Election News

The Road to 270: Louisiana

April 13, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.


From the Democratic Party’s founding in 1828 through 1944, Louisiana voted for its nominee in all but three of the elections in which it participated. Since 2000, however, the state has been safely Republican and getting more so. The once dominant Protestant-Catholic divide has given way to a Urban-Rural one, a gap seemingly too large for Democratic candidates to overcome. But in 2019, a Democrat did just that by winning the state’s gubernatorial election. This victory does not make Louisiana a realistic Democratic pickup in this November’s presidential election. To understand why, we’ll trace Louisiana’s history from pre-statehood though 2020.

Pre-statehood to Civil War

The first Europeans to set foot in the region we know as Louisiana were Spanish explorers in the 16th Century. The Spanish didn’t settle the territory — that happened about 150 years later in 1699, when France established a colony on the Gulf Coast. France had claimed a huge swath of North America from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains and called it La Louisiane. Not long after, in 1717, the city of New Orleans was founded. France ceded the land to Spain from 1762 to 1800, when the land was passed back to France.

During the brief Spanish rule, the region’s population grew with American settlers, enslaved Africans, and refugees — largely French-Canadians facing British expulsion from Acadia and Haitians fleeing the Haitian Revolution. The refugees, many of them Catholic and therefore welcomed by the Spanish, settled in future-Louisiana’s southwest (now called Acadiana) and New Orleans.

In the eponymous Louisiana Purchase, France sold La Lousiane to the United States. The territory was then carved into two regions — The Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana — the former of which was admitted as the 18th state, Louisiana, in 1812.

The new state was a hub for commerce. The Mississippi river was used to transport goods into and out of the United States and New Orleans was the outlet. As Americans moved into the country’s interior, more goods moved through New Orleans. The bustling ports needed workers and immigrants came to fill them. Coming from Germany, Ireland, and Italy, they gave New Orleans a culture more akin to east coast port-cities like Boston and New York than urban areas of the Deep South. During this time, the state’s religious divide — overwhelmingly Protestant in the north and Catholic in the south — ossified.

While the docks of New Orleans stood atop slave labor and the slave trade, the state’s rural regions did so on an even greater scale. The plantation-based economy pitched Louisianans against abolition. Louisiana seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy in 1861.

New Orleans (with its crucial ports) and the Mississippi River (a way to divide the Confederate South in two) were priorities for the Union. About a year after the Civil War broke out, in April 1862, the North successfully occupied and took over the state.

Reconstruction and Civil Rights

In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Louisiana, along with its southern neighbors, were administered by the Federal government. This period, known as Reconstruction, ended slavery, mandated equal treatment under the law, and expanded suffrage with the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments. Not all of these aspirations would be immediately realized in Louisiana.

Angry white southerners, frustrated with the Confederate loss and new rights for freed slaves and black Americans, pushed back. In Louisiana, this manifested in lawful (at the time) persecution —including segregation and disenfranchisement through poll taxes and literacy tests — as well as illegal violence — including lynching and voter intimidation — by the Ku Klux Klan, White League and other white-supremacist groups. The state’s 1898 Constitution wrote into law voting restrictions that decimated voting power among blacks and poor whites. In the 1896 presidential election, 101,000 Louisianans cast votes. That number dropped to 68,000 in 1900 and 54,000 in 1904. The voting restrictions made Louisiana, at least politically, a one-party and one-race state.

The 1896 Supreme Court Case, Plessy v. Ferguson, originated in Louisiana and confirmed the constitutionality of segregation. Once black Louisianans lost the right to vote and downstream political representation, they faced underfunded schools, inadequate public services, and unequal legal treatment. This legal racism would continue until the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil and Voting Rights Acts later in the 20th Century. As such, Louisiana would see much of its black population leave as a part of The Great Migration, when blacks in the south emigrated north and west for better social and economic opportunities. Whereas in 1900 Louisiana’s population was 47% black, by 1970 it was 30%.

20th Century Politics and Economics

Earlier in the century, as the country was suffering through the Great Depression, Louisiana’s famed governor Huey Long decided to run for president. The governor believed that Roosevelt’s New Deal didn’t go far enough and advocated even more populist and progressive solutions. He had aggressively pursued a similar agenda as the state’s leader — championing infrastructure projects, oil taxes, and wealth distribution. Long was assassinated in 1935 and Louisiana remained safely in the Democratic fold, voting for Roosevelt by margins upwards of 70% in his first three elections and over 60% in 1944.

