Our Final Forecast: The Presidency, The Senate, The House

In our final federal forecast, Tuesday looks pretty rosy for Democrats: we predict that Joe Biden is a heavy favorite to win the presidency, Democrats are moderately favored to win the Senate and are also favored to have a net gain of 14 seats in the US House, expanding their majority, which has been largely agreed upon by many prognosticators as a Safe Democratic chamber. Fun fact: the last time the US House flipped in a presidential election year, it was in 1952 when Eisenhower won his first term.

The Presidency

Our final presidential forecast rates the election as “Likely Democratic,” giving Joe Biden a 79.7% chance of victory, whereas President Trump has a 20.0% chance of victory (there is a 0.3% chance of a tie in the electoral college) Joe Biden is favored to flip the contests in Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Maine’s 2nd congressional district, Florida, and Texas, in that order of likelihood. This puts Joe Biden at 389 electoral votes, and President Trump at 149 electoral votes.

Michigan (Likely Democratic) seems to be the most probable pickup for Joe Biden. A Democratic-leaning state, it very narrowly voted for President Trump in 2016, but polling has been consistently poor for the President throughout the year, far worse than his polling in 2016 when he pulled off the upset.

Wisconsin (Lean Democratic), the 2016 tipping point state, is the second most likely pickup for Joe Biden. Biden’s polling in Wisconsin has slightly improved in the last few days of the campaign, possibly due to the rising COVID-19 infections in the state and the residents blaming the President for it. Incumbent presidents will always get the blame for a crisis, and incumbent Presidents who fail to manage one often lose re-election. See George H.W. Bush’s loss in 1992 during the recession that year. Jimmy Carter’s several blunders, including the gas crisis and Iran hostage crisis, cost him his presidency. Most famously, Herbert Hoover lost in a landslide in 1932 after the Great Depression began.

Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district (Lean D) is the third most likely pickup for Biden. Polling there has consistently shown Trump losing the district, which covers most of the Omaha metropolitan area. Trump narrowly won here in 2016, and polls that year predicted that outcome.

Pennsylvania (Tilt D) is the fourth likeliest pickup for Biden. Biden, a Scranton, Pennsylvania native, has consistently maintained decent polling in the state that most prognosticators agree is the most likely tipping point candidate for the Electoral College. We want to caution our readers: it is most likely that Trump will be leading in Pennsylvania on election night due to many absentee/mail-in votes not being counted until the days following. We advise against investing too deeply in the “red mirage,” as some have called it, if that does indeed show on election night. Until all of the votes have been counted, a victor cannot be declared.

Arizona (Tilt D), is the fifth most likely contest to flip to Biden as well as one of the few states where Hillary Clinton improved on Barack Obama’s 2012 performance. Trump has shot himself in the foot with Arizona voters; he pardoned controversial former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R) and continues to disparage the late Senator John McCain (R) (which likely prompted his widow’s endorsement for Joe Biden). The state also has a high 65+ population, a demographic that strongly favors Biden this year in the polls, likely due to the President’s handling of the pandemic. Biden’s held a narrow lead in the state consistently, and we believe that the polls there will be proven right as the ballots are counted throughout the next week or two.

North Carolina (Tilt D), the sixth likeliest pickup for Biden, has also been consistently close but with Biden having a consistent lead for the past few months. Donald Trump led in the polls there in a late break in 2016, after it went back and forth between him and Hillary Clinton throughout most of the campaign. Trump has room to grow in the rural parts of North Carolina, but Biden has far more room to improve upon Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance in the suburbs. We believe Biden will eek out a win here, but it will be close.

Georgia (Tilt D), the seventh likeliest pickup for Biden, is similar to Arizona because it also swung leftward in 2016. The state hasn’t voted for a Democratic candidate for President since 1992, when Bill Clinton carried the state because of his strong performance in rural areas, as well as Ross Perot garnering enough of conservative voters that likely would have gone to President Bush. Now, Joe Biden has started to lead in the state in the late break of the campaign. If he carries the state, as we believe he will, it will primarily be thanks to the suburbs of Atlanta, rather than the rural parts of the state that voted for Clinton in 1992. It will be another tight race, but we think Biden is the slight favorite.

Maine’s 2nd congressional district (Tilt D) is our eighth likeliest pickup for Biden. This rural district in northern Maine swung hard to the right in 2016 after voting for Barack Obama in 2012, though its electorate is very elastic; in its 2018 elections, Maine kicked out its Republican incumbent and elected Democrat Jared Golden. Now, Golden looks like a shoe-in for re-election, with polls having him lead by as much as 20 points. In these same polls, for the most part, Biden leads narrowly in the district. 2016 polling foresaw this district correctly by having Trump lead in almost every single poll conducted, and we believe it will be correct again in voting for Joe Biden, despite Trump carrying the district by double digits in 2016.

The story of Florida is a “coin flip” as has been the case for most of the past 20 years. The margins in the state are always consistently close and that tradition will likely continue. Despite the average polling in Florida being charitable towards Democrats for the past decade, we believe Joe Biden will win the state of Florida. His inroads with the 65+ demographic, which is growing rapidly in the state as retirees move there, as well as his increase in support in suburban communities, will amend his disadvantage with the Hispanic population in the state. Hillary Clinton drastically improved upon Barack Obama’s 2012 performance in Southern Florida due to the Hispanic population having a high disapproval for candidate Trump, but this key demographic is actually swinging rightward from its 2016 vote. Despite this, we believe Joe Biden will win the state of Florida very, very narrowly.

