Election News

Making the Call: Why Media Outlets are Showing Different Electoral Vote Totals

Depending on where you look, Joe Biden is projected to have won 253 or 264 or 273 electoral votes. Why the discrepancy? There are several independent organizations making race calls. Each has a 'decision desk', where experts (statisticians, political scientists) analyze incoming election results, and mathematically model what's yet to be counted. When they are highly certain that the final numbers for a race will favor one candidate, they will make a call. For example, NBC and ABC use a 99.5% level of certainty before making a projection.

As each of these decision desks works independently, and are sequestered from outside influences, races will be called at different times, although absent the rare situation where a call has to be retracted, they will all eventually get to the same place.

Here's how things stand as of Saturday morning, courtesy of this excellent interactive from The New York Times.  In the graphic below, we are showing the states/districts that remain uncalled by one or more outlets.

Here's a bit more on some of the players involved here.

Decision Desk

270toWin contracts with Decision Desk HQ (DDHQ) to provide real-time vote counts and projections on its site.  Founded in 2012, the firm became more well known when it was the first service to call the 2014 Virginia GOP primary where Dave Brat ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  This article discusses how DDHQ goes about its business. As of this writing, it is the only service to have called Pennsylvania for Joe Biden. That put Biden over the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

National Election Pool

This is a consortium of most of the major news networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC) that pools resources to gather vote and exit poll data. The consortium contracts with Edison Consumer Research to collect this information. While the pool adds efficiency to the data gathering process, each of these networks has its own independent decision desk. As of this writing, two of them have called Maine's 2nd district for Trump, while two have not.

Associated Press

The AP has been calling presidential elections since 1848. Here's a bit more on their process.  It left the National Election Pool after 2016, and introduced AP VoteCast in 2018. AP VoteCast is a replacement for traditional exit polls, which the AP believes are not as effective in a world where less of the electorate votes in-person on Election Day itself. AP VoteCast is used by several organizations in addition to the AP, including Fox News.  AP and Fox (which has its own decision desk) called Arizona for Joe Biden late on election night, while it remains uncalled elsewhere.  Most newspaper clients of the AP automatically use the service's race calls, but some, like the New York Times, will make their own evaluation in important races.

 

Biden Elected as Pennsylvania Puts Him Across 270 Electoral Votes

Five states remain uncalled. 

Wisconsin Called for Biden; ME-2 for Trump: Remaining Paths to 270 Electoral Votes

Since our earlier article, Wisconsin was called for Joe Biden, while Maine's 2nd district was won again by Donald Trump. Wisconsin becomes the first state to flip from 2016, although Biden did also capture Nebraska's 2nd district. 

This leaves seven states where a winner has not been projected. Based on the current map, there are 18 paths for Biden to 270, 11 for Trump and 2 that would result in a 269-269 tie. 

Some outlets have called Arizona for Biden; our results provider Decision Desk HQ has not as of yet.

Click the image below to use our 'Road to 270' feature to game out the uncalled states.

Here are the live vote counts for the seven uncalled states.  Aside from Nevada, these were all won by Donald Trump in 2016.

 

Presidential Election Undecided: Remaining Paths to 270 Electoral Votes

In races called by our results provider Decision Desk HQ, Joe Biden has 227 electoral votes to 213 for Donald Trump as of early Wednesday morning. Aside from Biden winning the electoral vote associated with Nebraska's 2nd district, the map is identical to 2016 in the called states.

Based on the current map, there are 37 paths for Biden to 270, 24 for Trump and 11 that would result in a 269-269 tie.  Some are obviously more likely than others. FOX has called Arizona for Biden, although that has not been confirmed by others.

Click the image below to use our 'Road to 270' feature to game out those remaining states.

Here are the live vote counts for these remaining races.  Aside from Nevada, these were all won by Donald Trump in 2016.

Sabato's Crystal Ball: Final Election Forecast

This is the final 2020 election forecast from Sabato's Crystal Ball.  As is their custom, races with a toss-up rating are projected as leaning toward a party. The only exceptions this year are for the two Georgia U.S. Senate races - the forecaster sees those both as likely headed for a runoff.

November 2 updates and analysis

Maps of the final Crystal Ball projections follow. Click or tap any of them for an interactive version.