By the end of World War II, Louisiana had shifted both economically and politically. Defense and industrial jobs had concentrated the state’s populace into its urban regions — the two biggest of which were New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, in 1948, Louisiana broke with the Democratic Party for the first time since 1876. In opposition to the party’s new stance on civil rights, Louisiana voted, along with three other southern states, for the State’s Rights candidate, Strom Thurmond.

For the next 50 years, Louisiana would swing between parties. It voted for Democratic candidates in 1952 (Stevenson), 1960 (Kennedy), 1976 (Carter) 1992 (Clinton), and 1996 (Clinton). Republicans carried Louisiana in 1956 (Eisenhower), 1964 (Goldwater), 1972 (Nixon), 1980 (Reagan), 1984 (Reagan, and 1988 (Bush). In the 1968 election, Louisiana voted for the segregationist American Independent candidate George Wallace. Taken together, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can be seen as the dividing line for Louisiana. Before that, the state regularly voted Democratic. After the 1964 Civil Rights legislation, Louisiana would only vote Democratic when southerners (Carter and Clinton) led the ticket.

In the later 20th Century, New Orleans was overtaken by other southern cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston. The state’s notoriously corrupt and ineffective government failed to keep New Orleans and Louisiana as successful as its peers as public schools, wages, incarceration rates, income gaps, obesity, and crime all took turns for the worse. The city hemorrhaged its population, which declined from 630,000 in 1960 to 485,000 in 2000. People were leaving for these booming metropolises of the “New South” as well as urban areas in the north and west. People were also migrating from the city to its suburbs.

The population would continue to fall after a series of Hurricanes in the early 2000s, most notably in 2005. That year, Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans — killing over 1,500 people, destroyed homes and city infrastructure, and leaving two million homeless or displaced. The hurricane also hit the state’s economy and about 200,000 Louisianans lost their jobs. Fifteen years later, the state and city have largely recovered from the economic damage of the flood. In January 2020, before the current public health crisis, Louisiana’s unemployment rate was at 5.3%, down from its peak of 15.9% in 2005.

In recent years, Louisiana became known as a cultural center in the South. New Orleans, though still economically reliant on its ports, has shifted towards service and entertainment industries aimed at tourists. Famous for its Jazz music and Mardi Gras celebrations, New Orleans draws nearly 20 million tourists every year. Along with the tourism and entertainment industries, Louisiana’s oil, gas, transportation and agricultural industries reign.

North v. South or Rural v. Urban

Louisiana’s longstanding political and cultural divide used to be north versus south. In the 20th Century, the Catholic southern half would regularly vote Democratic while the Protestant north would vote Republican. There is perhaps no better example of this than the 1960 election — when John Kennedy’s Catholic roots were a major question of the campaign. In the 1960 results, this north-south divide is clear. Almost all of the state’s southern parishes (Louisiana is divided into “parishes” rather than “counties” due to its Napoleonic history) voted for Kennedy while the northern half voted more heavily for Richard Nixon.

The trend is just as vivid in 1964 and successive elections. In the more recent years another trend begins to infiltrate the state’s political divide and eventually come to dominate it: the urban-rural divide. While as recently as 1996, Bill Clinton was able to win large swaths of the rural population, no Democrat would carry rural Louisiana, in particular the ancestrally Democratic Acadiana, since.

Recent Election Trends; a Democratic Victory

In 2000, the Democratic Party’s leftward shift on cultural issues — the environment, abortion, guns — lost them rural Louisiana, and with it, any real chance of winning the state’s electoral college votes. That year, George W. Bush won Louisiana by 8%, a 20% swing from Bill Clintons 12% victory four years earlier. Since 2000, the state has continued its rightward trend — going to Bush by 15% in 2004, McCain by 19% in 2008, Romney by 17% in 2012 and to Trump by 20% in 2016.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton improved on Barack Obama’s 2012 margin in only six parishes. Three of these (Orleans, East Baton Rouge, and Lafayette) are home to three of the state’s four biggest cities. Two (St. Tammany and Jefferson) are in the New Orleans suburbs. And one (East Carroll is in the Mississippi Delta with a population that is 69% black.

