Election Day Is Nigh

It has all led to this. Four years of whatever you consider this last four years to be. Most years, we would have a nearly concrete idea Tuesday evening who our next president is going to be.

But as we have heard a million times in 2020, these are not normal times. So, let’s take a look at where we stand and what we can expect on Election Day.

First, let’s start with National polling averages.

538 has Biden 53.4, Trump 45.4.
Realclearpolitics has Biden 50.7, Trump 44.0.
NYT Upshot just lists Biden +8.

But, as we saw in 2016, National averages don’t always add up to wins. In 2016, 538 had Clinton winning the popular vote, 48.5 to 44.9. She wound up only winning 48.2 to 46.1. The difference was small, but enough when looking at the state polls. Especially the ones conducted after the Comey letter.

So, how about those state polls?

Using 538’s snake graphic, the states most likely to surround that 270 electoral votes line are: Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Minnesota and Georgia.

Polling for those looks like this.

PennsylvaniaD +4.9D +2.5D +5
NevadaD +6.1D +3.6D +6
ArizonaD +2.6D +0.5D +3
WisconsinD +8.3D +6.6D +10
FloridaD +2.5D +1.7D +2
MichiganD +8.3D +4.8D +8
North CarolinaD +1.9R +0.5D +2
MinnesotaD +9.1D +4.3D +10
GeorgiaD +0.9R +0.2D +2

So, as you can see, only two of those states have a projection for Trump, both from RealClearPolitics (NC, Ga). But, many of those states are well within a polling error. Upshot is the most bullish on Biden, but still gives Trump a shot in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia if state polls are off by as much as they were in 2016. Biden could theoretically lose all of those and still get to 270, but that puts all the pressure on taking Pennsylvania. More on that later.

Betting Odds

Despite the rosiness of the above picture for Biden, his betting odds have slipped this week. Overall, he is still -190 favorite to win, almost a 2/1 favorite. That implies a 65.5 percent chance to win. That is right in line with RCP’s betting average as well.

What do the betting odds say about the above states though?

StateTrumpBidenImplied Odds
Pennsylvania+150-180D 64.3%
Nevada+325-450D 81.8%
Arizona+100-130D 56.5%
Wisconsin+250-325D 76.5%
Florida-145+115R 59.2%
Michigan+240-300D 75%
North Carolina-110-120D 54.6%
Minnesota+257-350D 77.8%
Georgia-165+135R +62.3

So, if you are a strict believe in the polls, you can make some money on the Dems in Florida and Georgia, as the betting odds have both of those states going to Trump. You know me, I play the middle. Mo money, mo problems; but Mo data, less problems I say.

Winning Chances

All said and done, and the TL;DR portion is here: 538 has Biden winning 89 percent of the time. RCP and the NYT Upshot do not do probabilities with their polling averages. But the betting average at RCP gives Biden a 65 percent chance of winning. The folks over at PredictIt has Biden at 64 percent as well in their “shares” formula. Trump probably wins this election about as often as Justin Tucker missed a 52-yard field goal. You are surprised when it happens, but it happends.

Just How Abnormal?

All of this is assuming a normal election, however, and we could be far from that this year. Early voting and mail-in voting smashed records this year due to COVID. So much so that the system is strained and there are legitimate doubts about all votes counting. Republicans have fought several court cases in the recent weeks in an attempt to ensure they are not. And that isn’t even going back to the controlled gerrymandering, overall ludicrously of the electoral college and election poll suppression tactics of several decades. You know, the normal stuff, ramped up even more this year.

Election Day

What will election day look like? Well, you may need to be asking about election week, not day. Remember way back in the column when I said Pennsylvania was the most likely tipping point state? Yeah, they can’t even start counting early votes until Tuesday, and have said they may not even start in on those until Wednesday, with a goal of completing by Friday. Yes, Friday. Of course the most clustered state is the tipping point, because why not.

My best guess on if we know anything Tuesday night or not is this: If Biden takes two of Florida, Arizona and North Carolina, you can probably go to bed relatively sure of his victory. Florida actually counts pretty quick usually, but also has the dubiousness of having many too-close-to-call races. So, a quick count may not matter there. On the flip side, if Trump takes two of Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan, he is probably re-elected. This is what to watch for Tuesday night. I also recommend something like the 538 live blog, as they do a much better job of looking at where early returns are coming from than national news broadcasts, with county and district data to help filter out the generalization noise of (x of X precincts reporting) with more detail.

Of course, none of this looks like it will deter the president from declaring victory Tuesday. Results be damned.


That was the percentage of voters Trump garnered in Wayne County in 2016. That was tops in Illinois. Wayne has been one of the highest Republican percentage counties in the state for 3 elections in a row. The last democrat president to win the county was Bill Clinton. I’ve been curious to see what the number would be this year.

Over on my Facebook, I put out an over/under line of 79.5 to see what the temperature of the water was. I got action on both sides, the sign of a good line. I’d probably bump it up to 80.5 or 81.5 if I was taking actual money on it.

So, get out and vote. It’s the only way we have hizope.


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