Election 2020: Battleground Forecast, Betting Odds, and Predictions


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Well, folks, it is finally here. The day you’ve all been waiting for, or dreading, is upon us. This election certainly favors President Trump more than the 2016 fiasco (which isn’t saying much), but the odds still aren’t great. His odds of reelection sit somewhere between 10% (FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast) and 35% (+180 on Bovada’s betting market). 

Nationally, Trump is predicted to win about 44% of the popular vote. Having said that, he only won 46% of the popular vote in 2016 and was handed the presidency by a hefty margin. The important part is that he won the right 46%. Essentially every battleground state was won by then-candidate Trump, and this year, he will have to manage a similar feat. Let’s take a look at the states that matter, so you know when to panic, and when not to, as the results start rolling in. Below, we have outlined our predicted maps that highlight the six states Trump must win in order to earn another four years in the white house.

Cole Langston’s map:

Jake Ruppert’s map:

Ohio and Georgia

BOTH: In 2016, Trump claimed victory in both states by 8 and 5 points, respectively. Recent polls in Ohio are showing the president ahead by anywhere from 1 to 5 points. Polls in Georgia, on the other hand, are showing former VP Joe Biden with a slight lead. Most importantly, Trump managed over 50% of the votes in both states in 2016, and neither of us expect a drastic change tonight. Pencil both of these in as Trump wins. 

Arizona*, North Carolina, and Florida

COLE: In these states, I am far less convinced. Not only did Trump pull less than 50% of the total vote in 2016, but he only won these states by 4, 3, and 1 point, respectively. Of the 3, I am most confident that Trump will win North Carolina. Many of the state’s polls show Trump beating or tied with Biden, and poll averages over the past two weeks have shifted a full point in favor of Trump. This momentum moving into election day should show up when the final votes come in.

Both Trump and Biden have campaigned very hard in Florida, and it’s no surprise why. While Biden doesn’t necessarily need to win Florida in order to win the election, you need to go back to 1992 to find an election in which Florida was lost by the winning candidate. Much like North Carolina, polls have been shifting towards President Trump leading up to election day, but he still faces a 2 to 3 point deficit that will not be easy to make up. It is certainly possible that Trump could win Florida, as most polls from the state are within the margin of error, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I expect him to win Florida. 

Arizona looks similar to Florida with regards to the President’s chances of winning. The state was won by a larger margin than Florida in 2016, but he is down a larger margin now. The good news for President Trump is that many of the most trusted polls from the two days prior to election day show Trump well within the margin of error. 

The reason Arizona has an asterisk by it is because recent polls have shown some movement in the direction of President Trump in Nevada. Nevada has been widely regarded as a confidently blue state, but was only won by democrats by 2.4 points in 2016. These recent polls that show the president tight in Nevada are dissimilar to the typical polls from the last few months, but if they are correct they could mean a Trump victory in the state. If Trump wins Nevada he will not need Arizona, hence the asterisk.

JAKE: In my opinion, North Carolina is relatively safe for Trump. Even weak, partisanly liberal polls are showing Biden with a slim lead in NC, so Trump is well within the margin of error here. I also expect a strong, somewhat surprising win from Senator Thom Tillis in the wake of a momentous surge to close out his re-election bid. My money is on Trump at -140 and below.

Florida will go back to President Trump and trust me, I have my money where my mouth is already. The polling here was terribly wrong in 2016 and we will see a repeat in 2020. One of the main factors is the state’s Hispanic demographic, which has shown incredibly strong support for Trump in the sunshine state. Cuban immigrants don’t want to be back on the road to socialism. Who would’ve guessed? Strong win for Trump, confidently bet it at -200 and below.

I am personally worried about Arizona, but I don’t think it will be necessary for Trump to reach 270. Senate races align with Presidential races at a strongly correlated rate, and Martha McSally is obviously going down here. Needless to say, I am not taking Trump to win AZ at -105. But I do, in fact, believe in miracles, and there’s still time left to put down some bets… so who knows.


COLE: Pennsylvania is what I will call the keynote state in this election. If President Trump can win Pennsylvania, I am confident he will win the rest of the states on this list. Unfortunately, this happens to be the state on this list that President Trump has the worst odds of winning. After winning by just 0.7% in 2016, Project 538 gives president Trump just a 15% chance of winning the state. Polls since the last presidential debate, where Joe Biden made the mistake of reiterating his stances on natural gas and fracking, have shown a pretty strong push towards President Trump. Pennsylvania election booths close at 7 P.M., but the state law prohibits counting early votes until they are closed, so we may not know who wins the state, and thus the election, until deep into the night.

JAKE: This election is almost certainly coming down to the keystone state… and if it does, we will not be getting a decision on election night. The question we need to be considering is whether or not PA will move strongly to the GOP in 2020, like Ohio continues to do. 2018 was a bit of a hiccup for the GOP in Pennsylvania, much like the rest of the country, but the Trump campaign has planned for this and executed well. Throughout the debates, Trump and Pence both drilled into Harris-Biden for their comments on banning fracking, a massive industry for Pennsylvanians. American voters are smart, and a simple Google search will tell you all you need to know about Biden’s plans for fracking. PA will likely come down to a few districts — including Luzerne — but my money is on the President and his emblazoned supporters in Trump country. Take a bit of a gamble on Trump at +135 and above.

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