The key states that Trump won in 2016 were Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. The key states that Clinton won were Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, Illinois, and Minnesota. Trump got 306, Clinton got 232, and the winner had to get 270.
The Democratic nominee in 2020—Biden or otherwise—has to take all of the Clinton states plus two or three of the Trump states. If the nominee takes Florida alone, that won’t be enough. He must also take at least one of the other four. If for some reason he loses Virginia, then he must take Florida plus two of the other states. If he loses Virginia and Florida, then he has to take all four of the other states. So Virginia is a key state, because Trump has a good chance of winning Florida, and trying to win all four of the other states would be tough. You can look at the polls on Nate Silver’s 538.com and see.
Prof. Allan Lichtman with his “13 keys” has correctly predicted 8 of the last 9 Presidential elections, including calling 2016 for Trump. The “keys” are as follows:
- Party Mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections.
- Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.
- Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.
- Third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign.
- Short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
- Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
- Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.
- Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
- Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
- Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
- Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
- Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
- Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.
To win, Trump must get 6 or fewer negative keys. He had that at the end of 2019 (The only likely negatives were 1, 7, 9, 12). But with the advent of COVID-19 and its impact on social stability and the economy, there are negatives on 5, 8 and 11 (there was no major success in foreign or military affairs).
Another model has called for any Democrat (other than possibly Bernie Sanders) to beat Trump.
So at this point, Trump may well be facing defeat. The problem for the Democrats is that Biden is a weak candidate and faces accusations of sexual assault, dementia (“Dementia Joe”) and animosity from the left wing of his own party. This explains his recent attempts to achieve peace with Bernie Sanders, in order to bring the Bernie-ites over to his camp. Numerous left-wingers label Biden as trying to “sheepdog” the Bernie-ites back into the Democratic Party. In my own view, the Bernie-ites should continue to press Biden on the party platform and do everything they can to get their supporters positions of power within the Biden administration, should it be elected. If Biden fails to follow through on his promises, the Bernie-ites will remain organized for 2024. Hopefully, they and the third parties can get together, although that hasn’t worked in the past.