Opinionista James Cannon Boyce 25 November 2019

Can Trump Win in 2020? Hell yes

And don’t worry, while this simple fact causes great hysterics and looks of befuddlement in the United States, it comes as an even deeper shock to South Africans or anyone looking from abroad.

James Cannon Boyce

James Cannon Boyce has been a senior adviser to two US presidential campaigns (Kerry and Richardson), worked with Vice President Al Gore (who should have run) and was involved with the creation of the Huffington Post. He is founder of Africa New Media Group.

The issue is the Electoral College and how it works in the United States Presidential Elections. If the issue of Trump even having a chance baffles you, the Electoral College will be even worse.

I will make this short and simple – you can search and learn more about the Electoral College’s start as (some argue) a method for preserving slavery, or how it actually violates the US constitution as every vote does not end up counting and how some states are working to overturn it – slow and unlikely.

But the Electoral College matters, a lot – and if you are interested in the 2020 US election, you need to understand it.

To win the Presidency of the United States, you have to win 270 electoral college votes. There is a great website that tracks this – called, with no irony, 270towin.com. If you look at their core map, you will see that number of states in red (the colour of the Republicans in the US) – these states are primarily in the centre of the country and their electoral college votes pull more weight that their population.


The blue states at the coasts (blue, being Democrats) have a much heavier population but their voting power is capped by the number of electoral college votes.

Take even a small state like my home state of Massachusetts – bluer than blue. We only have 11 electoral college votes but if every vote counted, you would see more Democrats voting there because it mattered, and in fairness, Republicans often don’t vote because it’s a winner take all strategy.

When we lost in 2004, it was really fundamentally because we lost Ohio by 60,000 votes. We lost all of Ohio’s Electoral College votes and George W Bush won re-election.

Hillary won the general vote by over 3,000,000 and if every vote had counted in California and New York it probably would have been more.

Is it a flawed system? Maybe. I don’t know and I don’t care because those are the rules. I really hate Democrats who pout and scream against the rules which are the law of the country.

Think of it this way. I have been a Springboks fan for well over a month now. Imagine if you kick three what I call field goals but the other team scores 2 tries. You can’t argue you win because you scored three times and they scored twice – so that’s what Democrats do – they know the rules going in, they need to win by them. And in my opinion, this will not change in our lifetimes.

So on to 2020.

On a national level, Donald Trump has no chance. None. He will lose the popular vote and probably lose it by more than he did last time. People in California and New York and other blues states will want to punish him and voting registration and voter engagement is extremely high.

I have seen estimates that he could lose the popular vote by as much as 10,000,000.

But he can still win another term and it’s not too far-fetched to be honest.

In many parts of the country, including many states he won last time, Trump’s rhetoric maintains its appeal. The five beige states in the chart above are what we call “swing states” because they are so close – the 2000 election in Florida was decided by hundreds of votes and George W beat Gore because of that.

North Carolina I know a little about. A distant cousin of mine ran for Senate twice, a extremely well liked and popular man. He ran as a Democrat and lost both times. North Carolina often has a shade of blue, but it will probably go for Trump.

I have to believe Arizona does as well. But Trump is only at 230 Electoral College votes now.

Florida. A true swing state. Gore barely lost in 2000. We put tens of millions of dollars in there in 2004 and lost by over a million as I recall – i.e. we invested much more and went backwards. Democrats have a chance here. But right now, the polling in Florida says Trump.

I chatted with a number of pretty smart people over the weekend – they all say Trump wins Florida.

Now Trump is at 259 Electoral College votes. Getting nervous? You should be.

Back in 2016, I was asked to give a prediction on the race. I said something along the lines of I am not sure Trump wins, but watch out for Wisconsin and Michigan. Trump ran the table there, and a few other places, and won.

If you want a Joe Biden argument, it’s that he is from Scranton, PA. But Biden would lose in a lot of other places Sanders or Warren would win, so it’s not valid really (and after calling marijuana a gateway drug, Biden is truly done. Someone should look to see where all his money went – he’s down to a few million dollars in the bank.)

Penn. I don’t have a prediction right now.

Wisconsin, I know some about, and if you want a Sanders argument, he beat Hillary there and his story would resonate well in that state. (Fascinating note on Trump’s win there in 2016. It was former Obama voters that put him over the top – most people including me see that as people who just don’t want a legacy politician.)

So despite all his troubles, Trump has a path. Here are a few other states that could go either way:

Nevada and New Mexico are shaded light blue (this is based upon state polling FYI.) New Mexico is a stretch though George W did win in 2004. Nevada might go red – not likely but Trump’s team might have its eye on that. Minnesota and New Hampshire are the only other long-shot Republican pickups.

From the Democratic side, I am surprised that Iowa’s shaded red. Iowa will see all the Democrats up close – and Trump’s China policies have hurt farmers badly there. If I am the Democrat, I am looking at those votes, the ones in Ohio, and that’s really my only pickups after the Swing States.

The states with the slices of colour – they have changed their laws and they are not winner take all any more – but it’s only 9 votes total.

So Trump is not out of it. By any stretch.

Will he win? It’s a long walk from here to there and I am not sure. All the swing votes could easily go blue and he would suffer a monumental defeat of historical proportions. (Make Texas blue as well and boom, it’s a massive blue wave.)

But all the swing votes could go red and he could walk back into the White House pretty easily.

But the answer is absolutely – yes, he can.

Feedback I got from US about last week’s column:

Sanders folks really, really think they can win Iowa. I got emails. I got polling. I got internal polling and caucus plans – but the Warren Campaign Manager is a former Kerry World guy and from what I see from him, and Warren on the ground there, I still would favour her, but do not disagree with Sanders’ champions – he has close to an equal chance.

Why don’t you write about margin of error in these polls?”

I should and it is a huge issue. These state polls often have MOE of +/- 4 points so they get great media fanfare when someone is winning by 1% when, of course, it could be statistically accurate that they are not.

No one I know in any way defends either Bloomberg or Deval. I did learn that Deval picked up his last Bain & Company cheque at the end of October. Their entry will backfire as it really re-energises that far left in what has already been a long race. But Bloomberg is spending $50-million on ads – the largest buy in history and as long as they attack Trump, that might help.

I agree with this – we are probably at peak Mayor Pete right now.

The last word goes to Bloomberg, who is not accepting any donations – contrast that with Sanders or Warren who are only accepting small donor money and the chasm couldn’t be wider.

Klobuchar could gain a little momentum now – she has struggled but I know folks who really like her. DM

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