25 November 2020
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Meet President Biden

Malcolm Mackerras
30 October 2020

Readers will be aware that I called the US presidential election in Switzer Daily on Tuesday 21 April with my article “Biden will defeat Trump”. Nothing has happened in the six months elapsing since that call to make me regret it. However, the time has come for me to give some details. I admit that the following predictions are largely opinion poll induced – as was the case with my Queensland predictions made earlier in the week. See “NZ and ACT is almost done and dusted, so the new premier of Queensland will be. . .?”. As with Queensland, my predictions today are roughly in line with the general expectation.

I begin with the popular two-candidate vote. In 2016, Hillary Clinton finished up with 65,853,652 popular votes (51.1%) and Donald Trump with 62,985,134 (48.9%). Barack Obama had won 53.7% in 2008 and an even 52% in 2012, with Republican candidates John McCain on 46.3% and Mitt Romney on 48%. My prediction for next Tuesday is that Joe Biden will finish up with 85 million votes (53.5%) and Trump with 74 million votes (46.5%).

The American people do not elect their President. Under their anachronistic Constitution (drawn up at Philadelphia in 1787), the American people merely participate in the choice of presidential electors who then elect the President. So, here are my predictions for the electoral college, being 538 votes in all. To win, a candidate must get 270.

Hillary Clinton secured 232 votes, and I begin by predicting that Biden will win all those. But he needs to win more than that. To find the extra votes, I begin on a small scale by discussing the peculiar position of Maine and Nebraska. These two small states do not necessarily give all their votes to the one candidate. They give the state-wide vote to the candidate winning the state, two for each state. Then they give a vote on the basis of congressional district. Since Trump won all three Nebraska districts, it just happens that in 2016 all five Nebraska votes went to Trump. In the case of Maine, Clinton won three votes, two for the state as a whole and one for the first district. Trump won the second district so one of Maine’s four votes went to him. In Maine, the first district is the urban south, while the second is the rural north. In Nebraska, the first and third districts are rural, while the second is the city of Omaha. Anyway, I predict Biden will win both second districts, thus giving him all four votes for Maine and one for Nebraska.

Going up the populations, I predict that Biden will win the mainly rural state of Iowa with its six votes. So, I now have Biden on 240 votes, still 30 short of the number he needs. I lack the space to give further details. Consequently, I now predict Biden will win six further states won by Trump in 2016. I give them in alphabetical order with the number of electors shown for each.

The states are Arizona (11), Georgia (16), Michigan (16), North Carolina (15), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10). That adds up to 88. Add that number to 240 and I have a total of 328 for Biden.

With 538 the total size of the electoral college, and with Biden getting 328 votes, that leaves 210 for Trump. In alphabetical order, I now list the Trump states with elector numbers shown. They are Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Florida (29), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Nebraska (4), North Dakota (3), Ohio (18), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5) and Wyoming (3).

I turn now to the Senate, where there are at present 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. I predict that the Democrats will gain a seat in each of Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina but lose a seat in Alabama. That would produce a Senate of 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans. Finally, the House of Representatives result in 2018 was 235 Democrats and 200 Republicans. I do not expect any significant change in those numbers. (Malcolm Mackerras is Honorary Fellow of Australian Catholic University. malcolm.mackerras@acu.edu.au)

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