The swing in 2016 is in line with the state’s overall trend going back to 2000. Urban areas becoming ever more Democratic and rural ones more Republican. Suburban parishes, like Jefferson Parish outside New Orleans, may still have gone to Trump in 2016, but Democrats are inching closer. The dual demographic shifts of Hispanic and African-American voters moving into the state’s urban and suburban regions and college-educated white voters turning away from the Republican party has pushed the regions towards Democrats. Meanwhile, Republicans have racked up larger totals in the state’s rural regions, overwhelming Democratic gains and making Louisiana a safe bet in presidential years.  

Last year, Democrat John Bel Edwards was able to pull off an unusual victory in the state’s gubernatorial election. Edwards won by increasing the black share of the electorate, increasing margins among college-educated white voters, and holding on to enough rural white voters to not get swamped by them in the final tally. Still, it is far easier to pull voters away from their partisan loyalties in non-federal elections.

J. Miles Coleman of Sabato’s Crystal Ball writes that “the conventional winning formula for a Democrat in Louisiana is 30% of the white vote combined with a 30% black electorate.” Edwards managed to pull off a win using this formula last year, but he was a popular and socially moderate incumbent running in a non-federal election. It’s difficult to imagine any Democrat being able to maneuver the Louisiana electorate so deftly in a presidential election. Given that Joe Biden will almost certainly be unable to thread this needle in the polarized environment of a presidential election, Donald Trump is a safe bet to win Louisiana.

Next Week: Illinois

Reports in this series:

Alaska Democratic Primary Results

April 11, 2020

Originally scheduled for April 4, the Alaska Democratic primary was shifted to a mail-in contest with ballots due by April 10. The state is expected to release results on Saturday, April 11. The state has 15 pledged delegates. 

The results, whatever they are, will be anticlimactic, with Joe Biden now the presumptive nominee after Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign earlier in the week.  It is worth noting that in 2016, Sanders won Alaska with nearly 82% of the vote.  The contest that year was a caucus.

The Alaska Republican party had previously cancelled its primary in a show of support for Donald Trump.  The president has already reached the 1,276 delegates needed to win renomination.

New General Election Poll Pages

April 9, 2020

The race for the Democratic nomination is effectively over; attention now turns to the general election on November 3.  To that end, we've added a few pages to track the polls featuring President Trump vs. former Vice President Biden. 

Most Recent Polls:  A running list of polls, updated as new ones are released. There's an option to filter for the most current poll in each state.

Polling Averages by State:  The calculated average nationally, as well as for each state. Options to sort by state, competitiveness (margin between Trump and Biden), Biden % or Trump % (these last two from highest to lowest). Note that an average is only calculated if there are two or more polls within the last 30 days. If not - and that is going to be the case for a while in many states - we list the most recent one. If there are no polls yet for 2020, the state is not listed.

State Polling Detail: Click or tap the link associated with each state at the Polling Averages by State URL to see all Biden vs. Trump polls for that state. These pages also have a feature which shows the last time each state winner vs. election winner occurred, along with the corresponding electoral map. For example, in Florida, the last time a Democratic nominee won the state while a Republican won the presidency was in 1924.


Biden Becomes Presumptive Democratic Nominee as Sanders Bows Out

April 8, 2020

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign Wednesday.  Sanders was facing an uphill challenge both in the delegate count and in a race all but frozen in place by the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision leaves former Vice President Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee.  


Wisconsin Primary to Proceed Tuesday; Timing of Results Uncertain

April 7, 2020

After several days of back-and-forth involving all three branches of government, Wisconsin's presidential primary will proceed Tuesday. However, per a court ruling currently in effect, no results are expected until 5:00 PM ET next Monday, April 13.  Should that change, and results are reported after the 9:00 PM ET poll closing time Tuesday, you'll be able to see those numbers on this page.  We're also following a general election on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Democratic Primary

Joe Biden has opened up a 300 delegate advantage on Bernie Sanders.  That lead is expected to grow once the state's 84 pledged delegates are allocated. Polling has been almost non-existent in recent weeks, but an April 1 release by the well-regarded Marquette Law School showed Biden leading 62% to 34%. 

Republican Primary

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is unopposed on the ballot. He has already surpassed the 1,276 delegates needed to win renomination.

