0911 2016 election results map
CNN  — 

In the past five days, two of the most prominent non-partisan political analysts in the country have released new projections that show presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a clear edge over President Donald Trump in the Electoral College map.

“The President is an underdog now in his bid for a second term,” wrote Stu Rothenberg, founder of the Rothenberg Political Report, in a column published late last week. “That doesn’t mean he can’t win. It simply means that he is in a more difficult place than he was before, in part because Democrats have united behind a consensus candidate who has potentially broad appeal.”

Added Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report:

“Biden starts with a slight lead in the Electoral College math. Right now, 232 electoral votes sit in Lean/Likely or Solid Democrat. On the GOP side, 204 electoral votes are in the Lean/Likely/Solid Republican column. There are six states (and one congressional district) in Toss-Up: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska’s 2nd district. Those add up to 102 Electoral votes.”

Before we dig too deeply into those numbers, let’s remember where we left things in 2016. Trump won 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232 – even as he was losing the popular vote by almost 3 million. (You need to win 270 electoral to be elected president.)

His victory was rooted in his ability to win in places in the industrial Midwest – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – where a Republican presidential nominee had not been victorious in decades. Trump also was able to keep traditional swing states like Florida and Ohio is his column while only losing Virginia, Colorado and Nevada of the true toss ups going into the election.

What’s changed between then and now?

Well, first, Democrats appear set on nominating former Vice President Biden, the candidate who, if polls are top be believed, runs strongest against Trump in all of the expected 2020 battlegrounds. “His message of pragmatism and broadly acceptable change — on health care, climate change, guns and economic fairness — should maximize his appeal to Democrats and swing voters,” writes Rothenberg.

The other big change is the flip among college-educated whites – especially white women with college degrees – who were with Republicans in 2016 but abandoned the party in droves in the 2018 midterms. Trump won whites with college degrees 48%-45% over Clinton in 2016 and lost white college educated women by 7 points. Two years later, as Democrats were retaking control of the House majority, Democratic candidates won whites with college degrees by a 53%-45% margin and carried white women with college degrees by 20 points.

“The President has not added any groups to his electoral coalition,” Rothenberg notes.

Of the six states the Cook Report identify as pure toss-ups heading into November, Walter says that Florida is the one that Trump simply cannot afford to lose. “Under our current ratings, there is only one scenario out of 12 possible for Trump to get 270 electoral votes without winning the Sunshine State,” she writes.

Given the state’s primacy to Trump’s chances, it’s no surprise that he changed his official residence to Florida in 2019. (One person close to Trump told CNN at the time that the move was driven by tax considerations; Florida does not have an income tax.) And while 2018 was a very tough year for Republicans nationwide, it was a very good year for Republicans in Florida as two Trump allies – Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott – were elected to the governor’s office and Senate, respectively.

If Trump wins Florida – and, again, he really has to – then, according to Walter, the race again moves to the Midwestern states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If Trump loses two of those three, he can still get to 270 – with Wisconsin looking the best for him at the moment.

Obviously, the electoral map is subject to change – particularly in this moment when the eyes of the country are on Trump and his performance in effectively dealing with (or not) the coronavirus crisis seizing the country.

But as of today, this race looks like Biden’s to lose. Which, as very recent presidential history makes clear, absolutely can happen.