Lance Lambert – fortune.com
All eyes are on the Keystone State. If Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins Pennsylvania, he removes President Donald Trump’s most feasible path to a second-term—and would force Trump to win a Midwest state like Michigan or Wisconsin where the President is faring much worse.
FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver gives Biden an 84% chance of winning Pennsylvania in his final 2020 forecast. But that is hardly bulletproof: Just ask Hillary Clinton who FiveThirtyEight gave a 77% chance to win Pennsylvania, 78.9% chance to win Michigan, and 83.5% chance to win Wisconsin four years ago. Trump would go on to win all three, along with upsets in Florida and North Carolina.
In all, Biden is FiveThirtyEight’s favorite in seven states Trump won four years ago. That includes Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If Biden can hold onto every state FiveThirtyEight projects he’ll win, he’d beat Trump in a 351 to 187 electoral vote landslide. FiveThirtyEight gives Biden an 89% chance of winning, up from the 71.4% it gave Clinton.
But what’s the result if the polling error in 2020 is identical to that in 2016? To find out, Fortune used FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 forecast vote share to calculate polling errors in 14 battleground states. Then we applied those 2016 state polling errors to states’ 2020 FiveThirtyEight forecast vote.
The result? Biden would still win, bringing in 320 electoral votes. In that scenario, he’d pull out narrow victories in five states Trump won four years ago, including Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. While Trump would take Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas. (We recently tired this same experiment on RealClearPolitics poll averages and found a similar result).
But this scenario—despite the massive electoral vote tally—wouldn’t be the Biden runaway it appears. Applying a 2016 polling average, Biden would narrowly win Arizona (1.3 points), Florida (0.7 points), and Pennsylvania (0.3 points). The 60 electoral votes in those three states are what—in this scenario—would stand between Trump and reelection.
Simply put: Trump can win, but he’ll need to pull off an even bigger upset this time.
More from Fortune’s special report on what business needs from the 2020 election:
- What voters need from the 2020 election: Common ground
- What business needs from the 2020 election
- What Wall Street needs from the 2020 election
- What unemployed Americans need from the 2020 election
- What small-business owners need from the 2020 election
- What restaurants need from the 2020 election
- What unions need from the 2020 election
- What Silicon Valley needs from the 2020 election
- What unbanked Americans need from the 2020 election
- What low-wage workers need from the 2020 election
- What working parents need from the 2020 election
- What the health care industry needs from the 2020 election