For those wondering, here's some background information on the Uninstructed Delegate option available in Wisconsin.  Instead of choosing a candidate on the ballot (or writing someone in), a voter is handing the decision off to delegates to make that decision for them at the party's national convention.  Any delegates allocated this way would be effectively unpledged. In 2016, the Uninstructed Delegate received less than 0.3% of the vote in either party's primary, so it is not likely to have any real-world ramifications beyond appearing on the ballot.

Wisconsin Supreme Court (General Election)

Incumbent Daniel Kelly and challenger Jill Karofsky are running for a ten-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Kelly was appointed in 2016 by former Gov. Scott Walker to complete the term of retiring Justice David Prosser.

The race is nonpartisan, but Kelly is a conservative and Karofsky - a circuit court judge - is running as a progressive. Per Ballotpedia: "The election will determine the size of the court's conservative majority. A win for Karofsky would reduce the conservative majority to 4-3, meaning that the next regularly scheduled election in 2023 would decide control of the court. A Kelly win would preserve the court's 5-2 conservative majority. Assuming no justices leave the bench before their terms expire, a Kelly win would prevent a liberal majority from forming on the court until 2026 at the earliest."  

This election is likely at the heart of why Republicans immediately challenged the executive order issued Monday by Gov. Tony Evers suspending in-person voting until June 9.  A lower turnout election, which will almost certainly be the case given the coronavirus and confusion about the timing of the election, is expected to help the incumbent's prospects. For his part, Evers didn't help matters by waiting until the last minute to try and move the primary. 

The Road to 270: Utah

April 6, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.


From 2012 to 2016, the state that saw the biggest swing towards the Democratic presidential nominee was not deep blue California or Hawaii. Instead, it was staunchly Republican Utah. The state that gave Mitt Romney a 48% margin over Barack Obama (his largest in the nation) shifted 30% towards Democrats and gave Donald Trump a far smaller 18% victory over Hillary Clinton. Utah's history, perhaps more than any other state's, is key to understanding these contemporary trends. We’ll start with its journey to statehood.  


Utah gets its name from the Ute people who lived in the region prior to French and Spanish exploration in the mid 18th Century. Spain was first to claim the territory, but made no effort to colonize it due to its arid and infertile land. Through 1820, what we now know as Utah was a part of New Spain and inhabited by Native Americans and European fur trappers. In 1822, however, following Mexico’s independence from Spain, the region became a part of Mexico and was named Alta California.

The next phase of Utah history took place in New York, where Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The new church (also known as the LDS or Mormon Church) and its followers faced persecution and violence. In 1847, three years after the murder of its founder, a group of Mormons set out for the secluded isolation of Utah and landed in the Salt Lake Valley. Conveniently for the new settlers, the United States took over the region after defeating Mexico in the Mexican-American war. In just one year, over 4,000 more Mormons joined the existing community. Their numbers would pass 10,000 by 1850.

After a failed attempt by the settlers to form the wonkily shaped “State of Deseret”, the federal government instead established the Utah Territory. The new territory comprised much of today’s Utah, Colorado, and Nevada. To prevent the supposed social ills of the Mormon way of life, chiefly polygamy, the federal government controlled the new territory. In 1861, with the start of the Civil War, this moral crusade took a back seat. Federal troops were deployed to fight the Confederacy and Mormon population regained their independence.

In the coming decades, largely with the help of the First Transcontinental Railroad, the barrier between Utah and the rest of the country deteriorated. Both Mormons and non-Mormons moved in, causing two tiers of tension — Native American versus new settlers as well as Mormon versus non-Mormon. Clashes between Native Americans and new settlers were largely fought on the battlefield and resulted in Native American tribes being squeezed into reservations. Conflicts between the Mormon and non-Mormon populations were fought in the political arena, standoffs that Mormons won with ease.

By the 1890s, Utah was surrounded by Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado — all states that had successfully applied and qualified for statehood. Utah was only to be admitted if the state banned polygamy — an ordinance that was written into the state’s constitution. As such, Utah was finally admitted to the Union in 1896 as the 45th state.  

