277 ... for now

It ain’t over until it’s over, Yogi Berra said. And this ain’t over yet, and likely won’t be for at least a few more days.

Unofficially, Donald Trump leads in enough states to have won the election with 277 Electoral College votes. Let’s take a look at the map from 270towin.com to see the lay of the land:

Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Normally by this time, one side would be popping the corks and the other would be drafting excuses for the loss. However, in a few states the outstanding mail-in ballots might make a difference in the final outcome. And in one, Michigan, they’re still counting ballots in key counties:

In Michigan, Trump led by about 200,000 votes, 51%-47%, according to the Associated Press count of the state’s tally. If accurate, the 4.4 million votes were still as many as 1 million short — or perhaps more — of the total cast in the historic election, however, meaning it was still possible Biden could make up that difference. Huge numbers of ballots remained to be counted in Michigan’s largest counties, including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Kent.

More than 3.2 million votes were cast by absentee ballot in Michigan. Those were the votes that were still largely to be counted and they were expected, according to polling and other modeling done by the candidates, to swing sharply toward Biden, the former vice president.

Right now, the map shows that Trump can only afford to lose one state — Iowa — and still hang on for re-election. Iowa looks solid for Trump (and has been called for him), but four other states look … worrisome. At the time I’m writing this, Trump’s Michigan lead has dropped to just 2,000 votes, far too close for comfort. If there are a million early votes left to be counted, this might be enough to tip the race to Biden.

In North Carolina, both sides are already in a fight over late-arriving ballots. Trump has a more substantial lead there, 77,000 votes, but that’s not impossible for Biden to overcome. Thom Tillis felt comfortable enough to declare victory last night, but his lead is about 20,000 votes larger over Cal Cunningham. Georgia is potentially still in play too, but Trump has a 100,000-vote lead there at the moment. The best news for Trump at the moment on this score is Pennsylvania, where he won by 630,000 votes. There are a lot of ballots to be counted there, but Trump’s lead is probably far too wide now for late-counted ballots to change the race.

Trump can’t afford to lose any of these states. If he does, Joe Biden wins the election. The only potential counters to that are Arizona and Nevada, where Trump trails but the races still haven’t been called. Biden’s up four points in Arizona but it’s a lot closer in Nevada, where Trump is only 8,000 votes behind. That’s still only 17 Electoral College votes, which might make up for Michigan — if Trump actually catches up.

Trump did a good job in beating expectations in Florida and Pennsylvania last night. But it ain’t over yet … not by a long shot.

Update: Nate Cohn thinks the mail-in ballots left to be counted puts Pennsylvania within range for Biden, too:

President Trump leads by nearly 700,000 votes in Pennsylvania as of 5 a.m. on Wednesday, and Mr. Biden’s chances depend on whether he can win a large percentage of the more than 1.4 million absentee ballots that remain to be counted.

So far, Mr. Biden has won absentee voters in Pennsylvania, 78 percent to 21 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The results comport with the findings of pre-election surveys and an analysis of absentee ballot requests, which all indicated that Mr. Biden held an overwhelming lead among absentee voters.

If Mr. Biden won the more than 1.4 million absentee votes by such a large margin, he would net around 800,000 votes — enough to overcome his deficit statewide.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Mr. Biden will win the remaining absentee vote by quite so much. But so far, his standing in the tabulated absentee vote has almost exactly matched our pre-election projections for the absentee vote by county, based on New York Times/Siena polling and data from L2, a political data vendor.

That’s gonna be tough to do — possible, but tough. The 78/21 ratio is on the outside edge of what we saw in states that processed their mail-in vote first last night, but in most states the split was closer to 60/40 and then overwhelmed by same-day and in-person-early votes.

Also, the counting isn’t quite over in Georgia, and the NYT dials — which had a Trump win in the state “likely” last night — now say the state is “tilting Biden.” For what it’s worth.