President

November 2: All toss-ups are removed. Florida, Iowa, ME-2 and Ohio move to Leans Republican; Georgia and North Carolina to Leans Democratic.


Senate

November 2: Iowa moves from Leans Democratic to Leans Republican; North Carolina from Toss-up to Leans Democratic; Texas from Likely to Leans Republican.

 
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House

November 2: 18 Toss-ups moved: 11 to Leans Democratic, 7 to Leans Republican.  NV-3 moves from Likely to Leans Democratic; NC-9 Safe to Likely Republican; NC-11, WA-3 Likely to Leans Republican.

 

Governor

November 2: Montana moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican.


The Road to 270: North Carolina

This is the 51st and final installment in The Road to 270 series. The column is written by Drew Savicki, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Drew via email or on Twitter @DrewSav

North Carolina has transformed from being the heart of the tobacco industry in the old south to a bustling hub for business and technology. The Tar Heel state has shed its traditional conservative lean in favor of a decidedly purple or light pink status. A population boom over the last 10 years has brought enormous change to North Carolina. Bitter polarization has come to grip the state's politics during this period, with the Tar Heel state the subject of numerous court battles over voting rights, LGBT rights, same sex marriage, etc.

2010: A realigning election

2010 was probably the single most important election in the history of North Carolina. After over a century of Democratic control of the legislature, Republicans toppled the Democratic supermajorities and won supermajorities of their own. Governor Bev Perdue (D) went from having the trifecta to being a sitting duck with Republicans able to override many of her vetoes. The North Carolina Governor possesses no veto power over redistricting so the GOP had full control over the process. Republicans successfully gerrymandered their supermajorities to remain until 2018. That 2010 election ushered in an era of conservative dominance and transformed a once sleepy state party.

Following the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Democrats were quite optimistic about the upcoming elections in North Carolina and for good reason. Obama became the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter to win the state and Kay Hagan (D) had just defeated Senator Elizabeth Dole (R). Democrats set their sights on defeating freshman Senator Richard Burr (R) in 2010 and popular Secretary of State Elaine Marshall jumped in the race against him. National Democrats backed former State Senator Cal Cunningham, who had the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). Cunningham lost a runoff against Marshall by 20%. That would be the last time - until the Tennessee primary this year - that a DSCC backed candidate lost the primary.  2010 didn't turn out to be a good year for Democrats and Burr won reelection by 12%. 

By 2012, Governor Bev Perdue was deeply unpopular and opted against running for reelection. Democrats nominated Lt. Governor Walter Dalton, who although was elected separately, was nonetheless heavily tied to Perdue by Republicans. Dalton could not escape Perdue's shadow and lost the general election to Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R). McCrory - at the time a moderate Republican, was also the party's nominee in 2008. In office, McCrory was little more than a figurehead for the state's Republican establishment and signed nearly every piece of conservative legislation that came before his desk.

The 2010 election set in motion a chain of events that led up to present day and helps explain North Carolina's perpetually gridlocked and polarized politics.

Congressional politics

Due to court ordered redistricting, North Carolina is seeing several competitive congressional races this year, an unusual occurrence in recent cycles. Unlike many other states, North Carolina lacks a true swing district. All 13 Congressional Districts have voted the same way in the past three presidential elections.

Particularly of interest is the state’s 8th District, which includes Fayetteville and the surrounding communities. Home to the largest military base in the United States, NC-8 best resembles the 2nd district in Arkansas. A mixture of urban, suburban, and rural - with a large Black population - this district has been represented in some form by Rep. Richard Hudson (R) since 2013. Hudson faces a competitive race from former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Pat Timmons-Goodson (D). In Congress, Hudson has been fairly anonymous and this is his first real race since 2012 when he defeated Rep. Larry Kissell (D). There has been an uptick in spending in this district in recent weeks and Timmons-Goodson has the ideal profile for a Democrat here. Both Cook and the Crystal Ball rate this district as ‘Leans Republican’ so Hudson is the favorite but not prohibitively so. This Fayetteville centric district is also a major battleground for control of the state legislature. This area will be worth watching on election night.