Depression and Two World Wars

World War I brought rationing and scarcity to Utahans but it also boosted the state’s economy. The coal and copper industries — both materials needed for the war effort — boomed, as did trade unions. But the demands of the War faded in the 1920s and the state’s agricultural and mining industries took a hit. When the Great Depression came later in the decade, the state’s economy sunk only further. High cost of living, low wages, and drought only exacerbated the misery. 

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was welcome in the state. The public works programs put Utahans back to work and newly bolstered unions gave workers bargaining power for wages and labor conditions. Utah’s Carbon County (which we will come back to later) became a quintessential mining town, with the United Mine Workers of America helping organize labor in favor of Democrats.

Again during World War II, Utah’s manufacturing industry took off. Geneva Steel, in operation from 1943 through 2001, was built to produce steel for the war effort, but also helped bring the state’s post-depression economy to life. The war also brought skepticism and hostility towards Japanese-Americans, 8,000 of whom were forced into the Topaz Internment Camp about 100 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

Post War Rebranding

Post-War Utah needed a rebranding. Through newly established national parks — Zion and Bryce — and ski resorts, Utah would become a mecca for outdoor adventure and tourism. The construction of interstate highways in the 1950s and 1960s opened the state to tourists and population growth. The population more than doubled between 1950 and 1980. The new people brought with them business, technology, and cultural growth. Technology companies including Iomega (later renamed LenovoEMC) and Novell built Utah headquarters in the 1980s, industries that were helped along by a young, educated population. A cycle of population growth, urban development, innovation, business success, and internationally recognized outdoor sporting culminated in Salt Lake City being chosen to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Olympics brought fame to the state’s ski resorts, construction of world class sports facilities, and a massive population influx. In response, Salt Lake City built and expanded its public transit and freeway systems. This newly achieved fame and public infrastructure helped Utah grow and accommodate growth for the next two decades.

Between 2000 and 2010, Utah grew by 24%, the third fastest growth of any state. From the 2010 Census to the 2020 Census Utah is likely to be the fastest growing state in the nation. This growth has been accompanied by a boom in the state's newer industries — technology, tourism education (University of Utah, BYU) — as well as a retraction of the state’s traditional, but fading industries — farming, mining, and oil drilling. These changes along with the state’s high birth rate have led to growth in the Wasatch Front (the state’s northern metropolitan corridor)  and St. George (the island of urbanity in the state’s southwest) and shrinkage in the rural center.

Electoral History

Through all this growth and change, Utah’s electoral history, at least on the presidential level, is straightforward. For most of its early statehood Utah voted Republican with the rest of the northern United States. The two exceptions are 1896 when Utahans supported the populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan and in 1916 when they rewarded Democrat Woodrow Wilson for keeping the United States out of World War I.

Utah, devastated by the Great Depression and lifted by the New Deal, voted for Franklin Roosevelt in each of his four elections and for his successor, Harry Truman. This Democratic streak that lasted from 1932 to 1948 ended abruptly in 1952 when the state voted for Dwight Eisenhower. From that 1952 election through 2016, Utah voted Republican in every election except for Lyndon Johnson’s landslide defeat over conservative ideologue Barry Goldwater in 1964. While the Republican margin swung year to year — the state gave Ronald Reagan margins around 50% in both his 1980 and 1984 elections while George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole only won by around 20% in 1992 and 1996 — it never strayed so far as to be a realistic Democratic target.

Recent Elections and Demographics

At the turn of the century Utah was as Republican as ever. George W. Bush carried the state by over 40% in both 2000 and 2004 victories and won every county as he did so. Barack Obama closed that margin to 28% in 2008, flipping Salt Lake (Salt Lake City) and Summit (Park City) counties in the north and Grand County (Moab) in the east.

In 2012, however, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney would expand the 2008 margin by 20%, crushing Obama with a 48% margin and winning back the three counties that John McCain had lost four years prior. Romney, the first Latter-day Saint to ever lead a major party ticket, was particularly popular. He had a history in Utah too — leaving his job at Bain Capital to help lead the organizing committee of the 2002 Olympic Games. Though Romney largely kept his faith private, he also didn’t run from it. In his first presidential run in 2008, Romney resisted hiding from religion:

"If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.

There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it.”

His 2012 campaign took a similar tack, and the results would be a contemporary high-water mark for Republicans in Utah.

