Joe Biden isn’t the Democratic presidential nominee just yet, but that fact didn’t stop him from making a very bold prediction on Monday.
“If I’m your nominee, I’m winning Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, believe it or not, and I believe we can win Texas and Florida,” Biden said at the Poor People’s Moral Action Congress in Washington. “Look at the polling there now. … I have no intention of walking away.”
Is this just empty rhetoric from Biden? Or is there a real chance he could actually win some – or all – of those states if he is the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee?
Start here: In the last five presidential elections, the Democratic nominee has won any of these five states only three total times. (Barack Obama won Florida in 2008 and 2012 and won North Carolina in 2008). That breaks out to a 12% win rate. Which isn’t very good!
Looking solely at the 2016 results, Trump won all five states, although his margins varied somewhat widely: Florida (Trump +1 percentage point), North Carolina (Trump +3), Georgia (Trump +5), Texas (Trump +9) and South Carolina (Trump +14%).
But in Gallup’s 2018 year-end state-by-state polling, of those five states, only in South Carolina did more people approve of the job Trump was doing (50%) than disapproved (46%). Trump’s worst state among those five, according to Gallup? Texas – where 41% approved and 51% disapproved.
Those 2018 numbers – plus some more recent polling here and there in Texas and North Carolina – suggest those states could be in play for Biden (or, possibly, several of the 2020 Democratic candidates).
Here’s the thing: What Biden is talking about when he says he is going to win those five GOP-leaning states would be a total and complete Electoral College wipeout of the sitting incumbent.
The five states Biden mentioned have a combined 107 electoral votes among them. Combine those with the likelihood that Michigan and Pennsylvania swing back to Democrats, and you would be talking about a shift of 143 electoral votes. If everything else on the 2016 map stayed the same, Biden would win with 375 electoral votes – a total that would eclipse Obama’s 2012 (332 electoral votes) and 2008 (365) victories.
The Point: Anything is possible in an electoral age in which Trump is President. But for Biden to win 370+ electoral votes over a sitting President? That still feels very, very unlikely.