May 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Doug Sosnik on Biden's best path to 270

Joe Biden

Photo: via Getty Images

Doug Sosnik, who was the White House political director during President Clinton's successful re-election race, writes for Axios that during President Trump’s first term, the country completed a political realignment that began in 1992.

Why it matters: With this realignment, the electoral college map is changing for the first time since 1992. So Trump is running on different terrain than in 2016.

The realignment:

  • Changing demographics: The fastest-growing demographic groups — nonwhites and millennials (now the largest voting bloc) — are D-friendly.
  • Women are increasingly abandoning the Republican Party.
  • More-educated voters are increasingly Democratic.
  • Suburbs, which constitute an increasing share of the U.S. population, are moving D.

What to watch

Rust Belt's traditional battlegrounds:

  • Trump’s chance of winning Michigan, which he carried by 11,000 votes in 2016, has been significantly reduced by the impact of COVID-19 in the state, which has suffered the fourth most deaths in the country.
  • Pennsylvania has almost been as hard hit as Michigan (fifth most deaths).
  • Of the three Rust Belt states, Trump is best positioned in Wisconsin, where his job approval has remained higher than the national average.

West and South emerge as new Democratic base:

  • Seven western states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington — are firmly in the Democratic column.
  • Six states in the South and Southwest — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia — are in various stages of becoming blue states.
  • Outside of Virginia, which has already become a blue state, Arizona is the state most likely to transition to a Democratic base state as early as November.

Biden’s most likely paths to 270 electoral college votes:

  1. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona: Biden wins all three states — his best option, given the political environment. (Map)
  2. Michigan and Pennsylvania + two congressional districts — Nebraska-02 and Maine-02. (Map)
  3. The Rust Belt: Biden wins Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (Map)
  4. Michigan and the Sunbelt: Biden carries Michigan, Arizona and North Carolina. (Map)
  5. Florida +1: Biden carries Florida, getting him to 261 electoral votes. A win in any of the other battleground states would put him well past 270. (Map)

The bottom line: Biden's best strategy:

  1. Make putting Michigan out of reach for Trump the top priority.
  2. Lock up Pennsylvania.
  3. Prioritize winning Arizona, Maine-02 and Nebraska-02.
  4. Focus remaining resources on Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida.

Go deeper: Read Doug Sosnik's full analysis, "The Post-Political-Realignment Electoral College Map."

Go deeper