Compared to the mild mannered Romney, the decidedly less traditional Donald Trump did not play as well in the state. Mormons make up over 60% of the Utah population and these voters are younger, more educated, traditional, and — due to high levels of international volunteerism through missionaries — more familiar with foreign cultures than most of the Republican base.

Perhaps these voters would have bitten their tongues to vote for Trump — the only candidate who would promote cultural conservatism and nominate conservative judges — if they did not have an attractive third option in the form of Evan McMullin. McMullin entered the race in opposition to both major party candidates. A Utah native, BYU graduate, and a Mormon, McMullin was a good third-party fit for Utah won an impressive 21% of the vote. Most of McMullin’s share came from voters who had voted for Mitt Romney four years earlier. Donald Trump won 125,000 fewer votes than Romney had in 2012 while Clinton won 60,000 more than Obama had four years earlier.

Internal Utah Trends

In addition to these Utah-specific machinations, the state is following the dominant nationwide trend: urban and suburban areas are shifting left while rural, working class regions are moving right. This trend is easy to see by looking at Utah’s historical presidential maps and focusing on two areas — the Wasatch Front and Carbon County. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the Wasatch Front, comprising Salt Lake City and its suburbs, was generally in line with the rest of the state. About two thirds of the state’s population lives in the region. Starting in the 1990s and continuing through 2016, the region become progressively more Democratic, with some of its counties finally flipping to Obama in 2008 and Clinton in 2016. Unlike most urban areas, however, the balance here is not overwhelmingly Democratic. Trump still carried several counties in the Wasatch Front and, in the two she carried, Clinton only won by 15% and 9%.

Compare this to Carbon County — an ancestrally Democratic county in the state’s interior. The county, with its coal mines, industrial character, and blue-collar communities regularly voted Democratic through the 1990s. Lyndon Johnson won 73% of the county’s vote in 1964. In 2000, however, as Democrats move leftward on social and environmental issues, the county flipped Republican. In 2016, Clinton lost this county — one that her husband had carried 20 years earlier — to Trump by 25%.

While Utah’s religious and demographic idiosyncrasies can trigger unique trends, it does not make the state entirely unpredictable. In the long term, the growth and Democratization of the Wasatch Front and Salt Lake City could be a problem for Republicans. It appears, however, that the state’s Mormon characteristic has muted Democratic success. If the Wasatch Front was as overwhelmingly Democratic as urban areas in most other states, Utah would be a battleground or even a blue-leaning state.

The 2020 results will help us discern just how much of Trump’s underperformance in 2016 was due to his unique weaknesses among Utah voters and how much was drained by third-party candidate Evan McMullin. Regardless, Utah is still a red state. Though Utah’s Mormon and conservative voters may not like Trump, they will not flee him in great enough numbers to make Utah competitive. Democrats can dream, but “Bluetah” is not likely to become reality in November.  

Next Week: Louisiana 

Reports in this series:

Democratic Convention Postponed Until August

April 2, 2020

The Democratic National Committee has postponed its national convention from July 13 to August 17 because of the coronavirus. The convention will still take place in Milwaukee. The revised date is one week prior to the Republican convention in Charlotte.

This change is reflected on the 2020 Election Calendar, where you can also see the numerous states that have rescheduled their primaries.

Electoral College and Senate Ratings Changes from Sabato's Crystal Ball

April 2, 2020

Note:  The team at Sabato's Crystal Ball is holding a livestreamed discussion of the 2020 political landscape today at noon Eastern Time.  It is free; no registration is required.  Watch it here.

Sabato's Crystal Ball has made three changes to its 2020 Electoral College outlook and changes to three Senate races in 2020.  The maps below reflect the updated forecast; click or tap for an interactive version.

Electoral College

Colorado and Maine (at-large) move from Leans to Likely Democratic, while North Carolina goes from Leans Republican to Toss Up.


Two of the most closely-watched races this cycle are updated. Arizona moves from Toss Up to Leans Democratic, while Maine goes from Leans Republican to Toss Up. In Georgia's regular Senate election (incumbent David Perdue), the rating moves in his favor from Leans to Likely Republican.

Rep. Mark Meadows Resigns to Become White House Chief of Staff

March 30, 2020

Rep. Mark Meadows resigned from the U.S. House Monday.  He will assume the post of White House Chief of Staff Tuesday, succeeding Mick Mulvaney.  Meadows has been acting in that role for President Trump in recent weeks. For example, he represented the president on the recent $2.2. trillion response to the coronavirus.

