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PRESENTING YOUR PRESIDENTIAL POWER RANKINGS
In times of testing the rhythms of normal life can be a comfort, so let then the return of the Halftime Report Power Rankings be a comfort to you.
We’re going to start our rankings for this election cycle with, what else, the Electoral College. We hope what you find below to be self-explanatory, but first a few notes for users.
We have sorted the 50 states and the District of Columbia into five categories: Those states Democrat Joe Biden is likely to win, those states in which Biden has an advantage but the race is competitive, or there is a “lean,” those states that are pure toss ups, those states that are leaning toward President Trump but remain competitive and those states that are likely to vote for the incumbent.
As you will see, there are more than enough electoral votes in the toss up category to put both sides within reach of victory. But you will also see that Democrats are starting with an advantage. Taken together “likely” and “lean” Democratic states account for 249 electoral votes, just 21 shy of the needed 270.
Republicans open the bidding with 186 electoral votes on their side of the ledger, but that is typical of a party that tends to fare poorly in densely populated areas. Democrats can rely on behemoths like New York and California while Texas is the only reliably red state among those with 20 or more electoral votes. Every presidential election is a test of whether Republicans can bring enough medium sized swing states together to get the job done.
We have ranked the states in the “toss up” category based on their competitiveness, that is to say in order of which states we think are the closest. The “lean” states are only listed by their number of electoral votes and the “likely” states are just by alphabetical order. You will find the most competitive states at the top of the note and the others below the fold.
You will probably disagree with our judgement. That’s good! We rely on our readers to not only keep us honest in our assessments, but also to tell us what they are seeing and hearing in their own necks of the woods. Write to us and tell us what you think.
Please remember that it’s early, very little polling has been done so far and the political consequences of an unprecedented shutdown make for a very volatile environment. We expect these rankings to change and change often.
That’s all part of the fun.
(103 electoral votes)
10 electoral votes
2016 results: Trump 47.2 percent, Clinton 46.5, others 6.3 percent
Perhaps no state has been so narrowly divided for so long as Wisconsin. Big wins by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 convinced Democrats that the Badger State was safe territory, but Obama’s winning coalition departed with him, putting the state back on a knife’s edge. George W. Bush missed here by less than half of a point in both of his runs and even a casual observer of state politics know that it’s ugly business. The recent brawl over holding an in-person primary election during the coronavirus lockdown was proof enough of that. Wisconsin looks to us like Trump’s best bet to hold on to one of the three “blue wall” states he flipped in 2016. It’s substantially whiter than Pennsylvania and Michigan and the Republican machine in the state is well oiled. Biden, though, sees plenty of promise. Clinton missed Obama’s 2012 number by nearly a quarter million votes – 10 times Trump’s margin of victory.
18 electoral votes
2016 result: Trump 51.3%, Clinton 43.2%, others 5.5%
For the first time in more than two decades, the Buckeye State was not at the heart of the presidential battleground map in 2016. Donald Trump opened up a lead coming out of his nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and never looked back. Trump went on to rack up an 8-point victory, the largest victory margin by a presidential candidate in Ohio since George H.W. Bush in 1988. But now, like Bush, Trump is facing a potential reversal in Ohio as an incumbent. Democrats on the state and federal level have shown strongly in the past four years, particularly pro-union Sen. Sherrod Brown. The key battleground between Trump and Joe Biden will be the state’s northern tier, home to eight of the nine counties that went from red to blue from 2012 to 2016. Voters who live around Toledo and Cleveland, your break is over. It’s back to being at the center of the storm.
29 electoral votes
2016 result: Trump 48.6%, Clinton 47.4%, others 4%
With a massive cache of 29 electoral votes and a long history of excruciatingly close elections, including the hanging chads of 2000, the Sunshine State is the king of the swing states. Since George W. Bush’s 537-vote victory 20 years ago, the state has split evenly for Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. The past two elections were both decided by less than 2 points. In 2016, it looked for a time like Donald Trump might be on his way to a big (by Florida standards) win, but the race closed at the end and finished as a nail-biter. Since then, Republicans have prospered in Florida, with statewide wins for Senate and Governor despite headwinds in 2018. But 2020 promises a return of the old Florida model in which the Democratic strongholds of the south match up with Republican districts to the north with the prime battle zone along the I-4 corridor through Tampa and Orlando.
