Biden tops 270 in POLITICO’s Election Forecast

Biden tops 270 in POLITICO’s Election Forecast


Joe Biden has reached 270 electoral votes for the first time since POLITICO’s Election Forecast debuted late last year.

In addition to a double-digit national lead, Biden has built a stable advantage in the three Great Lakes States that put Donald Trump over the top in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Our latest presidential-race ratings now have Biden favored in enough states — including Wisconsin, which we’ve moved from “toss-up” to “lean Democratic”— to clinch the presidency.

To win reelection, Trump would now have to sweep all five toss-up states, plus pull back a “lean Democratic” state like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania.

It’s a long shot but not impossible. Republicans are hopeful that the Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court hearings that start this week will shift the election in their favor.

Yet signs of a possible Democratic wave abound.

Biden’s national advantage is widening as Election Day approaches. Millions of Americans are voting every week and ballot return statistics indicate that Democratic voters are highly motivated. And, propelled by seemingly unlimited financial resources and Trump’s vulnerability at the top of the ticket, Democrats are now actively contesting Senate races in once-unthinkable states, like Alaska and South Carolina. The party could even pad its House majority, which includes more than two dozen seats that Trump carried four years ago.

The GOP’s best hope of an Election Day bright spot is to retain the Senate. Despite Democrats’ national momentum, both parties are in a knife fight for control of the chamber. North Carolina Democrat Cal Cunningham’s recent sex scandal has jeopardized a crucial race that had been leaning his way.

POLITICO’s Election Forecast is based on extensive, year-long reporting: conversations with dozens of strategists, pollsters and campaigns, along with an analysis of public and private polling data and other data sources.

President: Lean Democratic

Though the presidential race remains in the same category since our last ratings, Biden’s chances have improved. A total of 11 electoral votes move into his column in this update: the crucial swing state of Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) and the single electoral vote of Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, based on Omaha. Both move from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic.”

No state has exemplified the polarization of the country over the past 10 years like Wisconsin. Going back to Scott Walker’s victory in the 2010 governor’s race through Trump’s narrow win in 2016 — when he became the first Republican to carry the state since 1984 — Republicans were ascendant. But Tony Evers’ defeat of Walker in 2018 signaled a modest Democratic snap-back, and Biden leads the polls there by 6 points in the RealClearPolitics average and 7 points in the FiveThirtyEight average — in both cases at or above the 50 percent mark.

Two other Midwestern states that had been leaning toward Trump move into the “Toss Up” column: Iowa and Ohio. Poll after poll in each state shows a close race, and Biden actually has a very narrow lead in poll averages in both.

The latest ratings leave Biden with 279 electoral votes leaning in his column, just over the magic number of 270. Trump would have to hold all 179 electoral votes currently leaning toward him, sweep the 80 electoral votes in the toss-up column and swipe another 10 electoral votes from Biden’s side to win.

Pennsylvania has emerged as the most likely tipping-point state: Both Trump and Biden are advertising heavily and making frequent visits, with an eye on the state’s 20 electoral votes. But Biden remains the favorite there: He holds a 7-point lead in public polling averages and is sitting at 51 percent.

Senate: Toss Up

Despite what is looking like a stellar national environment for Democrats, the party is still locked in a toss-up battle for the Senate.

Even after hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising, the landscape remains fairly static: Democrats are favored to pick up two seats, in Arizona and Colorado. Republicans are likely to knock off a Democratic incumbent in Alabama.

If Biden wins the presidency, that would leave Democrats still two seats shy of the three they need to flip the chamber. Four seats remain in the “Toss Up” category: Iowa, Maine, Montana and North Carolina.

Two weeks ago, North Carolina looked like it was moving into the “Lean Democratic” category: Cal Cunningham led first-term GOP Sen. Thom Tillis in nearly every poll, and Tillis was struggling to get above 45 percent of the vote, despite his incumbency.

But Cunningham’s sex scandal has thrown the race into question. The affair has been a staple of local news, and Republicans have amplified the coverage in TV ads.

Even if they lose North Carolina, Democrats still have multiple paths to the majority. But the simplest would be victories in Iowa and Maine, where the party’s nominees have slight leads in the polls over GOP incumbents Joni Ernst and Susan Collins, respectively. The situation is cloudier in Montana, where Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is hoping to outrun Biden and oust GOP Sen. Steve Daines.


Beyond those toss-up states, Democrats are putting new territory in play. In the new ratings, Alaska has joined the list of GOP bastions rated as “Lean Republican,” moving from “Likely Republican.” Both parties are now fully engaged in Alaska, with super PACs joining the race between GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan and Democratic-backed independent Al Gross.

Also on the list of Democratic targets are Senate races in Kansas, South Carolina and Texas. Jaime Harrison’s fundraising bonanza — $57 million raised in the third quarter of this year alone — is the most extreme example of what is becoming a norm across the Senate map: stellar fundraising by Democratic candidates.

Still, those three red-state races remain in the “Lean Republican” category; though the polls are essentially tied in Kansas and South Carolina, Trump’s advantages there mean Republican Rep. Roger Marshall and Sen. Lindsey Graham, respectively, are still favored.

Republicans do have one additional pick-up opportunity in Michigan — where polls have tightened but first-term Democratic Sen. Gary Peters still leads Republican John James. Both parties are active in the state, expecting a close race.

House: Likely Democratic

Democrats’ hold on the House is tightening: There are 220 seats already currently leaning in their direction — just over a majority. And there’s a good chance they could grow the majority they won in 2018: If they split the 32 “toss-up” races evenly with the GOP, Democrats would have 236 seats, one more than they did at the start of this Congress.

Trump’s failure to broaden his base and win back suburban voters is a particular weakness for House Republicans. Two of the three districts moving from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic” are in once-Republican suburban strongholds currently held by Democratic freshmen: Reps. Lizzie Fletcher in the Houston suburbs and Tom Malinowski in Northern New Jersey.

Similarly, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner’s suburban St. Louis district is moving from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up,” as is Rep. Steve Chabot’s suburban Cincinnati seat.

Those aren’t the only places where Trump is dragging down House Republicans. Freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden holds a rural Maine district that embraced Trump in 2016, but polls there show Golden well ahead of Republican Dale Crafts. His race moves from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic.” Meanwhile, freshman GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who holds a Trump-friendly, rural, Southern Minnesota seat that flipped to Republicans in the 2018 midterms, sees his seat move from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up” — in part due to Hagedorn’s ethics woes.

Though most of the movement is in the other direction, two longtime Democratic congressmen find themselves in tougher-than-expected races, though both are still favored to win: Reps. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Ron Kind of Wisconsin. Both were reelected easily in 2018, but Republicans recruited strong candidates for both seats — borrowing a page from Democrats, the GOP candidates are both military veterans — and the races move from “Likely Democratic” to “Lean Democratic.” Trump carried Kind’s seat while winning Wisconsin in 2016, and he ran essentially neck-and-neck in DeFazio’s district.

But those seats are the exception: Of the 14 ratings changes in this update, 12 are moving toward Democrats.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the combination of Electoral College votes Trump would need to win reelection.

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