An Early 2020 Outlook

The 2020 elections are a long way away, but we can start to look at the maps and data now. Here are my 2020 predictions and analysis for the President, Senate, House, and Gubernatorial races. In general, in think 2020 could be a continuation of the 2018 wave elections. It seems highly unlikely that trends will reverse in a matter of 2 years.

President

The 2020 Presidential elections will most likely be a competition between Donald Trump and a prominent Democratic Senator, such as Kamala Harris or Corey Booker. Given the Congressional makeup, I think it’s unlikely that Trump will be impeached unless Mueller finds something big.

At the time of writing this, Trump has around a 40% approval rating. That’s historically low, meaning Trump will face a tough reelection. Polls also show Trump losing the popular vote to generic Democrats. Here’s a 2020 map based on just approval ratings:

Obviously, the 2020 elections won’t end like this, but the map does show just how tough it will be for Trump to win. Red states like Texas, Georgia, Missouri, and Indiana all disapprove of him, and Trump is unpopular throughout the entire Rust Belt. However, I don’t think Democrats should focus on the Rust Belt in 2020. Historically, the Rust Belt has been part of the “Blue Wall.” However, states like Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have all trended more Republican in recent years. The Rust Belt states are all losing population, mainly Democrat and moderate voters. Where are these voters going? They’re going to Sun Belt states – Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, etc., and they’re making those states trend Democratic. Take a look at the following map from the US Census Bureau. Blue represents counties with immigration, while red represents counties with emigration.

Urban areas in Florida, Georgia, and Texas are all gaining in population. This means that these states are becoming swing states and could even go blue. Yes, Texas could go blue. Look at the 2016 Presidential results from Texas. Trump only won by 9%. Meanwhile, Romney won the state by 16%. We can see similar trends in Arizona, where Trump won by less than 4%, and in Georgia, where Trump won by about 5%. As you can see, Democrats should start focusing on Sun Belt states, which are gaining in population and trending blue already. With the Sun Belt states, Democrats could lose the entire greater Rust Belt Area and still win. On the other hand, Democrat’s could win only the Rust Belt Area, losing the Sun Belt, and still win. Republicans face a structural disadvantage in the Electoral College because of minority trends and population shifts. The following map demonstrates this. Note that Great Rust Belt states are brown, while Sun Belt states are gold. Democrats need to win only one of these categories to reach 270, while Republicans would have to win one category plus states in the other region to win. This makes it inherently harder for Republicans to win, assuming Democrats campaign correctly in the right regions.

This also sets up Democrats for a possible landslide election in which they win both the Sun Belt and the Rust Belt. Trump won in 2016, among other things, because Democratic voters abandoned the Rust Belt enough so that Trump could narrowly win, but not enough to flip the Sun Belt. In 2020, I think that will change, and one of the two main regions will flip.

So, with the above knowledge of population shifts, Trump’s approval, and generic polling, here is my competitive map for 2020:

And here is my no tossups map (note that this could be wrong as 2020 is still 2 years away):

I think Democrats will win a mix of Sun Belt and Rust Belt states, and I think Georgia, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will be extremely close.

Senate

On to the Senate. Unlike in 2018, Republicans won’t have a map advantage in the 2020 Senate elections. This is the 2020 Senate map, with each state colored by the incumbent. Minnesota’s incumbent will be decided in November of 2018.

As you can see, Democrats only have to defend 11 (or 12) seats, while Republicans have to defend 21 (or 22) seats.

First off, the only vulnerable Democratic seats are in Alabama, New Hampshire, and Michigan. Gary Peters (D-MI) is likely to win reelection, considering Michigan will more likely than not go blue for the President. Because 2020 is a Presidential year, the Democrat running will bring voters to the polls who will subsequently vote for Democratic offices across the ballot. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is likely to be reelected for this reason. However, Republicans could easily flip the Senate seat in Alabama. Doug Jones remarkably won the special election last December after Roy Moore was accused of child molestation and sexual assault. An establishment Republican like Luther Strange can and probably will flip Alabama back to the Republican column. That’s not to say Jones has no chance – he could prove to be a conservative Democrat like Joe Manchin and win reelection – but at the moment, Alabama is a tossup and tilting red.

