Note: This article was published in August 2019 – a regularly updated look at the 2020 election race can be found here
Despite it still being over a year until the presidential election in the United States, the race for the White House is well underway with the Democrats debating who their pick will be to go up against President Trump and Vice-President Pence.
At the time of publication (August 2019), Joe Biden is the favourite to face off against the incumbent next November, followed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Although we are many months away from finding who the eventual nominee will be, I’ve been taking a look at what some of the scenarios might be when election night comes around next year.
Scenario 1: Trump triumphs once again
President Trump, as the incumbent, comes into the race as the favourite and, with the economy (at the moment) doing fairly well, he would in normal circumstances have good odds of being re-elected. Of course it has been more than 25 years since an incumbent president lost an election.
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Trump could be re-elected next year. Like Obama in 2012, Trump also was hit by big gains by the opposition party in the mid-terms, so it would be reasonable to assume that he might not win all the states he won in 2016.
While current polling suggests Michigan could flip back to the Democrats in 2020, other states look closer to being toss-ups. In a good election for Trump, these could remain red – leaving him with 290 electoral votes, against his Democratic challenger’s 248.
Scenario 2: A dead heat
Of course, Trump is not your average president coming to the end of his first term. He has the lowest approval ratings of any president since records began and has caused repeated controversies on a variety of issues.
Given the weight of both of these factors, it’s possible you could end up in a situation where the Democrats manage to win back both Wisconsin and Michigan, gain Arizona, but fail to take back Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.
Should Trump hold on to one of the split electoral votes in Maine, which currently leans Republican, you then end up with a 269-269 split.
If this were to occur, the House of Representatives have to break the tie. Each state, rather than each state, gets one vote to decide who should become president. As Trump would have won 29 out of the 50 states, it is likely he would be re-elected.
Rather than Mike Pence automatically joining Trump, the Senate would have to independently pick the Vice-President. However, given that it looks likely that the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate, Pence probably won’t have to worry too much.
Scenario 3: A narrow Democrat win
In 2016, Hillary Clinton – although winning the popular vote – lost the election by fewer than 80,000 across three states (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin).
Each of those states was lost by just under a one percent margin and, with polls putting most of the Democratic candidates at least one percent ahead of the nationl vote share Clinton received, it is possible that these states may go blue in 2020.
If the Democratic candidate was to win no other swing states, they would scrape to victory with 278 to Trump’s 260.
Alternatively, based on current polling for the frontrunners, the Democratic candidate could pick up Florida and Michigan, but fail to take back Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This would leave the Democrat ahead on 277.
Scenario 4: An alternative Democrat win
Current predictions for the 2020 election put a number of other states as ‘tossups’, including Arizona and Florida.
Given that both of these states were within a three to four point margin, as well as one of Nebraska’s split electoral votes, it is likely that in a good election for the Democrats that they could win these in 2020.
Such a result would put the Democrats ahead on 319 to Trump’s 219.
Scenario 5: A Democrat landslide
There are also a few other states that are currently tilted to the Republicans or are leaning towards them, including Iowa, North Carolina and one of the split electoral votes in Maine. Georgia and Ohio are currently likely Republican, but current polling suggests a close race in Ohio and a ‘wave election’ could see Georgia go down to the wire as well.
Such a strong result for the Democrats would put the Democrats on 375 to Trump’s 163. Such a result would be the biggest Electoral College win for the Democrats since the 1996 election, in which Bill Clinton won states such as Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Recent polling has also suggested a much closer race in a traditionally safe Republican state – Texas. Although I think a Democrat win is unlikely here, a win here would push the Democratic candidate over 400 electoral votes in this hypothetical scenario.