Thanks to court mandated redistricting, Democrats are all but certain to pick up two districts. The 2nd and 6th Congressional Districts were redistricted from Republican gerrymanders to solidly Democratic seats. The new 2nd District encompasses much of Wake County including all of Raleigh and its southern suburbs. The new 6th district includes both Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Reps. George Holding and Mark Walker (R) decided to retire rather than mount considerably uphill battles for these redrawn seats.

Although it has flown under the radar this year, the 9th district could very well be a sleeper race. Rep. Dan Bishop was elected in a highly contested special election in 2018. This time the race hasn’t drawn much attention but this seat, which stretches from the Charlotte suburbs to rural Robeson County, could be quite competitive. The Charlotte suburbs have rapidly trended Democratic in recent years and Bishop could lose in a wave election.

Out west is the state’s 11th District, which is surprisingly competitive. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows represented this district from 2011 until his resignation in March. This Appalachia district was redrawn to include all of solidly Democratic Asheville. Republican Madison Cawthorn upset the Trump and Meadows backed candidate in the primary, and later got a primetime speaking slot at this year’s Republican Convention. However, Cawthorn faces allegations of sexual harassment and recently removed racist language from his website. The Democratic nominee, Moe Davis is hardly without problems either. The former Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Davis has few connections to the district and tends to shoot his mouth off. This race between two flawed candidates has turned more expensive as both parties have invested here. Cawthorn has the edge if ever so slightly. It’s possible Davis could win but western North Carolina isn’t particularly friendly turf for Democrats anymore. It seems likely that former Rep. Health Shuler (D) is kicking himself for not running this year.

If Shuler had sought a comeback, it’s possible he might be favored to win back his old district. A former NFL quarterback, Shuler represented NC-11 from 2007-2013. He was a very popular congressman but retired in 2012 when Republicans gerrymandered the seat to remove Asheville from it. Alternatively, had she not run for Lt. Governor, State Senator Terry Van Duyn would have been a strong Democratic candidate for this district.

North Carolina is no stranger to competitive or expensive U.S. Senate races but this year breaks the record. It is the most expensive U.S. Senate race in American history. According to OpenSecrets.org, almost $300 million has been spent on the race. Freshman Senator Thom Tillis (R) served previously as Speaker of the North Carolina House. A Chamber of Commerce style establishment Republican, Tillis’s political style is a poor fit for Trump’s populist Republican party. In the Trump era, Tillis has been viewed skeptically by the party’s right flank and the diehard Trump supporters. His orthodox conservative policies do not neatly mesh with Trumpism and his strident conservatism has alienated the other half of the state. Tillis was narrowly elected to the Senate in 2014 when he defeated the late Senator Kay Hagan. Hagan, a longtime Democratic state legislator from Greensboro, was elected in the 2008 wave. Tillis heavily tied her to Obama, who was unpopular in the state at the time.

This year, Tillis is facing a very close race from Cal Cunningham. After originally running for Lt. Governor, Cunningham has run a low-key healthcare centric campaign and it appears that is what voters want. In early October, revelations of an affair Cunningham was having came to light and Republicans have seized on the issue. Though it’s lowered his favorability numbers, it hasn’t made a dent in the horse race numbers. Cunningham continues to lead by low single digits as he did pre-scandal. As long as Biden holds his lead here, it’s hard to see a path to victory for Thom Tillis.

North Carolina’s senior Senator Richard Burr has maintained a low profile during his tenure. A former Congressman from Winston-Salem, Burr was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and served as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2015 until May of this year. Burr stepped down as Chair following the announcement of a criminal investigation into an insider trading scandal. Burr is a low profile affable Senator known for his odd car and the fact that he does not wear socks. After five terms in the House and three terms in the Senate, Burr is planning to retire in 2022. There are a number of potential candidates on both sides, ranging from folks like Mark Meadows to Roy Cooper. It seems likely this race will be highly contested regardless of the winner of this year’s presidential election.

State level politics

With all of its statewide offices elected in presidential years, North Carolina’s state politics are heavily influenced by the top of the ticket. Five statewide races were decided by less than 1% in 2016. With Joe Biden increasingly likely to win the state and Governor Cooper cruising to reelection, a downballot sweep seems more likely. North Carolina’s 10 statewide offices are part of what’s called the Council of State. Following the 2016 elections, Republicans hold a slim majority but that’s not likely to be the case after this year’s election.

