Trump's path to victory (with a nod to Washington state)

1. As Goes Washington, So Goes the Nation? As early as 2010, I’d noticed that Washington state’s primary predicts November national outcomes fairly well. The idea is this: Washington has a primary where all the candidates run on a single ballot, with the top two advancing to the general election. The specifics have changed over time – in particular, the primary is held in August now rather than in September – but regardless, that unique format gives us a bit of a dry run as to how voting will go in the fall (California has a similar system, but its primary is held much earlier)…

The data for 2020 was genuinely surprising. I had expected that it would look like 2018, when Democrats won about 62% of the vote overall in the September primary. Instead, the Democrats’ performance this year was slightly worse than it was in 2016: They won about 55.2% of the vote in 2020 versus 56% in 2016.

While this also doesn’t look like the Democratic performances in the very good Republican years of 2010 (50.1% of the vote) and 2014 (51.9%), Republicans don’t need a large popular vote victory like they achieved in those years (the state of Washington has also become more Democratic overall since then).

If we use a regression analysis to predict vote shares in the fall based upon performances in the summer, the predictions are virtually identical to the predictions for 2016: Democrats are projected to perform on average 0.8% better than they did in 2016. Using the median (to account for potential outliers), they are projected to perform 0.3% better. Given “error margins” on regression predictions, that is effectively a projection of no change.