11 electoral votes
2016 result: Trump 48.1%, Clinton 44.6%, others 7.3%
Arizona has about as much experience with swing-state politics as it does with blizzards, but it’s time to start shoveling. In the past 70 years, just one Democrat has carried the Grand Canyon State: Bill Clinton nipped Bob Dole in Clinton’s 1996 re-elect. Otherwise, Barry Goldwater’s home state has been a bastion for not just Republicans, but conservatism. Trump’s comparatively weak performance in 2016 is owed to several factors, including the decision by many traditional conservatives to vote for a third party or sit out the race in protest of Trump’s candidacy. But the main driver of political change in the state has been the influx of Americans from other states into Arizona. With a growing economy and an attractive climate for retirees, the state’s population has increased by 50 percent since the turn of the century. Over the same period, the state’s Hispanic population increased from 25 percent to 31 percent.
20 electoral votes
2016 election result: Trump 48.2%, Clinton 47.5%, other 4.3%
There are a lot of ways to explain how Democrats settled on Biden for their nominee, but none of them is as clear as Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. A native of Scranton in the state’s industrial east, Biden typifies the traditional Democratic politics of the state: moderation, blue-collar appeal and a folksy style. Hillary Clinton’s loss in big, blue Pennsylvania was a low point for the modern Democratic Party, one they believe Biden will reverse. But Trump is not without advantages. Those same voters who had supported Democrats like Biden in the past show a strong affinity for the incumbent. The reality may be that Democrats have lost places like Wilkes-Barre and Scranton and will have to make up the difference elsewhere. Key battlegrounds will be in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs where Republicans must stop their ongoing losses and in urban centers where Democrats must energize African-American voters who were cool on Clinton.
15 electoral votes
2016 election result: Trump 49.8%, Clinton 46.2%, other 4%
The Tar Heel state was part of the Solid South for Republicans for 40 years until Barack Obama’s narrow win in 2008. Republicans brought the state back with small margins in the next two contests, but North Carolina is back in play in a big way. With a Democratic governor, a competitive race for freshman Sen. Thom Tillis’ seat and rough parity in voter registrations, Carolina Blue looks very possible. Like Obama before him, Trump is going to be re-nominated in Charlotte, but hopes to avoid Obama’s fate in November here. Charlotte matters bigly. Its county, Mecklenburg, was a rare bright spot for Hillary Clinton, who outperformed Obama in the Queen City’s suburbs. If Biden can expand her edge with the state’s large number of affluent voters and reverse some of her slide with black turnout, this will get to be a close race very quickly.
THE RULEBOOK: AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH
“Man is very much a creature of habit. A thing that rarely strikes his senses will generally have but little influence upon his mind.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 27
TIME OUT: CHEERS, MARJORIE
BBC: “Standing in the packed streets of Versailles, France, 75 years ago, Marjorie Morgan celebrated VE Day. Just hours before, she had driven an Allied general to Reims, and stood outside as a German general signed the unconditional surrender to end World War Two in Europe. ‘To me it was just a job, it was something you think about afterwards,’ she said. While the 98-year-old believes there was nothing remarkable about her role during the war, hers is one of the many incredible stories of sacrifice made by people from communities across Wales all those years ago. Today, like others who remember that time, Marjorie will celebrate the anniversary of VE Day on a much smaller scale… Marjorie, like thousands of women, joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women's branch of the British Army during the war effort. After spending years as an army driving instructor, by 1945 she was driving generals, and ended up driving to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in Reims, where General Alfred Jodl, German Chief of Operations, signed the unconditional surrender.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Average approval: 45.2 percent
Average disapproval: 50 percent
Net Score: -4.8 points
Change from one week ago: no change in points
[Average includes: CNBC: 46% approve - 54% disapprove; Monmouth University: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; PRRI: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; IBD: 44% approve - 44% disapprove; Gallup: 49% approve - 47% disapprove.]
