My Final Prediction And What Counties I’ll Be Watching Tonight

Biden Will Win Big. I’m Putting Money On It

Here’s my final prediction for the 2020 race. I know you might think it’s nuts, but I’m betting on a huge Biden win. I think he narrowly carries Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and yes, Texas. It’s Ohio I’m least certain about, but I think he might finish there ahead by 1-2 points.

I just cannot ignore the turnout in Texas, and the fact that Democrats seem to be getting what has always eluded them in the Lone Star State, high turnout in the Rio Grande Valley. In Hildalgo County, which includes McAllen, turnout is already past 2016 levels. That, combined with record turnout in Houston, Austin, El Paso and Dallas points to a much stronger Democratic finish than 2016, and possibly a Blue Texas for the first time since Jimmy Carter carried the state in 1976.

I think based on polls and early voting numbers, Biden will win Florida and North Carolina. Let’s see if I’m right.

For those who know me, you might know that my career in political punditry began almost by accident. It was 16 years ago tonight on WRHU, Hofstra University’s radio station, that I commandeered the microphone halfway through our Election Night broadcast and to the cheers of our General Manager and Professional-In-Residence, I walked our listeners through a county-by-county analysis of the election, based on voting patterns I had been studying in an Independent Study with my Political Science advisor all year.

Predicting elections and following results has been a gift of mine ever since. In 2008, I took ten counties in ten swing states and predicted the winner of each country would win the state it was located in. I was right on all ten; nine went for Obama and one; Clay County in Missouri and the state, went to McCain. In 2012, I called the election for Obama when I saw he had won Loudoun County, Virginia, a longtime Republican county in the DC suburbs that Obama had flipped in 2008, a second time. In 2016, I knew Hillary Clinton was in trouble when she lost Pinellas County, Florida.

Dissecting the polls, the way places have voted since 2016 and expectations, here is how I see six counties that I think will all go to Biden, but would be good barometers for what’s going on in their specific states and nationally. Good chance Trump will win if he wins 2 or 3 of these counties.

PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA

2000AL GORE50%GEORGE W. BUSH46%
2004GEORGE W BUSH49.6%JOHN KERRY49.5%
2008BARACK OBAMA53%JOHN MCCAIN45%
2012BARACK OBAMA52%MITT ROMNEY46%
2016DONALD TRUMP48%HILLARY CLINTON47%
RECENT PRESIDENITIAL RESULTS

The most densely-populated county in the United States after Manhattan, Pinellas County is home to heavily-Democratic St. Petersburg, and suburban, longtime Republican towns like Clearwater and Dunedin. It is a classic swing county, having voted for Obama twice, but George W. Bush narrowly before that. The country is almost entirely suburban, except for St. Petersburg, and is home to many retirees and transplants from the Northeast and Midwest.

It was early in the night, around 8 p.m., in 2016 when I noticed nearly all of Pinellas had been counted and Trump had narrowly won the county. I knew then Hillary was in trouble. Tonight, this is the first county I’m looking at.

Biden winning Pinellas doesn’t guarantee he wins Florida, as it didn’t for 2018 gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who won Pinellas by 3 and 5 respectively, but Pinellas did signal a Democratic year nationwide. If Biden wins Pinellas by four percent or more, it could be a sign that he will win Florida and the country.

NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

2000AL GORE51%GEORGE W. BUSH45%
2004JOHN KERRY50%GEORGE W. BUSH49%
2008BARACK OBAMA55%JOHN MCCAIN43%
2012BARACK OBAMA52%MITT ROMNEY46%
2016DONALD TRUMP50%HILLARY CLINTON47%
RECENT PRESIDENITIiAL RESULTS

Anchored by the city of Bethlehem in the Lehigh Valley, Northampton County is often considered the easternmost reaches of the Rust Belt, just touching the exurbs of New York City and Philadelphia. This was once home to industrial powerhouses like Bethlehem Steel and Atlas Portland Cement.

Both companies are gone now, and the Lehigh Valley has never fully recovered economically. It has a long history of voting Democratic for president, but has elected Republicans like the conservative Pat Toomey and moderate Charlie Dent to represent it in Congress. Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Northampton since George H.W. Bush in 1988, but the county snapped back Democratic in 2018, voting for Democratic Gov. Tom Wold and Sen. Bob Casey by 17 and 10 points respectively. It also elected a progressive Democrat, Susan Wild, to represent them in the House, by a nearly seven point margin.

If Joe Biden is to win back Pennsylvania, his road goes through Bethlehem, as it did for the Democrats to win back the House in 2018.

MACOMB COUNTY, MICHIGAN

2000AL GORE50%GEORGE W. BUSH48%
2004GEORGE W BUSH50%JOHN KERRY49%
2008BARACK OBAMA53%JOHN MCCAIN45%
2012BARACK OBAMA51%MITT ROMNEY47%
2016DONALD TRUMP54%HILLARY CLINTON42%
RECENT PRESIDENITIAL RESULTS

If there was any place that better exemplifies how 2016 went wrong for Hillary Clinton, its in Macomb County, Michigan. Home to the working class Detroit suburbs of Warren and Sterling Heights, Macomb County is not a historically Democratic county like some that flipped in the Rust Belt in 2016. It voted Republican in 1992 and 2004, but it did have one of the biggest swings in the region, gong from Obama +4 to Trump +12.

