voters…
“The IBD/TIPP poll goes where the data directs it, which is why it has been so successful over time,” said Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica. “Right now, data suggests a significant number of votes are still in play, and factors like COVID-19, economic stimulus and mail- in voting could have a real impact. This is a race to watch.”
The most shocking number in the IBD data comes from independents, who are tilting towards Trump by two points. By comparison, Fox News’s final national poll (which had Biden up eight overall) had indies leaning towards the Democrat by, uh, 22. If there really is a late surge among independents towards Trump that’s cutting into Biden’s national lead, that’s a potential gamechanger. Last night Nate Silver published this estimate of how Biden’s odds improve — or deteriorate — based on his popular-vote margin.
If IBD’s margin of 3.2 points is accurate, the election would essentially be a 50/50 proposition. If on the other hand the RCP poll of polls is accurate, Biden is up 6.5 points nationally and virtually a mortal lock to win. (And that average incorporates some Trump-friendly pollsters like Rasmussen, which has Biden ahead by just one.)
I’ll leave you with YouGov’s final projection of the race. Click here if you want to see their numbers for individual states. In 36 hours we’ll have the answer to the most important question of 2020: Is the polling industry writ large just a pile of wet garbage? Stay tuned!
Results from our final update to the 2020 presidential election model:
Biden 364 / Trump 174
Biden 53.2% / Trump 44.3%
— YouGov America (@YouGovAmerica) November 2, 2020