First elected to the state legislature in the 1980’s, Governor Roy Cooper has been a staple of North Carolina politics for many years. Having served four terms as North Carolina’s Attorney General, Cooper ran for Governor in 2016 and narrowly defeated Governor McCrory. Cooper heavily focused his campaign on the blowback North Carolina received from House Bill 2. Colloquially known as the ‘Bathroom Bill’, HB2’s passage caused an immediate uproar. This bill not only barred transgender people from using the bathroom of their identified gender but also overturned an LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council. It also prevented cities from raising their minimum wage higher than the state’s minimum wage. This bill prompted severe backlash against the state of North Carolina. Sports tournaments, conventions, concerts, business events, etc. were all canceled. This had a tangible economic impact and North Carolina. Especially in a southern state, the evangelical wing of the Republican Party is quite powerful and they represent a major wing of the state party. This bill was met with widespread approval by them but found backlash elsewhere. Caught between a rock and a hard place, McCrory doubled down in his defense of the bill and it probably cost him reelection.

As Governor, Roy Cooper has largely been a sitting duck but one of his biggest achievements was negotiating a repeal of HB2. Was it a perfect bill that had everything Democrats wanted? No, but it fulfilled a campaign promise of Cooper’s. Having to deal with Republican supermajorities for most of his time as Governor, Cooper has been almost entirely unable to get his agenda passed. Despite the divided government, Cooper has maintained high approval ratings as Governor and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has earned him accolades. Cooper is a prohibitive favorite for reelection against the Lt. Governor Dan Forest. Forest - a staunch social conservative, is running a largely moribund campaign and struggling to drum up enthusiasm against an affable Governor. Cooper will glide to reelection and there is a great deal of discussion about his future. With an open U.S. Senate seat in 2022, Cooper could very well be a candidate for it, if Democrats flip the open Lt. Governor’s race this year. As one of the nation's weakest chief executives, the North Carolina Governor is hardly an enviable position to have, especially under divided government.

With Cooper’s possible coattails, Democrats have realistic chances at flipping at least one chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly. Combined with Democrats holding their majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court, that would give them leverage in redistricting. One of Cooper’s key priorities has been to expand Medicaid and if Democrats do flip both chambers, that will be a big priority for the new Democratic majorities.

Presidential politics and 2020 outlook

North Carolina Polls >>

This is only the fourth election in which North Carolina is a swing state. Like Georgia, this is a state that George W. Bush had no trouble winning either time. Even with North Carolina Senator John Edwards in 2004, John Kerry still lost this state by double digits. Since then, millions of new voters have come to North Carolina, transforming the Tar Heel state from solid red to a sort of pinkish color. As a decidedly center-right state, North Carolina’s not quite purple but it is very competitive.

Since the Tar Heel lacks a true bellwether county let’s look at a few interesting ones.

Robeson County (Lumberton): This rural majority minority county in southeastern North Carolina is on paper an odd place to trend rightward. Home to the Lumbee tribe, this socially conservative county overwhelmingly backed Amendment 1 in 2012, which outlawed same-sex marriage in North Carolina. Robeson is a quirky little place. Once reliably Democratic, it’s made a strong trend rightward in recent years as Democrats become increasingly associated with social liberalism. This county flipped to Trump after voting for Obama twice. It’s not a must win for Trump but he really can’t afford a slippage in other rural areas.

New Hanover (Wilmington): This suburban county is one of the likeliest Trump/Biden counties in the country. As one of the more educated counties in North Carolina, there’s really not much going for Republicans here. This probably isn’t a must win for Trump but he will need to keep Biden’s margin down.

Gaston and Union: Bordering Mecklenburg county to the west and east are the GOP strongholds of Gaston and Union. These exurban counties are reliably Republican but the population boom in recent years might change the composition of the electorate a bit. It's evident that Trump and Republicans are feeling the heat in Gaston County as the President recently rallied in Gastonia. It's rather uncommon to see a GOP nominee for President rallying there days before the election. If Biden can hold Trump to below 60% of the vote in both of these counties, he's on his way to victory statewide.

