US Presidential Election 2020: What states might give us a clue and why?

Abby Wallace, Features Editor

2020 Presidential Election: President Donald Trump and Democrat Presidential Nomiee Joe Biden, in the most bitterly contested and turbulent campaign.

As Americans flock to the polls amidst one of the most highly contested elections and polarising campaigns to date, stakes remain high and outcomes unpredictable. Due to the huge number of absentee ballots this year, with nearly 100 million Americans already casting their vote before election day, it is unlikely that we will see a winner on election night or the early hours of the morning. Different states have different rules in terms of when postal ballots can begin to be counted. However, early polls in some states, the all-important swing states, might give us a clue as to how this election will fare, and here’s why.

These ‘swing states’ refer to a number of states, which collectively make up more electoral seats than either Biden or Trump can secure individually in their respective safe states and which are likely to determine the outcome of this election by tipping the electoral college in favour of either candidate. Here’s some to look out for.

2020 Electoral Map Prediction: A map of the expected U.S. Electoral College results for Biden and Trump, with “swing” states shaded differently UBS/U.S. Office of Public Policy, 2/11/20

‘The rust belt’

This refers to the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, states which democrats normally expect to win, which voted for Obama on both occasions and unexpectedly tipped to Trump in 2016. According to FiveThirtyEight’s final forecast, Biden enjoys a comfortable lead in each, polling particularly well in Wisconsin with an 8.3 percentage point lead. However, this does not merely connote Biden reclaiming what Clinton lost, and the focus of each candidate on driving campaigning hard in these states is a reflection that it might just be these very areas who call the shots. These states all have similar demographics, with urban centres of Pittsburgh or Philadelphia being traditionally democratic breeding grounds, while rural areas tend to swing to Trump.

Voting this year will prove to be particularly interesting. These states have proven to be focal points for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, particularly in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where both candidates hope their pledges will hit home; Trump, to restore ‘law and order’ and Biden, ‘unity over division.’ Biden’s personal advantage might be discernible here, as he visits his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania on election day and scratching a somewhat empathetic message on his living room wall, ‘From this house, to the white house.’ If Biden’s campaign is successful, it could be these states to take him there.


Key to a Republican victory and pivotal in understanding how this election might swing. If Trump loses Florida, the election might be over for him. However, this state will not be easy to flip from 2016. Florida holds large Hispanic communities, backing Trump more than we could have imagined given his rigorous immigration policies which have kept hundreds of children separated in detention camps at the US border with South America.

As a large proportion of second and third generation Hispanic communities who prefer to identity as ‘American’, favour Trump’s conservative stance on immigration and creation of working-class jobs in manufacturing, he has a good change of keeping the state under his belt. The Washington Post predicts that the Latino vote for Trump will increase from the 1 in 4 who voted for him in 2016, as they are set to become the largest minority voting group with 32 million eligible voters as of yesterday. We will start to see polls from Florida come in around 1am, and with their rules governing postal ballots which have already begun to be counted, we might well see how this state will tip the election from then.


If we were to predict a President, perhaps we should look at how Ohio polls, who have backed the winner since 1964. While demographically the population tends to be older, whiter and more Republican and strongly favoured Trump in 2016, its urban centres have documented huge numbers of absentee votes this year. Biden’s determination to make inroads into this key battleground might still pay off. Counting cannot begin until polling is closed and ballots can be received ten days later, so long as they are postmarked by election day. We will have to wait until then to find out for sure.

The delay in processing and counting ballots in this election provides for an even more prolonged and unnerving wait and the huge surge in absentee votes means the coming hours will not give us an answer. While it might take days and weeks to discover who the next President will be, as the night wears on, these states will be key to predicting the outcome of a fiercely competitive and impassioned election.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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