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(60 electoral votes)
38 electoral votes
2016 result: Trump 52.1%, Clinton 43.1%, others 4.8%
Democrats love Texas, or maybe it would be better put to say Democrats love the idea of Texas as a swing state. Ever since Republicans took hold of America’s second-most populous state 40 years ago, Democrats have tried to take it back. That fixation helps explain why they are so keen on competing in a stat where they took a 9-point thumping four years ago. What Democrats see when they look at Texas is a place where Republicans are on the decline with the state’s abundant population of well-to-do suburban white voters and that the numbers of young, less-conservative voters is growing. As was evidenced in their pyrite expedition for former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Texas Democrats can be competitive under the right circumstances. But look at the top of the ballot in 2018. While unpopular Sen. Ted Cruz struggled to keep his seat, Gov. Greg Abbot stormed to victory in a year where Republicans were in big trouble. Texas may end up as a close race, but it will mean a blue stampede in 2020.
16 electoral votes
2016 results: Trump 50.4%, Clinton 45.4%, others 4.2%
Everything that makes Democrats optimistic about Georgia is true. The state’s population is young and increasingly ethnically diverse. Long-held Republican districts in the Atlanta suburbs are increasingly hard for the GOP to maintain as college-educated voters shun the party. All true. And yet… We go through the Democratic mania for Georgia every two years, and sometimes it gets pretty close to the real thing. In 2018, Democrats came within a little more than a point of winning back the governor’s mansion. And certainly the state’s Republicans are a mess, as illustrated by the ugly primary of that year and the one for Senate this cycle. Democrats’ struggle in Georgia remains an unwieldy coalition between moderate suburban whites who were long the driving force in the party’s politics and more extreme voices on the left, like 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams. Biden should be able to outperform Hillary Clinton if he can win support from both groups, but it won’t be easy.
6 electoral votes
2016 election result: Trump 51.2%, Clinton 41.7%, other 7.1%
Trump’s 2016 Iowa victory was truly impressive. A double-digit spread in a state that had sided with Democrats in six of the seven previous elections may be better evidence of how Trump reshaped politics than anything else. Trump’s 5-point improvement over Mitt Romney’s 2012 showing in Iowa was the largest of any of the five states that went from blue to red four years ago. It can be said of some other states that Democrats lost, but it’s right to say in Iowa that Republicans won. Iowa’s population is 90 percent white and the state is home to large numbers of Evangelical Christians, key demographics for Trump. Democrats’ hopes rely on re-engaging the large numbers of union workers in the eastern part of the state, picking off the state’s few suburban precincts and hoping that farmers’ resentment over Trump’s trade wars will cool their ardor for the incumbent.
(36 electoral votes)
16 electoral votes
2016 election result: Trump 47.3%, Clinton 47%, other 5.7%
In his 2012 re-elect, Barack Obama won Michigan by more than 9 points. That makes Trump’s breathtakingly narrow win the largest shift from red to blue of any state he flipped four years ago other than Iowa. But what Trump may see as his pinnacle, Democrats see as their nadir. In no state was Hillary Clinton’s underperformance more painfully obvious. She missed her marks not just with African-American voters in Detroit but with blue-collar, union-friendly white voters beyond the city. But since 2016, Democrats have come back strong in Michigan, sweeping every statewide office and winning back two House seats. And certainly Biden will not make Clinton’s mistake of ignoring the Great Lakes State. Polls show a consistent advantage for Biden, but then again they had similar findings at this point in 2016.
