The 2020 Presidential and Senate nowcast: the races congeal

The 2020 Presidential and Senate nowcast: the races congeal


Here is my weekly update on the 2020 elections, based on State rather than national polling in the past 30 days, since that directly reflects what is likely to happen in the Electoral College. Remember that polls are really only nowcasts, not forecasts. They are snapshots of the present; there is no guarantee they will be identical or nearly identical in early November.

Let’s begin with Trump’s approval. After several weeks of improvement, this week Trump’s approval eroded very slightly – but remains right in its normal range for the past 3 1/2 years:


It is safe to say that Trump’s post-convention, “law and order” bounce has plateaued (note there have not been any big BLM demonstrations in the past week that have produced pictures of burned-out businesses).

In any event, here is the updated map through September 5. To refresh, here is how  it works:


– States where the race is closer than 3% are shown as toss-ups.
– States where the range is between 3% to 5% are light colors.
– States where the range is between 5% and 10% are medium colors.
– States where the candidate is leading by 10% plus are dark colors.

The only changes are that Nevada moved back from “likely” to “lean” Biden, while Arizona improved from “lean” to “likely.” Maine also improved to solid Biden, while New Hampshire declined to “likely” Biden. With the exception of Arizona, all of these have been on the basis of skimpy polling. I continued to be surprised that so little polling attention has been paid to Nevada.

While Biden’s “solid” plus “likely” Electoral College votes have declined from their peak of  302 six weeks ago, this week they improved from 279 to 284. Absent a *legitimate* “October surprise,” i.e., nothing that has been telegraphed in bright shining neon lights by the likes of William Barr, or a dramatic further explosion of social unrest, Trump is going to need to resort to thoroughgoing vote shenanigans to avoid a likely defeat.  I believe the public’s perception of both the economy and Trump’s handling of the pandemic have congealed. I do expect some further incremental improvement in Trump’s position as voters who were leaning GOP “come home.”

There have also been several changes in the Senate map this week, in opposite directions, all based on light polling:

Iowa reverted back to toss-up from “lean Democrat.” New Mexico declined to “likely Democrat,” and Maine to “lean Democrat.” By contrast, Montana moved from “likely” to “lean GOP.”

At current polling, if Democrats win all those seats rated “solid” and “likely,” they will have 49 Senate seats; 50 with “lean Democrat” Maine; up to 54 with the “toss-ups,” and 56 if they were to capture the 2 “lean GOP” seats.