With Biden recently gaining in the polls here, Democrats have been increasingly optimistic that the Tar Heel state will flip. Biden is likely to get previously unthinkable margins out of the two largest counties in the state – Wake and Mecklenburg, both of which voted for George W. Bush at least once. The state will be one to watch when the polls close at 7:30 Eastern Time on Tuesday. There are few paths to victory for Trump without North Carolina. Likewise, Democratic hopes of taking control of the Senate will take a significant hit if they can't flip the seat here.


Select a state on the map to read its 'The Road to 270' article.

 

Politico: Final Election Forecast

This is Politico's final forecast for the 2020 general election.

November 2 update and analysis

The full Politico election forecast

Click or tap any of these maps for an interactive version.


President

November 2: Alaska moves from Likely to Leans Republican; Georgia from Leans Republican to Toss-up; Indiana from Safe to Likely Republican.


Senate

November 2: Georgia (regular) moves from Leans Republican to Toss-up; Virginia from Likely to Safe Democratic.


House

November 2: 17 changes (scroll to 'Latest rating changes')


Governor

November 2: New Hampshire moves from Leans to Likely Republican.


Uncontested: House Races with no Major Party Opposition

While over 300 of the 435 House seats are considered safe for the incumbent party, there is a subset that is especially solid: those with no major party opposition. This year, 27 seats fall into that category, down from 42 in 2018.  19 seats have no Republican candidate on the ballot, while eight have no Democratic candidate. 

The list falls into three groups, which are listed below. In the tables, one Margin of Victory column reflects the 2018 House election, with the other column being the margin between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016. Asterisks in the House column mean the incumbent was unopposed in 2018.

Totally Unopposed: There are 11 incumbents that have the ballot all to themselves. Not on the list is GA-14, where the Democratic nominee has withdrawn, but remains on the ballot. 

Same Party Opposition: California and Washington hold top-two primaries, where all candidates, regardless of party, appear on a single ballot. The two highest finishers go on to the general election.  Eight districts - seven in California and one in Washington - advanced two Democrats. The ^ in Nanette Barragan's listing reflects that there was also an election with two Democrats in 2018.

3rd Party Opposition: The longest-tenured member on this list, Eliot Engel, was defeated by Jamaal Bowman in the Democratic primary. Bowman and the other seven incumbents  have one or more opponents on the ballot, but all are 3rd party or independent candidates. None are expected to pose a major challenge.

While the 'unopposed' list is almost exclusively associated with House elections, an honorable mention goes to the Arkansas Senate race. Only one Democrat filed to run in the party's primary; he dropped out after the filing deadline. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton faces Libertarian Ricky Harrington, Jr. as he attempts to win a second term.

Inside Elections Updates Outlook for President, Senate and House

Inside Elections has updated its 2020 election outlook, making changes to its Electoral College forecast, as well as in a number of congressional races.

October 28 update and analysis (may require a subscription)

Maps of the current Inside Elections projections follow. Click or tap any of them for an interactive version.


President

October 28: Georgia and North Carolina move from Toss-up to Tilt Democratic; Texas moves from Tilt Republican to Toss-up.

 

Senate

October 28: Alaska moves from Likely to Leans Republican; Georgia (regular) from Tilt Republican to Toss-up; Georgia (special) from Leans to Tilt Republican.

 
 

House

October 28:  23 Ratings Changes (too many to list here).

 
 

Governor

October 28:  No changes.

 

Cook Political Moves Texas to Toss-up in Presidential Race

Less than a week out from the presidential election, The Cook Political Report has moved Texas to Toss-up status. The Lone Star State hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1976 (Jimmy Carter) and hasn't elected a Democrat to any statewide office since 1994. However, recent elections have been increasingly competitive. Donald Trump's nine-point win in 2016 was the smallest GOP margin since 1996. In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz narrowly won reelection, defeating Beto O'Rourke by about 2.6%. 

The president currently holds a one-point lead in the 270toWin polling average, reflecting recent polls that have ranged from a Trump lead of five points to Biden being ahead by three.

Read the Cook analysis from Amy Walter

The updated Cook electoral map is below. Click or tap for an interactive version.