In the end, I agree with Charlie Cook. Trump is out of time, Biden's lead is too big, Trump would have to run the table on too many states, and the only real question is how big Biden's victory margin will be.
On a hundred-odd Zoom meetings, webinars, and conference call speeches that I’ve participated in over the past two months, virtual attendees continue to raise the possibility of a contested presidential election, even though the chances of that have been getting smaller all the time. Every day that Trump remains behind in the polls, outspent badly and with the early vote gushing in, the cone of uncertainty narrows, and the odds of such an upset goes down.
Joe Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes seems pretty straightforward: Hold all 20 states (plus the District of Columbia) that Hillary Clinton carried four years ago, which total 232 electoral votes, just 38 short of the majority threshold of 270. Then win each of the three states that Clinton lost by eight-tenths of a point or less: Michigan (0.2 percentage points) Pennsylvania (0.7), and Wisconsin (0.8). That gives him 278 electoral votes, eight more than needed. Biden will likely also carry two congressional districts that eluded Clinton in 2016, Nebraska’s 2nd District and Maine’s 2nd, giving him 280 electoral votes. That would represent a “skinny” Biden win.
A big Biden win would bring in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, and might also include one or two states from the next tier, mostly likely Georgia or Iowa, although don’t count out Ohio or Texas. Generally speaking, Trump is underperforming his 2016 pace by 3 to 8 points, depending upon the state or district.
The RealClearPolitics average of national polls pegs Biden’s lead at 7.4 points, 51.1 to 43.7 percent. But that’s a less discriminating measure, including as it does some mediocre surveys, some that seemed congenitally slanted toward one side or the other, and some that would be better utilized lining hamster cages. The FiveThirtyEight modeled average of national polls, which is more selective than the RCP average but still includes some surveys that I consider rather sketchy, puts the Biden lead at 8.8 points, 52 to 43.2 percent.
I believe his actual lead is more like 9 or 10 points, based on the higher-quality, live-telephone-interview national polls conducted since the first debate, as well as the gold standard of online polling, the Pew Research Center’s mammoth poll of 11,929 voters released two weeks ago.
Any way you slice it, these are pretty good leads, considerably higher than the 3.2-point national margin that Hillary Clinton had over Trump in the RCP average on Oct. 29, 2016. When all the votes were counted, the margin ended up being 2.1 percent.
If I had to give you a map, and I do, frankly, it would look like this.
305-233 Biden. And I think I might be underestimating GA, FL, OH, and TX.
God I hope I'm right.