Meadows was in his 4th term representing North Carolina's 11th district. This is a fairly safe GOP district, despite the inclusion of the more liberal Asheville area in recent court-ordered redistricting.  A special election, if one is held, may be concurrent with the November 3 general election. Gov. Roy Cooper will make that determination.

There are now six vacancies in the U.S. House.  Democrats control 232 seats, Republicans 196 and one independent.

The Road to 270: Rhode Island

March 30, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island

Rhode Island was more competitive in the 2016 than it has been since 1988. Given that Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 16%, this means little for its top-line electoral fortunes in November. It could, however, indicate a future where Republicans can credibly compete.

The tiny state — it’s the smallest of them all — packs enough people in to give it four Electoral College votes rather than the minimum of three (although it might not be so lucky following the upcoming Census).  Most of the population lives in the coastal and urban areas which favored Clinton while inland ones voted for Trump. In this way, the state looks like the country: its coastal and urban communities are Democratic and its inland ones are Republican. Before we get too deep into the state’s current political and demographic condition, we’ll look back before it was a state.

Becoming A State

Providence Plantations, the first European settlement in the territory that would become Rhode Island, was established in 1636 as a haven for non-traditional religious views. The Founders of the U.S. Constitution would later be inspired by one of the settlement’s ideals in particular — the separation of church and state.

Other settlements quickly followed and in 1644, they united and formed the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The colony’s economy relied on the slave trade — selling rum in exchange for slaves and molasses (with which to make more rum). Fed up with British control and taxation, Rhode Islanders attacked and burned a British ship off their shore. The event, known as the Gaspee Affair, was one of the first examples of violent resistance and edged the colonies closer to revolution.

The first of the 13 colonies to declare independence and the last to ratify The Constitution, Rhode Islanders had an independent streak. They preferred the decentralized Articles of Confederation and only approved the new constitution after promises of a Bill of Rights.

After the American Revolution came the Industrial Revolution and Rhode Island was again at the forefront of change. The state’s first textile machine came in 1787 and its first mill established in 1790. Rhode Island would become home to textile, machine parts, and jewelry industries. Immigrants and Rhode Islanders in search of jobs moved to urban areas, particularly those around Pawtucket (where the first textile mills were established) and Providence.  

These workers, though, were excluded from state politics through the mid 1800s. Residents without property couldn’t vote and rural regions had outsized representation in the state legislature. In an attempt to take back power from the Yankee rural elite, Thomas Dorr established a populist party in 1841 with which he created a new government with a new constitution. The existing government quickly ended what is known as The Dorr Rebellion but, in a win for the urban working class, began allowing the landless, native-born, population to vote.

Civil War, Economic Boom, Shift to Democrats

During the Civil War, Rhode Island fought with Lincoln and the rest of the north. In fact, the state was one of the first to abolish segregation in public schools, an act taken in 1866. Rhode Island would vote, along with its northern neighbors, reliably Republican though the 19th Century.

After the war, Rhode Island’s economic and demographic trends continued. Industrial jobs dominated the economy and workers packed into cities to get those jobs. In the cities of Pawtucket, Providence, Central Falls, and Woonsocket, manufacturing and whaling reigned. Newport, in the state's south, was reserved for the wealthy. Summer beach homes and mansions filled the wealthy enclave, distinguishing it from the working-class character in the state’s north.

All through this booming economy, Rhode Island would vote Republican. It did so in every election from 1856 through 1924 except one year, 1912, when Republicans split their vote between William Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.

As the economy began to stumble in the 1920s, Republicans lost their grip on the state. Due in part to the popularity of a synthetic silk called Rayon, the textile industry took a hit in the 1920s and Rhode Islanders lost jobs. Democrats also organized growing urban, Catholic, immigrant, and labor communities into a voting coalition that, along with economic frustration, tipped the state to Democrat Alfred Smith in 1928. With the advent of Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelt’s popular New Deal, Rhode Island shifted further into the Democratic camp — a transition that would never be reversed.  From 1928 through 2016, the only Republicans to win the state would be the moderate Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 and Richard Nixon and Ronald Regan in their landslides of 1972 and 1984.