Our final pickup for Joe Biden, sitting at number ten, is Texas (Tilt D). Yes, Texas. Yours truly has had a hard time in the last two weeks deciding on a winner in Texas. But down ballot polling in suburban districts show Joe Biden drastically improving upon Beto O’Rourke’s performance in the 2018 US Senate race in suburban battlegrounds. The polling average remains close enough that if a 2016 or 2018-level error in the state occurred, Biden would be the victor. Texas may be becoming an increasingly hard state to poll for two reasons: its growing Hispanic population is tough to poll, and the state’s total population grows by about a thousand every day. Given the swing district polling we have seen, which shows a much darker picture for President Trump than the statewide polling, we are inclined to believe that Joe Biden will win the Lone Star State. It would not surprise us if Trump won it, especially if he can shore up enough support in the rural areas. However, we can guarantee that this will be a state to watch over the coming weeks as the votes roll in.

The rest of the competitive states in our forecast are Iowa, Ohio, Montana, Missouri, South Carolina, Kansas, Indiana and Utah. We believe that President Trump will carry these states, but pay close attention to Ohio, which has picked the President since 1964. Given the polling in the state, we believe that that streak will break, but the voters may say otherwise.

The Senate

Our final Senate forecast gives Democrats a 69.9% chance of a majority, and Republicans a 30.1% chance of a majority. We believe that the most likely outcomes are Democrats getting between 50 to 52 seats this month, and there will be two runoffs in the Georgia US Senate elections in January which will decide if their majority gets even larger. We’re keeping both of these races as Toss-Up because we don’t believe either candidate will get to 50% of the vote on Tuesday, though Jon Ossoff has a decent shot at proving that prediction wrong.

The most likely seat in the chamber to flip is Alabama’s US Senate race, where Democratic incumbent Doug Jones is running in a doomed re-election campaign. Jones beat controversial Republican candidate Roy Moore in a special election in 2017 primarily due to the credible accusations of pedophilia against Moore. Jones is facing off against Republican Coach Tommy Tuberville and is down double digits in the polls. Republicans will win this seat, easily.

The second most likely seat to flip is Colorado, a state that Joe Biden is leading by double digits in the presidential contest, and Democratic nominee Governor John Hickenlooper is not far behind in his race against incumbent Senator Cory Gardner (R). Gardner hasn’t led in a single poll since September 2019; this race is all but decided. John Hickenlooper will become the second Democratic Senator from Colorado.

The third most likely seat to flip is in Arizona, where astronaut Mark Kelly (D) has a healthy lead over appointed-incumbent Senator Martha McSally (R), who lost the 2018 US Senate election in Arizona but was appointed to fill John McCain’s seat after his death, despite the voters of Arizona voting against her in an election. Kelly has had anywhere from a mid-single-digit lead to double digit lead in the polling average, and we expect them to be accurate. However, a double digit lead, in our opinion, is a bit too optimistic for a Democrat in Arizona at the moment. If Kelly does manage to win by that much, both chambers of the Arizona legislature are incredibly likely to be flipped as well; no amount of ticket-splitting can reasonably save Republican majorities with a Democratic lead that big near the top of the ticket. McSally has a very small chance at winning on Tuesday; it’s hard for us to imagine her winning.

The fourth most likely seat to flip is in Maine, where Susan Collins (R) is running for re-election against Maine House of Representatives Speaker Sara Gideon (D). Gideon has a consistent lead in the polls, but some of them show her having a very narrow margin. If no candidate gets 50% of the vote in Maine, ranked-choice voting comes into play, which will help Gideon as she gets most of the vote from the Green party nominee. Gideon’s a moderate favorite in the race, but Collins has a built-in incumbency advantage. Collins has a path to victory, but not a very clear one.

The fifth most likely seat to flip is North Carolina, where former State Senator Cal Cunningham has held a lead over incumbent Senator Thom Tillis (R) since late June. Cunningham is up about 3 points in the average of polls right now, running ahead of Joe Biden. Despite Tillis being an incumbent Senator, he has never seen 50% in a single poll, whereas Cunningham has hit 50% in two polls. We see Cunningham as a slight favorite in this race, and it would be a pretty sizable upset if Tillis won, given the months of poor polling he’s seen.

The remaining seats in our forecast are Republican or Democratic holds. Given the close races in Iowa, South Carolina, Montana and Kansas, we wouldn’t rule out Democrats picking up one of these three seats. If they do, they’ve absolutely earned an outright majority in the chamber (51 seats).

The House

It was nearly a year ago that I said on Twitter that the Democrats would have a net gain in US House seats in 2020, and that the chamber was Safe Democratic. Here we are, with Election Day just two days away, and most professional prognosticators across the board have come to agree with this prediction.

Our forecast shows Democrats are favored to have a net gain of 14 seats in the chamber. There were quite a few difficult decisions in our Toss-Up ratings when moving them into the Tilt category, so plenty of races in that column could go either way. We still maintain that a double digit Democratic net gain in the House is quite likely. Similar to our state legislative forecast, almost all of the seats Democrats are favored to pick up are predominantly urban/suburban districts, whereas the only seats Republicans are favored to pick up (not including Michigan’s 3rd represented by party-switcher Justin Amash) is Minnesota’s 7th, a largely rural district where Republicans have left Democratic incumbent Colin Peterson without serious competition for many years.

Overall though, Democrats look like they will have a net gain of 14 seats in the chamber. This puts Democrats at 247 seats and Republicans at 188 seats.