Features Australia

Allan’s Guide to the US election

It all comes down to four states

31 October 2020

9:00 AM

31 October 2020

9:00 AM

Did you watch the second Presidential debate last week? I did.  It was a thumping Trump win. And then I saw that four of the five commentators on the debate, for the Australian, called the debate for Biden. I’m not sure what they were watching but unless you came to the debate with a massive dose of Trump Derangement Syndrome (‘TDS’) and all the usual prejudices of today’s journalistic caste – so I answer my own question – it was a beat down by The Don. What Biden did do well was to lie. In no particular order, and from memory, Biden’s lies included these: his debate denial of previously opposing fracking (he’s on tape doing this innumerable times); his untruth about being opposed at the time to Trump’s travel ban from China; his denial or equivocation that border cages were introduced by Mr Obama and him; he also lied about his quote years ago about ‘super-predators’; and he told an über-Pinocchio when he denied the factual evidence of his son Hunter’s laptop and emails, laughably claiming it was Russian disinformation.  That ties in to his debate denial that some in his family ran a wide-ranging shakedown operation. All those, and probably more, were clear lies. And had they been uttered by a Republican the press would be in high dudgeon and the commentators in the press would be claiming the other side won a massive debate victory. (I leave you to imagine what paroxysms of indignation the press would be in were these allegations being levelled against Trump’s children – it would be around the clock daily coverage. So yes, the press in the West is out of control in its one-sidedness.) Add to that Biden’s gaffes about wanting to phase out oil and that he’d legalise eleven million illegal immigrants and you have what amounts to a big Trump win in this debate.

So given that you can’t believe what you’re seeing on the ABC or from much of the mainstream media, I take it upon myself to give you Allan’s Guide to the upcoming US election. Here goes:

First off, remember that this is not a French popular vote presidential election system. Each US state is, in effect, a constituency more or less weighted by its population and all of them adding up to 538 Electoral College votes. It’s up to each state how it wishes to allocate its Electoral College votes but almost all of them do it on a ‘winner takes all’ basis. So just as in Westminster system elections where a party can win a majority in parliament with fewer votes than the losing party (or less of the two-party preferred count in Australia), a candidate can win the presidency but lose the popular vote. It’s happened four times in American history in fact, most recently in 2016. It could easily happen this year too.


To win right now you need 270 Electoral College (‘EC’) votes. Some states are not competitive and not really in play, just as we know going in which party is going to win certain constituencies in this country. What we would call the marginal states, the states either candidate has a plausible chance of winning, are what matters. California and New York will go for Biden no matter what. Utah, and much of the South, will go for Trump no matter what. So here’s the key for this election. It is 12 states. Nine of these states were ones that Trump won in 2016. And three were states Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Biden has a realistic shot of flipping those nine; Trump has a realistic shot of flipping those three. So notice to start that Biden has more ways to get to 270 ECs. That’s an advantage to him.

The nine existing Trump states in play are Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona. The three existing Hillary states in play are New Hampshire, Minnesota and Nevada. If Florida goes for Biden the election is over, barring the miraculous. That’s more or less also true as regards Georgia and North Carolina. My view is that Trump will win those three plus Ohio and Iowa and he’ll do it with a bit of breathing space. But as I said they’re in play.

Of the three Hillary states in play, if Trump wins any of them then odds are he’ll win this election comfortably. To take Nevada he’ll have to do better than other past Republicans with Hispanics. Meanwhile no one really knows what drives New Hampshire voters, who reside in the ‘Live Free or Die’ licence plate state. And Minnesota is a wild card with all the riots, though the Republicans are running a superb candidate for the Senate there and these kind of candidates can help a President as splitting your vote – voting one way for the Senate and House and the other way for President – is becoming less common.

But let’s assume the Democrats hold those three and the Republicans hold the five I mentioned above. That means the election will come down to the three midwestern states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, plus Arizona. On that scenario Trump would win if he took any two of those four. (Remember, Trump won the EC quite easily in 2016 so he has some breathing space there.) If The Don took only one of those four he’d lose.

All of that makes it clear that a Trump win is easy to imagine in circumstances where he loses the popular vote – a fact those who cite the polls never mention. Look, California is going to go for Biden hugely (to put it in Trumpian terms), partly because it leans more left than any other state and partly because Republican voters there know this and have less incentive to vote. Same in New York. And the obverse is true in Utah and much of the South.

That’s my guide for election night.  If one of the candidates starts winning states outside of the above 12 – meaning states not in his list – it will be a slaughter. If any of the five in that list of Trump’s existing nine go for Biden it becomes fiendishly tough for President Trump. The obverse is true if Trump manages to flip any of the existing three Democrat states I said were in play. But if all of those stay in their existing columns then it comes down to the Big Four. Trump needs two. Biden needs three. And unlike the preponderance of prognosticators (the preponderance of whom hate Trump), I think The Don will get what he needs. If it’s Pennsylvania expect voting chaos, lawsuits and a trip to the Supreme Court. But that’s what to watch. Remember, my tip is that Trump gets there in a close finish. (I’ll be delighted, of course, if he romps back in.)

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