Joe Biden currently enjoys a substantial lead in national and state polls. But if the shock of the 2016 election has taught us anything, it’s that surprising results could await us this November. Most experts consider Trump an underdog, and the vast majority expect him to lose some states that he won in 2016 even if he is ultimately victorious. The Trump campaign seems to acknowledge this possibility by their recent decision to cease advertising in Michigan, a state that Trump carried by just over 10,000 votes in his 2016 victory.
The Hillary Clinton campaign was criticized after the election for failing to hold down the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The Biden campaign will not make the same mistake in 2020. But are there other states where a lackadaisical campaign could lead to a surprise Trump victory?
Here are four states that, given the right circumstances, Trump could move into his column this November.
Many people may not be aware that Trump came within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in the blue state of Minnesota. Clinton held off Trump by a mere 1.5 percentage points — around 45,000 voters. And while it’s true that Trump has his work cut out for him in the current national climate, there are some signs that Minnesota could have a nasty surprise in store for the Biden/Harris campaign. In fact, two polls in the last few weeks have shown the President within 3 points of Biden.
Other polls show more of a separation, but are not much different from what polls in Wisconsin looked like in 2016. In addition, 2018 was not a standout year for Minnesota Democrats. In a year that saw Democrats gain 40 seats overall, they only managed to stay even in Minnesota. However, the independent nature of Minnesota politics was evident as Democrats flipped two seats only to be matched by Republicans flipping two seats of their own.
Before Trump supporters get too excited, Democrats still did well in Minnesota midterms, besting the GOP by a tally of 55–43 among congressional voters. In short, Democrats can’t sleep on Minnesota if they want to hang onto its 10 electoral votes.
In 2016, Clinton managed to win in Nevada by about 2.5 percentage points. In terms of raw votes, that’s less than 30,000, so it’s a deficit that Trump has an opportunity to overcome. And it appears that the Trump campaign is going to be redirecting some of the resources it would have used in its Michigan efforts out west.
Nevada might be a tough target for the President, however. Recently, state legislators moved to expand mail-in voting for the upcoming election. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have sued to stop this effort. However, it’s unclear if mail-in voting would be benefit for Democrats in the state. With the lawsuit and the possible confusion surrounding elections, it’s possible for Trump to eke out a win. Nevada’s 6 electoral votes won’t replace Michigan, but they could be pivotal in a close election.
In 2016 New Hampshire was decided by less than 3,000 votes. Current polling, however, shows a double digit lead for Biden. The Granite State seems to be a lock to go blue yet again in 2020.
But that’s an assumption that Democrats can’t afford to make. The polls may look good now, but in May the University of New Hampshire had Trump up by 2 points. If polling has shifted so much then it could easily shift back. Polling in New Hampshire is scarce, so unless Democrats are running internal polls often, they might miss such a shift as election day approaches.
That’s not to say that Trump isn’t facing an uphill battle. But it’s one that he can overcome given the right circumstances and a slow response from the Biden campaign.
Conservatives have long talked of the possibility of turning Oregon red, but so far they’ve been handed only disappointment each November. Is there reason to believe that this year could be different?
It’s definitely a long shot, but Oregon is experiencing a lot of upheaval at the moment. Protests in Portland and the aggressive federal response have served to further polarize the electorate. This is the kind of environment that President Trump thrives in. His combative style alienates some voters, but reels others in. Could Trump manage to leverage the protests and overcome his ten point deficit from 2016?
The odds are solidly against it, but Democrats would be foolish not to worry about what a protracted conflict in Oregon could do. It might galvanize the left and send Trump to a 20 point defeat. Or it could lead to Biden supporters becoming weary and dispirited. Some conservatives believe that the public will punish Democrats for the protests, but it’s unclear exactly what will happen. The chaos does add to the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming election, and Oregon is the Democrats’ state to lose.
To be sure, Trump doesn’t need any of the above states to win in 2020. But any one of them could be the deciding electoral votes if Democrats are caught napping. And since these states are polled less often than what pundits consider to be “swing” states, there’s a chance that one or more could be this year’s unpleasant November surprise for the Democratic Party.