On the Democratic side, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, Iowa, and Maine could all flip. Colorado is the most likely to flip, as Cory Gardner barely won in 2014 by less than 2%. Colorado consistently favors the Democratic candidate in any race, and Gardner’s win was due to a larger Republican backlash in the midterms. I think Colorado leans Democratic. Next, Georgia could flip. Georgia is a Sun Belt state that has gotten increasingly competitive in past elections. Special elections in Georgia throughout 2017 showed a major swing in the Democrats’ favor, and Trump won the state by only 5%. David Perdue (R-GA) is very conservative and has voted with Trump in 95% of Senate legislature. Perdue being replaced with a more moderate Senator is well within the realm of possibilities. I think Georgia is a pure tossup. North Carolina is also a Democratic target. Thom Tillis (R-NC) is a moderate, but receives a lot of funding from the NRA and voted against multiple gun control measures. With the increased discussion on gun control after the Parkland Shooting, Las Vegas Shooting, and many more shootings, Thim Tillis may be voted out. Tillis won in 2014 by less than 50,000 votes, again due to a Republican favored midterm. I think the North Carolina Senate seat will be won by the party that wins North Carolina in the Presidential election. So, at the moment, North Carolina is a tossup, tilting blue. Next, we have Iowa. While Iowa is normally close, I don’t see it flipping. It has been trending Republican, and Trump won the state by nearly 10%. Joni Ernst (R-IA) also won by about nearly 10% in 2014, so I think Iowa leans Republican. Finally, we have Maine. Susan Collins (R-ME), a moderate, won by over 30% in 2014. She is extremely popular and approved of in Maine. Despite Maine going blue in every Presidential election since 1992, Susan Collins is the likely winner of Maine’s Senate seat.

I think Minnesota will likely stay the party of whoever wins the special election in 2018, which I predict will be the Democrat Tina Smith. This gives us a final map with 12 Democrats, 18 Republicans, and 3 tossups.

Based on my 2018 Senate Predictions, I think Democrats will gain or expand upon a Senate majority in 2020.

House

In my 2018 House Predictions, I said that Democrats will probably gain a House majority. In 2020, I think they’ll expand on that into some more conservative districts, such as those in Texas and Kansas. With the help of a Democratic Presidential nominee, I think Democrats could win anywhere from 20-60 seats in 2020. I’ll have an in-depth analysis of the 2020 House elections after the 2018 House elections. In the meantime, here’s my 2018 prediction map:

Gubernatorial

Only 11 state Governors are up for election in 2020. Of those 11, 2 will also be up for election in 2018, and 1 will have a term-limited incumbent. This is the current map:

I think the competitive states will be New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Montana. Starting with Montana, I think that without a Democratic incumbent, a Republican will flip the seat. Montana is not the swing state it used to be in the Obama era, and I’d be surprised if another Democrat won the Governor seat. I rate Montana as lean Republican. Next, North Carolina. I have the same opinion on the North Carolina Governor as I do on the Senate seat – it will go in favor of the President that wins the state. At the moment, I think North Carolina is lean Democrat, especially with an incumbent running. Finally, New Hampshire. I predicted New Hampshire to go red in my 2018 Gubernatorial Predictions. However, I think it could flip in 2020. An increased turnout and a Democratic environment will help oust Chris Sununu, who won in 2016 by only 2%. I rate New Hampshire as lean blue, making a 0 net change in Governor seats.

Conclusions

I think 2020 will be a continuation of a 2018 Democratic wave. I think Democrats are favored to win the Presidency and have 2 main strategies for doing it. I think Democrats will end up with control of the Senate by flipping swing states and holding onto Trump states. I think Democrats will end up with control of the House by making gains into conservative districts and holding onto districts from 2018. Finally, I think there will be no net change in Governor seats, with Montana flipping from blue to red and New Hampshire flipping from red to blue. Keep in mind that the 2018 midterms haven’t even happened yet, so everything could change fundamentally. Be sure to check out my 2018 Senate, House, and Gubernatorial Predictions.

 

About Holden

Holden is the creator of holdencasey.com. He is the lead editor and consistently writes about politics and finance. He often writes unbiasedly, but occasionally provides a liberal viewpoint in his work.
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