The first sign was in the 2016 primary when although Hillary Clinton won the primary here over Bernie Sanders 49-47, three percent of Democrats case votes for “Uncommitted,” meaning against both candidates. Rather than not show up at all, which many Democrats did do, three percent of primary voters went out of their way to show up and express their disapproval of BOTH Democratic candidates.

This year, however, Biden won the primary in Macomb easily and only two percent of Democrats voted for none of the candidates. That still hints to some level of Trump support among Macomb Democrats. This might be the hardest county among the ones on the list for Biden to flip, but if he is indeed leading Trump by high single digits in Michigan, he’s winning here. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won Macomb in 2018 by 4 points while winning statewide by just under 10 percent.

KENOSHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN

2000AL GORE51%GEORGE W. BUSH45%
2004JOHN KERRY53%GEORGE W. BUSH47%
2008BARACK OBAMA59%JOHN MCCAIN40%
2012BARACK OBAMA56%MITT ROMNEY43%
2016DONALD TRUMP47.2%HILLARY CLINTON46.9%
RECENT PRESIDENITIAL RESULTS

If there was a moment in the campaign where everyone thought the tide was going to turn in Trump’s favor, and everyone was wrong, it was the aftermath of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha in late summer. The riots and unrest that occurred in Kenosha after the shooting left many political pundit believing the narrative had moved in Trump’s favor, and there’s a reason for that.

Trump won Kenosha County, located on Wisconsin’s lakefront on the Illinois border, by a mere 238 votes. Trump was the first Republican to win Kenosha County since Richard Nixon in 1972. Even Walter Mondale beat Ronald Reagan here. Kenosha going red was a telltale sign the Democrats had tanked in the Midwest. The sense was that Trump’s anti-Black Lives Matter campaign won him some longtime Democratic support in Kenosha. Perhaps that analysis is wrong. Since then, Biden’s lead in Wisconsin has stabilized or even grown.

Democrats clawed their way back and in 2018 the entire Democratic statewide ticket carried Kenosha including Democratic Gov. Tony Evers by 4 and Sen. Tammy Baldwin by 14.

If Biden is leading in Wisconsin by the margin polls show him to be leading, he should take back Kenosha with room to spare. Keep and eye on it.

TARRANT COUNTY, TEXAS

2000GEORGE W. BUSH61%AL GORE37%
2004GEORGE W BUSH62%JOHN KERRY37%
2008JOHN MCCAIN55%BARACK OBAMA44%
2012MITT ROMNEY57%BARACK OBAMA41%
2016DONALD TRUMP52%HILLARY CLINTON42%
RECENT PRESIDENITIAL RESULTS

Here’s my first prediction. Joe Biden should NOT win Tarrant County, Texas. If he does, it is a landslide. But what’s worth keeping an eye on if it’s close.

Tarrant County is home to Fort Worth and DFW Metroplex suburbs of Arlington, Burleson and Lake Worth. It is one of the fastest growing counties in the country. It’s also one of the few counties with a population of over 1 million that has long been solidly Republican. But in 2018, something happened. A Democrat won Tarrant County. Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke defeated Ted Cruz in Tarrant County by a little over 4,000 votes, for about 0.7 percent. That was the first time a Democrat won in Tarrant in decades. Other Democrats running statewide got close, winning around 47 and 48 percent of the vote.

This year, with several State House races in play in Tarrant, Democrats are investing in the area and interestingly Tarrant’s final totals from 2000 through 2016 almost mirrored statewide results exactly, so if Biden is carrying Tarrant, he might very well be winning Texas. Even if he’s close, its a sign he’s probably winning nationally.

MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA

2000GEORGE W BUSH53%AL GORE43%
2004GEORGE W BUSH57%JOHN KERRY42%
2008JOHN MCCAIN54%BARACK OBAMA44%
2012MITT ROMNEY 54%BARACK OBAMA44%
2016DONALD TRUMP48%HILLARY CLINTON45%
RECENT PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS

Maricopa County is the largest county in the country with the longest Republican streak (after California’s famously-conservative Orange County flipped blue in 2016). This year will almost certainly be the end of that. The entire city of Phoenix is located in Maricopa, as are many of its suburbs – Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Goodyear, Mesa and Tempe.

Maricopa has voted for every Republican presidential candidate since 1948, including Barry Goldwater and Bob Dole. But Hillary came close to winning it in 2016 and Trump coudn’t get 50 percent of the vote. Since then, Democratic Sen. Krysten Sinema and Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs won the county in 2018 in their successful statewide wins.

If Biden is to carry Arizona tonight, and he’s favored to do so, he will have to win Maricopa. It’s hard to imagine he won’t though considering the polls there and the way Arizona’s been voting since 2016.

So there you have it. My predictions and what I’ll be watching tonight. See you on the flip side. Let’s hope its a better place.

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