6 electoral votes
2016 result: Clinton 47.9%, Trump 45.5%, others 6.6%
Nevada’s political story in the past 20 years has been similar to that of much of the West: booming population growth has made the once Republican-leaning state much more Democratic. Democrats now hold the governorship, both Senate seats and three of four House seats. In 2016, Trump did slightly worse in his share of the vote than Mitt Romney four years prior but still managed to come much closer than his predecessor’s 5-point loss. In no state was Hillary Clinton’s underperformance compared to Barack Obama more obvious than in the Silver State, where she missed his 2012 mark by more than 4 points. Clinton bled support to minor candidates and sloe Nevada’s unique “none of the above” option. Democrats feel confident that the better liked Biden will thrive in Nevada, especially given the state’s strong organized labor movement.
10 electoral votes
2016 result: Clinton 46.4%, Trump 44.9%, others 8.7%
Oh how Republicans have yearned to brink Minnesota into the fold of other Midwestern, red-tinted states despite 48 years of defeats. And their loss in 2016 by less than 2 points – the closest since Walter Mondale’s paper-thin home state win in 1984 – has made it even more tantalizing for them. The cause for Republican hope in the North Star State is in part due to Hillary Clinton’s abysmal 6-point drop compared to Barack Obama in 2012, but also demographics. With a population that is 84 percent white, Minnesota seems like it should be favorable to Republicans. But compared to its neighbors, Minnesota is actually quite diverse. The state has also seen brisk population growth and maintained a comparatively low median age while states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio have struggled. Team Trump is betting that they can drive Biden’s numbers low enough to bring the state back into play, but Biden is starting with a good hand.
4 electoral votes
2016 election result: Clinton 46.8%, Trump 46.5%, others 6.7%
New Hampshire is an independent state in every sense. It’s New England’s only swing state and prizes it’s political unpredictability, whether it's a primary contest or a general election. On the presidential level, the state has certainly had a Democratic tilt. No Republican has won the Granite State since George W. Bush in 2000. Hillary Clinton came close in 2016, though. Her third-of-a-point margin of victory was the smallest for a Democrat in the state since Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Trump’s success for years ago with the blue-collar white voters of the economically struggling northern and western parts of the states as well as among residents in the southern tier who fled Massachusetts’ high taxes makes New Hampshire the top prospect for a blue-to-red flip this cycle. Democrats, meanwhile, hope Biden’s appeal to middle-class white voters will take the state out of play.
(126 electoral votes)
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
(213 electoral votes)
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
AUDIBLE: MIC CHECK
“Today at our news briefing, there was an audio glitch. And it sounded like I had said a bad word—a word I would never say nor have I ever said. No possibility in any way shape, form or fashion.” – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) in a statement after several people said it sounded like he said, “if they ‘f---ing’ follow the guidelines to keep West Virginians safe” during a news conference on Monday.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday sits down with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Dr. Tom Inglesby from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
THEY MAKE THE ROCKIN’ WORLD GO ‘ROUND
Page Six: “Instead of shredding his guitar, Queen’s Brian May ripped his fat bottom. The Queen guitarist and astrophysicist broke the news with an Instagram selfie from the hospital wearing a face mask with a nurse standing behind him—writing that he ripped his ‘Gluteus Maximus to shreds in a moment of over-enthusiastic gardening.’ … ‘Yes, I’ve been quiet. Reason?,’ explaining his absence on social media, ‘As well as getting over-stretched and harassed by too many demands … I managed to rip my Gluteus Maximus to shreds in a moment of over-enthusiastic gardening,’ said the 72-year-old rocker. The gluteus maximus muscle is located in the buttocks and is regarded as one of the strongest muscles in the human body. The muscle is responsible for the movement of the hip and thigh. The gardener enthusiast went on, ‘So suddenly I find myself in a hospital getting scanned to find out exactly how much I’ve actually damaged myself. Turns out I did a thorough job…’”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“In the face of a uniquely dangerous threat, we Americans have trouble recalibrating our traditional (and laudable) devotion to individual rights and civil liberties. That is the fundamental reason we’ve been so slow in getting serious about Ebola.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Oct. 16, 2014.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.