World War II to 2020

World War II changed the state’s economy. As textile mills went out of business, the state manufacturing capacity shifted towards ship and submarine building. The Navy became the state’s largest employer and the defense industry continued to build up around it.

Demographic change accompanied the economic one. After the war, soldiers and urbanites left the cities — with their cramped living conditions, bad schools and unsafe streets — for the more comfortable suburbs. Providence lost nearly 70,000 residents between 1950 and 1970. Meanwhile, Cranston and Warwick, outside the city, nearly doubled in size. Natural and man-made disasters — including hurricanes in 1954, 1955, 1985, and 1991 and oil spills in 1989 and 1996 — disrupted urban renewal development meant to draw Rhode Islanders back into the cities. Providence’s population peaked in 1940 at 254,000 and bottomed out in 1980 at 157,000.

During this period, immigration to Rhode Island continued. Even as the cities were shrinking from 1950 to 1980, the state grew by over 150,000. Immigrants were simply moving into the suburbs and then the “outer suburban rings” and rural towns, including Charlestown, Glocester, Narragansett, Scituate, and West Greenwich.

The defense industry took more hits in the 1970s when the Navy decided to relocate its destroyer fleet out of Newport and deactivate the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point. While Newport still has a naval station and defense manufacturing continued for another two decades, the drawdown and end of the Cold War all but ended manufacturing as the state’s economic backbone.  

In its place came the service industries of tourism, education, finance, and business. Tourists came for the state’s history, beaches, environment and natural charm. Students and educators came for the Providence-based Ivy League, Brown University. Businesses including Citizens Bank and CVS Pharmacy moved their headquarters to the state in the 1990s. While manufacturing is continuing to shrink, the state still produces submarines, ships, jewelry, and silverware.

Today, Rhode Island ranks 13th in portion of the population with a Bachelor’s Degree and 18th for median household income. These stats are less impressive when compared to Rhode Island’s rich and educated New England neighbor states. The state also has a high cost of living, tight business regulations, notoriously deficient infrastructure, and sluggish GDP growth, low factory wages, public corruption, and a large budget deficit. Most of these problems have plagued the state for decades and continue today.

Democratic Dominance and a Turn to Trump

Rhode Island has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1988, doing so with double digit margins each year. No Republican would win a single of the state’s five counties from 1988 until Donald Trump managed to flip one in 2016.

At the turn of the Century, Rhode Island was clearly Democratic but not geographically divided like it is today. In 2000, Al Gore beat George Bush by 29%. That year, there was not a clear geographic split that determined if a town or congressional district voted more heavily Democratic or Republican than another. Communities across the state voted for Gore.

Compare that to the 2016 election in which Hillary Clinton carried the state by a smaller 16%. This time, the election featured a clear geographic divide — communities on the coast and in metro areas supported Hillary Clinton while those inland voted for Trump. The reason behind this geographic split, however, lies in demographics.

The state is about 72% white, 16% Hispanic, 8%, black, and 4% Asian. The demographic group that has shifted most toward the GOP in recent years is non-college educated white voters. This population makes up 51% of the state.

If we look at the town in which Trump received the highest percentage of the vote — Scituate, which is located in the center of the state — we see that, relative to the state as a whole, it is far whiter (96% to 72%), less educated (33% to 40%) , and less wealthy ($63,000 to $93,000 median household income)  than the state as a whole. While Al Gore received only 6 votes fewer (less than .01% of the vote) than Bush in 2000, Donald Trump clobbered Clinton by 25% in 2016.

If we now look to Clinton’s best city — Providence — we see that, compared to the state, it is far more diverse (43% Hispanic and 16% black) than the state overall. While, in 2000, Al Gore received 74% of the vote, Clinton managed 81% in 2016. A similar trend can be seen in the wealthy enclaves and beach towns along coast.

These two examples illustrate the dominant trends in Rhode Island. First, the white working-class voters who populate the state’s inland communities are shifting rightward. Second, the more diverse communities, as well as the rich, educated coastal ones, are sticking with, or moving towards, Democrats.

Even with these internal changes, however, the state as a whole looks safe for Democrats. While it will be instructive to see if Donald Trump’s populist message is again able to appeal to slices of the state, the big picture is clear: Rhode Island will be blue in November.

Next Week: Utah 

Reports in this series: